April 23, 2021

IMSA Sebring: Derani, Nasr dominate, lead Cadillac 1-2-3


Derani’s pole-winning Cadillac sprinted into the lead at the start and Renger van der Zande in the WTR Cadillac pulled alongside as front-row starter Juan Pablo Montoya stumbled in the Acura ARX-05 and fell to fourth, behind Tristan Nunez in the #77 Mazda, and just ahead of his own teammate Helio Castroneves. In sixth, Jonathan Bomarito in the second Mazda demoted both JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillacs to seventh and eighth.

With 15mins gone, the leading trio had left Montoya behind to the tune of 6sec, and Derani was a further 3sec ahead.

Castroneves pitted his Acura at the end of Lap 13 and the engine cover was pulled off. Almost simultaneously, the field came under caution for a stranded LMP2 car which lessened the amount of time the #7 Acura lost.

The pitstop cycle that ensued under caution saw Derani and van der Zande retain their positions at the front of the field, but Nunez lost two positions to Montoya and teammate Bomarito, although by Lap 30 Nunez had at least passed his teammate and was homing in on Montoya.

It took Montoya to perform some very late braking to keep the Acura ahead when Nunez was pulling alongside. However, following their pitstops to hand over to Dane Cameron and Oliver Jarvis respectively, the #77 Mazda emerged ahead of the #6 Acura which was coming under pressure from Bomarito’s co-driver Harry Tincknell.

Derani handed over the leading AXR Cadillac to Nasr with a 12sec lead over the WTR Cadillac now driven by Ryan Briscoe, and soon that gap was out to 20sec, although the pair were briefly split by the off-strategy Castroneves. On Lap 45, Tincknell took the #55 Mazda past Cameron into fifth place.

On Lap 59, two seconds apart, the two Mazdas pitted from third and fourth with just under 45mins to go. That prompted AXR to call in Nasr, and all stops went without a hitch, but the Mazdas were not only battling hard but also were also going to be tight on fuel.

Cutting their lap times eventually, they both lost any chance of a podium, as Bourdais drove the JDC-Miller Cadillac through for his third third place of the season, completing a Cadillac 1-2-3.

Jarvis kept fourth ahead of Tincknell in the best of the Mazdas, while Cameron brought the Acura #6 home in a desultory sixth.

Gustavo Menezes and Henrik Hedman had appeared to win the LMP2 class for DragonSpeed, but the team was handed a post-race penalty as Hedman did not fulfil his minimum drive-time of 45 minutes.

That promoted the PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports entry of open-wheel ace Spencer Pigot and the highly impressive Patrick Kelly into first, followed by Performance Tech pair Cameron Cassels and Kyle Masson.

GT Le Mans

Laurens Vanthoor beat his teammate and both front-row Corvettes to send the Porsche 911 RSR into the class lead by Turn 7 on the opening lap. Oliver Gavin and Jordan Taylor in the Corvette C8.Rs wouldn’t let the Dutchman get away, however, and Frederic Makowiecki in the #911 Porsche was pushing hard too. This quartet pulled three seconds on the BMWs.

During the first round of pitstops, under caution, Gavin was ready to go first, but was too close to Taylor’s pit equipment in front and had to pause and allow the #3 to leave first. As they pulled away Nick Tandy’s #911 ahead was released but couldn’t give his #912 teammate Vanthoor enough room because the faster-stopping Corvettes were alongside him.

The two Porsches made contact and Vanthoor’s front valance got pulled off. The #912 would of course have to return for repairs and then would have to return again for failing to follow pitlane protocol.

The #911 sister car didn’t get off unscathed, right rear bodywork rubbing on his tire causing Tandy a right-rear puncture and a wild ride through the grass at Turn 1.

Thereafter the Corvettes had no problem pulling away from the BMWs but following the second round of stops/driver swaps – performed a lap apart this time – Tommy Milner had the #4 C8.R running ahead of the Antonio Garcia-piloted sister machine. They would stay that way to the checkered flag. This was Gavin/Milner’s first triumph since Long Beach in 2018.

The charging #912 Porsche in Vanthoor’s hands deposed both BMWs to claim third before pitting and falling a minute behind the leaders again. However, Earl Bamber continued Vanthoor’s fine work, and swiftly got embroiled in the battle with the BMWs.

Bamber took a whole lap to pass Connor De Phillippi with 23mins to go, much of which saw the pair running side-by-side, but eventually the Porsche prevailed to salvage third, albeit 54sec behind the Corvettes. The BMWs finished fourth and fifth ahead of Tandy, who got fastest lap in class.

GT Daytona

Frankie Montecalvo and Aaron Telitz took their Lexus RC F GT3s straight into a lead while behind them Robby Foley in the Turner Motorsports BMW M6 GT3 beat Cooper MacNeil’s WeatherTech Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 to grab fourth, ahead of Gar Robinson in the Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3.

Just before the full-course caution flew for the stranded LMP2 car, on Lap 13, Telitz passed Montecalvo down the long back straight to the final turn.

However, following the first round of stops under caution, the Lexus pair tumbled to sixth and ninth. That left Foley’s BMW up front ahead of MacNeil and Robinson.

Soon, however, Telitz and Montecalvo started working hard to make up time and took only two laps to move up to fourth and fifth. Telitz demoted the Mercedes and Ferrari ahead on Lap 22 to get himself a clear shot at Foley. At the start of Lap 26, Telitz was back in front.

Robinson had just been passed by the other Lexus of Montecalvo when he pitted to hand over the Mercedes to Lawson Aschenbach. Turner Motorsports’ pitstop was good but couldn’t keep the BMW, now driven by Bill Auberlen, ahead of Toni Vilander who was now flying in the Scuderia Corsa Ferrari to the extent that it also beat the leading Lexus now driven by Jack Hawksworth.

Surprisingly, Hawksworth didn’t seem able to close Vilander down, the gap see-sawing back and forth between four and six seconds. However, Vilander stopped first of the lead trio, and lost time and track position, jumped by Auberlen’s BMW and the pair of them jumped (just about) by Hawksworth, who locked up on cold tires two corners after emerging from the pits.

Once he had settled down, Hawksworth was able to stabilize the gap. Meanwhile, his teammate Townsend Bell, having taken over from Montecalvo, was running fifth and trading lap times with fourth placed Aschenbach, about 4sec apart.

Fifteen minutes from the end, Vilander caught and passed Auberlen to grab second place, but was now 4.2sec behind Hawksworth. He whittled away at that margin but came up 1.5sec short.

Auberlen had to fend off the advances of Aschenbach all the way to the flag while Bell completed another fine day for Lexus with fifth place.

Race results:

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