Rear View Mirror: 12 Hours Of Sebring

The 12 Hours of Sebring sure delivered on some dramatic storylines.

The 12 Hours of Sebring sure delivered on some dramatic storylines.

The 66th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts left no one with lingering thoughts of a questionable race. Plenty of storylines came out of Sebring to discuss at the watercooler.

Let’s take one final look in the rearview mirror at Saturday’s 12 Hours of Sebring.

This be the final endurance race as the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship shifts from the endurance racing format to the sprint mindset for the next several events.

Here are five key takeaways from an outstanding race at Sebring.

1.  Mazda Team Joest is a Contender

Many longtime Sports Car followers saw a lot of positive light when Mazda announced in 2017 that it would Partner with Joest racing in 2018.

After watching the team’s performance in last Saturday’s race, those longtime followers were probably spot-on accurate in their assessment.  Both the No. 55 Mazda shared by Jonathan Bomarito, Harry Tincknell and Spencer Pigot and the No. 77 co-driven by Oliver Jarvis, Tristan Nunez and Rene Rast were among the leaders for much of the race.

A midrace brake issue ultimately removed the No. 77 from contention for the victory, but that didn’t stop Jarvis from posting the fastest lap of the race, a 1:49.002 (123.521 mph)

Meanwhile, the No. 55, led a total of 38 laps and ran among the leaders throughout and was running in second place behind the eventual race-winning No. 22 Tequila Patrón ESM Nissan until its final pit stop. That’s when an electrical problem delayed the car from restarting and dropped it off the lead lap and finishing sixth.

“It was an incredible day for Mazda Team Joest,” said Mazda Motorsports Director John Doonan, who has spearheaded the manufacturer’s WeatherTech Championship program since Day 1. “If someone had told me we were going to be competitive, lead as many laps as we did, set a new track record and jump everybody on pit stops and fuel range, I don’t think I would have believed them.”

2.  It’s Only a Matter of Time for Acura Team Penske

For the second consecutive WeatherTech Championship race, both Acura Team Penske cars were top contenders before mid-race issues took them out of the running.

The No. 7 Acura ARX-05 DPi shared by Ricky Taylor, Helio Castroneves and Graham Rahal ranked among the prerace favorites for the victory based on its pace in both practice and qualifying. And it was a strong contender throughout its time in the race also, as evidenced by its 31 laps led. Unfortunately, a mechanical problem just as the race reached its halfway point forced the car’s early retirement from the race.

“It’s really unfortunate,” said Taylor, who was at the wheel when the car encountered its terminal problem. “Our plan was really coming together. The whole Acura Team Penske group did an amazing job this weekend. We ran in the top three all day long. Unfortunately, this issue knocked us out.

The No. 6 Acura DPi shared by Juan Pablo Montoya, Dane Cameron and Simon Pagenaud, meanwhile, fell behind early in the race through a rear-wing change, but managed to battle back and was running among the leaders past the halfway point, although it never did lead a lap.

3.  Porsche’s GTLM Podium Phenomenon

In Saturday’s race, both of Porsche GT Team’s 911 RSRs finished on the GT Le Mans (GTLM) podium with the No. 911 entry shared by Nick Tandy, Patrick Pilet and Frederic Makowiecki taking the victory and the team’s No. 912 RSR co-driven by Earl Bamber, Laurens Vanthoor and Gimmi Bruni coming home in third place. It was the manufacturer’s 11th GTLM race victory since the first WeatherTech Championship race back in 2014.

Remarkably, it also was the seventh time that there was a second 911 RSR on the podium in addition to the race-winning Porsche. Including Saturday’s race, the No. 911 has led the way four times, including a 2017 victory at Lime Rock Park.

“It’s a great achievement to score two podium spots at Sebring,” said Porsche Director of GT Factory Motorsports Pascal Zurlinden. “The secret was our consistency and the fact that we didn’t make one mistake.

4.  Lamborghini Scores Historic Double

When the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 took the GT Daytona (GTD) class victory in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring with co-drivers Bryan Sellers, Madison Snow and Corey Lewis, it marked the first time in WeatherTech Championship history that one manufacturer had swept the GTD class at both Sebring and the Rolex 24 At Daytona in the same year. The No. 11 GRT Grasser Racing Team’s Lamborghini scored the win in Daytona.

You’d need to go back to 2012 to find a similar achievement.  The Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars won both Daytona and Sebring. One key difference this year, however, is the fact that both Daytona and Sebring were Lamborghini’s first victories in either event.

5.  Michael Shank Racing Shows Mettle in Getting No. 93 Acura Back on Track

The final race results will show the No. 93 Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3 scored seventh in the final GTD class rundown. What they don’t show, however, is the amount of effort and hard work that the Ohio-based team put in. The team was forced to nearly rebuild the No. 93 Acura from the ground up after a hard crash in practice on Thursday.

The team pulled at least one all-nighter putting the car back on track in time for the prerace warm up on Saturday morning. The No. 93 missed qualifying and all other on-track activity Friday making repairs.

“The fight these guys put up today, I just couldn’t ask for more,” said Team Owner Mike Shank. “The result is a little disappointing because we ran so well but the cars were just beat to death at the end. All of the drivers did just wonderful, I couldn’t ask for any more from anybody. We will just take this result and roll on to Mid-Ohio.”

Stephen Conley

If it races, I'll write about it, talk about it or shoot it with a camera.

I began pursuing a career in motorsports journalism immediately after attending college at Kent State University. I have hosted multiple Motorsports talk shows, worked in Country Music radio, and now i spend every day on the air in the morning with 1300 and 100.9 WMVO and in the afternoons watching the roadways around Central Ohio for 93.7 WQIO.

The excitement and the fans make everything I put out there worth while, it's been an exciting 15 years having covered everything from the Daytona 500 to the Rolex 24 and you can find me at pretty much any event run at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

What I like to bring is a look behind the scenes, a look at what and who makes the sport grow. From the guy that welds pieces back at the shop to the host in the tv booth.

Everyone has a story and I like to tell it. My main focus here at TPF is looking at the men and women behind the microphone and cameras.

My life long goal is to become a member of MRN or PRN Radio and bring the races to you. I hope that what I share now is enjoyable and gives you a unique look in to the world of motorsports.

See you at a track soon

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