July 26, 2021

Sebring 12H Hour 6: Ganassi Cadillac leads Mazda at halfway

The field got a reset at the start of the fourth hour with the second full course yellow, allowing Simon Pagenaud, who had shown great pace through the race’s opening quarter, into the lead in Action Express Racing’s part-time second car, ahead of defending Sebring 12 Hrs winner Harry Tincknell in the Mazda RT24-P.

Third and fourth for the restart were the two cars that had been battling for the lead, Filipe Albuquerque in the Wayne Taylor Racing Acura and Scott Dixon in Chip Ganassi Racing’s Cadillac. However, Dixon was passed by his former IndyCar rival Juan Pablo Montoya in the Meyer Shank Racing Acura ARX-05, and after the next restart – following the long third caution period – Montoya got ahead of fellow Acura driver Albuquerque and into third.

Tincknell was left in the lead when Pagenaud made his delayed fifth scheduled stop to hand over to Kamui Kobayashi, but Tincknell could never take it easy, as some suspension changes appeared to have transformed the MSR Acura’s handling. Montoya pulled away from Albuquerque and remained within 1.5sec of the leading Mazda before pitting and getting a rear wing adjustment.

After Albuquerque pitted to hand over to Alexander Rossi, the WTR team appeared to stumble slightly by waving Rossi out while the fuel hose wasn’t fully clear. Rossi braked immediately, but the damage – in terms of pit infraction – was done. Not only did he emerge on cold tires just in front of warm-tired Montoya and the lapped JDC Miller Motorsports Cadillac of Sebastien Bourdais – the latter tagging the #10 Acura as he went past – but also Race Control issued a drive-through penalty.

That said, he was never going to emerge from the pits ahead of Dixon, for whom Ganassi had performed superbly on pitlane, jumping him ahead of not only the WTR Acura but also the MSR car, allowing the six-time and reigning IndyCar champion to start trying to chase down Tincknell’s Mazda. That became a battle for the lead after 5hr30min when Kobayashi pitted his off-sequence AXR Cadillac, although Dixon got horribly unlucky with traffic having closed onto the Mazda’s tail. On a clear track, the CGR car would close back in.

They pitted nose-to-tail to hand over to their co-drivers, and on leaving the pits Renger van der Zande immediately moved the Ganassi Cadillac ahead of Oliver Jarvis, and swiftly pulled a 10sec lead over the Mazda, extending it to 14sec over the next two stints, and that stretched to 22sec at the halfway point of the race.

However, Jarvis has been able to remain eight seconds clear of Olivier Pla who took over the MSR Acura from Montoya and is now watching his mirrors for the closely pursuing WTR Acura of Rossi.

One minute down but off sequence is the #48 AXR Cadillac of Simon Pagenaud, who has taken over from Jimmie Johnson who enjoyed an incident-free second stint and has now completed his minimum drive time.

In LMP2, Scott Huffaker leads for PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports, almost a full lap ahead of Timothe Buret in the Tower Motorsport car, while Rolex 24 winner Era Motorsport runs third, but two laps down.

Sadly, the WIN Autosport car, which looked like a potential winning contender when in Tristan Nunez’s hands, pitted terminally after 90 laps.

The second yellow of the race was caused by CORE autosport’s LMP3 entry spinning to a halt on course, but the car got going again without harm. Spencer Pigot leads the class for Riley Motorsports, 52sec ahead of Stevan McAleer in the Forty7 Motorsports machine, and a further half a minute ahead of Yann Clairay of Sean Creech Motorsport which survived a spin. Jeroen Bleekemolen in the second Riley car is almost a full lap down, largely thanks to one of his co-drivers having to serve a drive through penalty.

The second caution period allowed Bruno Spengler in the #25 BMW M8 to nip into the lead of GT Le Mans class, ahead of Jordan Taylor’s #3 Corvette C8.R, with Augusto Farfus in the second BMW in third ahead of Matt Campbell in the WeatherTech Porsche 911 RSR-19. Sadly the #4 Corvette was two laps down in Nick Tandy’s hands, after a long pitstop during the long third caution, and IMSA Radio reported he was down on power.

Taylor was in fine form, however, and would not let Spengler escape, as the pair pulled out 5sec on Farfus. By the time Taylor handed back to Antonio Garcia and the #3 ’Vette emerged from the pits, it was ahead of the #25 BMW M8, now driven by Philipp Eng. However, the pair remained almost tied together until this halfway point where Eng handed back control to Connor De Phillippi. Around half a minute down is the #24 BMW, currently driven by John Edwards.

The second caution left Corey Lewis in the lead in the Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan, but following the restart, just a little further back, fifth placed fellow Lambo racer Franck Perera lost it under braking at Turn 3, launched over a curb and took himself and Billy Johnson’s Alegra Motorsports Mercedes hard into the tirewall. That removed two strong challengers in a well stacked GTD field.

Vasser Sullivan had to pit its strongest contender, the #14 Lexus RC F for emergency servicing under the long yellow, and then Lewis in the lead Lamborghini had a Turn 17 collision with the lapped Team Hardpoint EBM Porsche 911 GT3R of Earl Bamber, and immediately pitted for a checkover.

That left a fascinating all-Porsche duel up front between Laurens Vanthoor in the Pfaff Motorsports entry ahead of Jan Heylen in the Wright Motorsports car. The pair of them pulled away from Roman De Angelis in the Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage, while Magnus Racing’s Andy Lally was doing a fine job in the Acura NSX, moving up to fourth.

However, Heylen was on old tires, and fell a couple of seconds from Vanthoor’s tail before pitting and handing over to Trent Hindman. When Vanthoor handed the #9 over to Zacharie Robichon, the duel continued, now with the Wright car ahead.

Twenty seconds down ran Lewis’s PMR Lamborghini, but now ahead of the HoR Aston as it had pitted for Ian James to take over. A few laps later, Lewis handed over the #1 Lambo to Madison Snow.

It is now Hindman in the Wright Porsche – still 10 laps off sequence from the Pfaff Porsche now driven by Lars Kern – that is leading the class, by 16sec. In third is Ross Gunn in the HoR Aston Martin, with Robert Megnnis fourth in the #12 Lexus, Bryan Sellers fifth in the PMR Lambo being the last car on the lead lap.

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