After running outside the top five for much of the race, the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac led 28 of the final 31 laps to win the 69th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring with drivers Sebastien Bourdais, Tristan Vautier and Loic Duval.
After all the bad luck the team encountered early in the race — the JDC-Miller Motorsports crew were two laps down at one point — Bourdais, in the lead, suddenly felt the chances of victory slipping away after a restart with only 20 minutes remaining.
“When I jumped into the car, as the temperatures kept cooling off, we started having a strong package,” Bourdais said. “We benefited from incidents as well, in the 01 and the 60. We had some really strong sequences, solid in and out laps, and kept jumping people. I got a little lucky and got to P1. From there, I really thought things were under control.
“Then, after the last restart with about 15 minutes to go, the top element of the rear wing fell off. I found myself very small in the car, because it was very, very difficult. When that happens, you usually stuff the car because you’re going with your references, you lock the rears, and you spin off. Thankfully, that element isn’t too big, and I managed to keep the car on the track. Initially, I thought it was oil or something. Then I saw it wasn’t oil, because people were starting to catch me from behind. I started to play with the bars, front and rear, the brake balance, and started to get my stuff together and hold off the competition that was a lot stronger behind me.
“Honestly, I have no idea how it worked out, but I am so happy for my teammates and the whole organization. It’s one of the biggest events of the season — one everybody wants to win.”
Bourdais won at Sebring in 2015, in only the second race running the Mustang Sampling colors. Christian Fittipaldi, the team’s sporting director, and Joao Barbosa co-drove in that victory. It was Vautier’s first victory at Sebring.
“Sebring is special for me because I was on the pole here twice but never managed to win the race,” Vautier said. “It was overdue, because we led so many laps last year but things didn’t go our way. Today, the stars were aligned and the team was amazing.
Duval won overall at Sebring in 2011 back in the ALMS days, driving a Team ORECA Matmut Peugeot 908.
“Last year, we put together a last-minute program and we did pretty well,” Duval said. “Coming here in November, we had a chance to fight for the win. Then, coming into the last hour, we got hit in the back of the car. This year, we had laps at the front at Daytona and we got hit by a Porsche again. It felt at the beginning of the race that it would not come to us, to be honest, but we kept pushing and everybody stayed focused and did their job. At the end, we put everything together. It was not our most competitive race, but we never gave up and we fought pretty hard to come back.
“To see Seb at the end driving on the track was pretty cool. There was a lot of excitement in the box. It made it a little difficult losing a bit of the rear wing at the end of the race, but he made it in a very difficult situation.”
— IMSA (@IMSA) March 21, 2021