Porsche Gets No. 96 In Sebring Enduro

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Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet (IMSA photo)

SEBRING, Fla. — No manufacturer has come close to Porsche’s success through the years at Sebring Int’l Raceway, and while Saturday’s win in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts brought its win total at the track to 96, this one certainly didn’t come easy.

A bold move by Nick Tandy with just under one hour remaining to get by the No. 67 Ford GT of Ryan Briscoe – who was on his out lap after a pit stop –ultimately proved to be the winning pass for Tandy and his No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR teammates Patrick Pilet and Frederic Makowiecki.

At the time, the pass was for the second position after the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT dominated the majority of the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class race with Briscoe and co-drivers Richard Westbrook and Scott Dixon at the wheel.

But roughly 25 minutes after Tandy made his pass on Briscoe, the race-leading No. 3 Corvette C7.R of Antonio Garcia fell out of the lead with a scheduled pit stop, moving Tandy to the top of the leaderboard with 35 minutes remaining. Briscoe closed a four-second deficit to just one second in the closing minutes but spun on a late-race restart ensuring a second consecutive Sebring victory for the No. 911 team.

The No. 911 Porsche led only 30 of the 330 laps, including the final 18 laps of the race.

“I didn’t realize the Corvette had to pit,” said Tandy. “I got ahead of them before the yellow. We had to stop a lap before them on the second to last stop and we had a bit of a tire advantage to leap frog them on the out lap. But then we were going to really have to take it easy on the fuel tank. I’m glad we didn’t have to do that at the very end.”

“Porsche is the most successful brand on this track,” added Pilet. “We never get pressure from our bosses, we put the pressure on ourselves. We wrote another line on the Porsche story. It was nice to be part of that story.”

A late-race yellow flag for the stopped BMW of Bill Auberlen set up a seven-minute sprint to the checkered flag. Briscoe spun shortly after the restart, handing the second position to his teammate Joey Hand in the No. 66 Ford GT, but by that point Tandy opened up too much of a gap. Hand settled for second with teammates Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais, 1.951 second back, while Briscoe finished sixth.

At the end of the day the four different manufacturers that make up the GTLM class full time took the top four positions with the No. 3 Corvette C7.R of Garcia, Jan Magnussen and Mike Rockenfeller rounding out the podium. The No. 24 BMW M8 GTE of finished fourth with drivers Jesse Krohn, John Edwards and Philipp Eng.

The race was slowed by five full-course cautions, including a 40-minute yellow flag to start the race due to poor track conditions from a heavy rain Saturday morning.

When it comes to endurance racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Grasser Racing Team is unbeatable.

The Austrian team topped the GT Daytona class in the No. 11 Lamborghini Huracán GT3.

GRT has made three starts in the WeatherTech Championship and has walked away from all three races with first place trophies. Including Saturday, GRT was also victorious at the prestigious Rolex 24 At Daytona in 2018 and 2019.

Mirko Bortolotti, Rolf Ineichen and Rik Breukers – co-drivers of the No. 11 Lamborghini at Sebring – have been a part of GRT’s winning lineup at each race. Competitors in the GTD class should take note, as GRT signed up for the full 2019 IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup season, which in addition to Daytona and Sebring includes the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen and the 10-hour Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

Not only was the win significant for GRT, but also Lamborghini as a manufacturer. In the last six Michelin Endurance Cup races, Lamborghini has taken home the checkered flag four times, with Lamborghini team Paul Miller Racing winning at Sebring one year ago.

Further exemplifying Lamborghini’s strength in the WeatherTech Championship, the No. 44 Magnus Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 of John Potter, Andy Lally and Spencer Pumpelly finished second. The car came alive in the evening and seriously challenged GRT for the win, keeping within a second of the No. 11 for the majority of the final 45 minutes.

Rounding out the podium was the No. 63 WeatherTech Racing Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 of Cooper MacNeil, Toni Vilander and Jeff Westphal.