A rash of yellows late in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring allowed many GTD and GTD PRO cars to go far farther on fuel than they would have been able to otherwise, the top cars in both classes running around an hour and 50 minutes from their last pit stop to the finish.
Pfaff Motorsports claimed the GTD PRO victory with Patrick Pilet, Klaus Bachler and Laurens Vanthoor in the No. 9 Porsche 911 GT3 R. It was a bit of redemption after a crash in qualifying that left the team with a host of repairs in order to make the race. While the No. 9 Porsche didn’t seem to have the pace to fight for the overall win against the No. 3 Corvette and the No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG, the fuel strategy paid off in the end.
“It’s just amazing. The whole group of people in the team just repaired the car until 1 a.m., I think, yesterday,” said Pilet.“ And they rock so much in the race with the strategy, with all the pitstops. Sometimes we get bad luck with yellows but we never give up, we always stay focused. We were not the quickest, but we have such such a good group of people. These two guys are amazing also. Klaus, it’s his first time here so we know how difficult it is to drive on this track and Laurens did an amazing job to bring back the car in front.
“They call me the expert of fuel saving. I have a lot of challenge with Laurens in the past in different cars and I was pretty good at that. They chose me to finish the race because we know it can be a big advantage and today it paid off. We were clearly not the quickest but we just we just gambled on the yellows and we won.”
The Corvette and Meercedes-AMG battle for GTD PRO honors raged for much of the race, and the pair usually separated themselves from the rest of the field. The No. 79 WeatherTech squad of Daniel Juncadella, Jules Gounon and Maro Engel ended up third, behind Jack Hawksworth, Ben Barnicoat and Kyle Kirkwood in the No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F. The polesitting Corvette had its own issues late, repairs for a broken spring putting them a lap down, then getting caught up in two separate incidents, including the final one that took out the top three cars in GTP, as well as the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 296.
The No. 1 Paul Miller Racing BMW squad of Madison Snow, Bryan Sellers and Corey Lewis claimed GTD with a similar strategy for the trio’s second victory in the Twelve Hours.
“It was tricky for us because you know, we made that final stop, then a bit more than an hour and 36 or something it went yellow,” explained Sellers. “And we debated whether we would come in or not because a couple of cars behind us had stopped a little bit sooner and we were worried that they would fill faster than us at the end. We made a call to pit with the leaders and the No. 27 (Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage) stayed out; when he stayed out, we stayed out. Once that happened our fate was kind of sealed once that yellow came again because now we were just over an hour left and those cars had only stopped two laps ago. So we had no option. For us if the only thing was to run as long as we could and hope for another yellow. A couple of the other cars stopped, and I’m not sure I understand why they stopped because everyone else was making it to the end, and so then you were basically kind of relegated to fifth or back. For us, we backed ourselves into a corner and got super fortunate with how it came out.”
A 1-2 finish for @BMWUSA in GTD in the grueling 12 Hours of Sebring! #IMSA pic.twitter.com/CeY01nLXim
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) March 19, 2023
The Heart of Racing squad would have their own difficulties in the closing stages, breaking steering and going off when Marco Sorensen caught caught in the middle of a GTD PRO battle between the No. 63 Iron Lynx Lamborghini Huracán and the No. 3 Corvette.
It was a BMW one-two, as Robby Foley, Patrick Gallagher and Michael Dinan finished second in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport M4. New-for-2023 team Kellymoss with Riley pulled of a third place finish with David Brule, Alec Udell and Julien Andlauer in the No. 92 Porsche 911.