Mazda Still On Top At Sebring After Eight Hours

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Mazda Motorsports continued to lead the Twelve Hours of Sebring Saturday after eight hours. (IMSA photo)

SEBRING, Fla. – In a race that ran nearly flat out from the beginning, the defending Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts champion No. 55 Mazda Motorsports Mazda RT24P DPi held a narrow lead after eight hours Saturday evening.

The No. 55 – with co-drivers Oliver Jarvis, Harry Tincknell and Jonathan Bomarito – was also the leader after four hours, but it’s been a highly competitive race up front in the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class.

Five of the seven DPi cars have led during the race and five cars remained on the lead lap and within seven seconds of each other as the 69th endurance race at Sebring Int’l Raceway headed to its closing four hours.

The middle third of the race ran nearly issue-free, with just a single full-course caution over the four-hour stretch. The yellow was necessitated when the No. 83 WIN Autosport Duqueine D08 Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) slid into the turn 13 tire barrier.

The Twelve Hours of Sebring is the second race of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season and the second event in IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup competition, where separate points are awarded at specified junctures of each endurance event.

Earning five Michelin Endurance Cup points for leading their class at the eight-hour mark were: the No. 55 Mazda in DPi, the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07 in Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2), the No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ligier JS P320 in LMP3, the No. 25 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE in GT Le Mans (GTLM) and the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R in GT Daytona (GTD).

Final Michelin Endurance Cup points from Sebring will be awarded at the conclusion of the race.

A penalty cost the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura ARX-05 valuable seconds as the race neared its halfway point.

Alexander Rossi was called back to the pits to serve a penalty for leaving the pit stall a lap prior with equipment attached to the car.

The penalty cost the team 30 seconds and pushed the No. 10 car further behind leader Kamui Kobayashi in the No. 48 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R.

“The penalty was deserved because you can’t roll away and have something attached to the car,” team owner Wayne Taylor said. “It was clearly a problem by us. But we’ve still got a fast car. … It’s [just] a bit of a setback.”

Already two laps behind from an incident less than an hour into the race, the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi suffered another setback when driver Felipe Nasr slid into the No. 5 Mustang Sampling/JDC-Miller MotorSports Cadillac as the latter was exiting the pits with four hours and 20 minutes left in the race.

Nasr attempted to brake as he approached the turn, but the No. 31 scooted over the bumps, collected the No. 5 and both cars slid off track.

Nasr was assessed a drive-through penalty for incident responsibility and the No. 31 was four laps off the pace at the eight-hour mark.

As the race approached its final four hours, the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07 held a comfortable lead in the LMP2 class.

“No drama,” said Scott Huffaker, one of the No. 52 car’s co-drivers. “We had a drive-through penalty early, but ever since then we’ve kept our nose clean. It’s been trying to run fast laps. We seem to be running really good right now with Mikkel (Jensen) in the car.”

The team, including Ben Keating and Jensen, had lapped the field in LMP2.

Riley Motorsports continued to display its strength in the LMP3 class. After winning the Rolex 24 At Daytona with the No. 74 Ligier JS P320, the Nos. 74 and 91 Riley entries were running 1-2 at the Sebring eight-hour mark.

The No. 7 Forty7 Motorsports Duqueine ran third, ironically with Oliver Askew as one of its drivers. Askew teamed with No. 74 Riley co-drivers Gar Robinson, Spencer Pigot and Scott Andrews to win at Daytona.

A miscommunication between driver and crew cost the No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C8.R the lead in GT Le Mans.

During the lone yellow of the middle four hours, driver Nicky Catsburg wasn’t clear whether to stop from the lead when the pits were opened for GT cars, so he stayed out while the other GTLM cars headed to pit lane.

Forced to make his stop on the succeeding lap, Catsburg dropped to fourth in GTLM and had to make up a deficit of nearly 30 seconds when the green flag waved for the restart.

Prior to the gaffe, the No. 3 had led the vast majority of the race.

Paul Miller Racing was looking for a déjà vu performance in GTD. In 2018, the team followed up a third-place Rolex 24 finish with a Twelve Hours of Sebring victory in a Lamborghini Huracán GT3.

The drivers who won at Sebring then – Bryan Sellers, Madison Snow and Corey Lewis – are back this year and trying to win at Sebring after placing third at Daytona.

At the eight-hour mark, the No. 1 Lamborghini was running second, less than a second behind the leading No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R.