Roaring to life in the final hour after a mostly frustrating run, Sebastien Bourdais took the flag, scoring an incredible victory in Saturday’s 69th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
Bourdais, Loic Duval and Tristan Vautier spent the bulk of the event outside the top five in the No. 5 JDC-Miller Motorsports Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi. But an incident that eliminated the pit-bound No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac with 71 minutes remaining suddenly opened the door for Bourdais, who led the rest of the way.
The Cadillac lost the top element of its rear wing in restart with 20 minutes remaining, the eighth and final caution set up by a hard crash by Maro Engel in the No 75 Mercedes exiting the final turn.
“We had nothing to lose, so we threw a bunch of changes at the car,” Vautier said. “It was a crazy day, but we got into our window and our car got better and better.”
Harry Tincknell finished second, 1.435s behind, in the No. 55 Multimatic Mazda RT24P co-driven by Oliver Jarvis and Jonathan Bomarito. The Mazda had to fight off Kamui Kobayashi at the finish, with the No. 48 Ally Cadillac shared by Jimmie Johnson and Simon Pagenaud another 1.641s back at the finish.
“Unfortunately, we’re just racing for a trophy,” Johnson admitted. “We went 50 seconds over in Simon’s time in the car, but we did the best we could for Ally and Cadillac. You watch this place on TV and think, ‘I can do that.’ Then you come here and realize how tough this place is, and the depth of talent in the paddock.”
— IMSA After Dark (@IMSA) March 20, 2021
Dane Cameron, Juan Pablo Montoya and Olivier Pla took fourth in the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Acura ARX-24, followed by Alexander Rossi, Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura. That latter car was a contender up until the final hour, when it began to lose power due to an intercooler issue.
The race took a dramatic turn with 71 minutes remaining when Scott Dixon, in the race-dominating No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R, was clipped by Connor De Phillippi in the second-place GTLM No. 25 BMW M8 GTE. Dixon lost two laps in the pits, with co-drivers Renger van der Zande and Kevin Magnussen pushing on to finish sixth.
Mazda had led several hours past the midway point before Dixon took the lead on a restart with 2h27m remaining. Dixon put in a solid double-stint, leading all the way before the miscue as he entered the pits at the end of his long shift.
“It was very frustrating,” Dixon said. “It was a very late call from the pits, so I was scrambling to get everything undone. On my way into pit road there was another car there and I had nowhere to go. I feel bad for the team, because everybody at Chip Ganassi Racing did a fantastic job.”
Another incredible finish occurred in GTLM, with the No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Porsche 911 RSR-19 of Cooper MacNeil, Mathieu Jaminet and Matt Campbell leading the final nine minutes to win in only its second start in the class. It was the third straight GTLM triumph for Porsche, with CORE autosport leading the factory effort the last two years before switching to MacNeil’s independent effort.
The class saw the race-dominating No. 3 Corvette C8R driven by Nicky Catsburg spin on a restart with 3h28m remaining, falling to fourth – one minute behind. In the meantime, Campbell held the lead in the No 79 WeatherTech Porsche, closely challenged by the two BMW Team RLL entries.
— IMSA After Dark (@IMSA) March 21, 2021
Philipp Eng then took the lead on the next exchange of pit stops in the No. 25 BMW M8 GTE, followed by Campbell and John Edwards in the No. 24 BMW. With less than two hours remaining, the right side of Edwards’ BMW burst into flame on a pit stop. The blaze was quickly established, but new driver Jesse Krohn lost a lap in the incident.
During the caution, Antonio Garcia managed to put the No. 3 Corvette back into the lead. But De Phillippi ran into Garcia in Turn 7 while battling for the lead with seven minutes remaining. The BMW went off on the next lap, with Jaminet going by to take the lead — and the victory. DePhillippi took second in the BMW shared by Philipp Eng and Bruno Spengler, followed by teammates Krohn, Edwards and Augusto Farfus.
In LMP2, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports led virtually the final eight hours, lapping the field in the No. 52 ORECA LMP2 07-Gibson. Ben Keating, Mikkel Jensen and Scott Huffaker shared the winning car. However, that finish also had drama as Ryan Dalziel managed to get the Daytona 24-winning No. 18 Era Motorsport ORECA shared by Kyle Tilley and Dwight Merriman back on the lead lap. Dalziel cut the gap to less than one second before finishing 2.587s back at the finish.
The sixth caution waved at 9h14m when Tim Buret had heavy contact with the tire barrier at the exit in Turn 1, flipping the No. 8 Tower Motorsport ORECA LMP2 07-Gibson that was running second in the class. The car came to rest on its wheels, with Buret walking away from the incident.
Driver is safe and walked away thanks to the amazing safety tech of the LMP2 platform. pic.twitter.com/BbMa0zc9Zo
— IMSA After Dark (@IMSA) March 20, 2021
Colin Braun had the charge of the night to put the No. 54 CORE autosport Ligier JS P320 into the LMP3 lead. Braun had just regained the lead lap during the seventh caution of the race. Fourth on the restart, Braun needed only five laps to take the class lead with 1h25m remaining, and led the rest of the way. Jon Bennett and George Kurtz co-drove on the winning effort.
Riley Motorsports completed the LMP3 podium, with both cars in contention during the final 30 minutes. Jeroen Bleekemolen, Dylan Murry and Jim Cox took second, 2.685s back in the No. 91 Ligier, followed by Spencer Pigot, Gar Robinson and Scott Andrews, down 3.201s in the No. 74 Ligier.
Porsche finished 1-2 in GTD, paced by the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports 911 GT3R of Laurens Vanthoor, Zach Robichon and Lars Kern with a dominant run. Patrick Long, Jan Heylen and Trent Hindman took second, 2.112s back, followed by Ross Gunn, Ian James and Romain De Angelis in the No. 23 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3.
“I’m just happy to see a 1-2 for Porsche in GTD and Porsche winning GTLM,” said Kern, a co-driver in the No. 9 Pfaff Porsche who also works as a Porsche engineer. “I think it’s just the perfect race weekend for Porsche.”
Barely missing the podium were the No. 44 Magnus with Archangel Acura NSX GT3, followed by the No. 88 Team Hardpoint EMB Porsche 911 GT3R of Christina Nielsen, Katherine Legge and Bia Figueiredo.
UP NEXT: The Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio on May 16.