Corvette Wins Third Straight in GTLM at Sebring
- March 20, 2017
- Automotive News, Corvette News
- Posted by Laura Nowak
- Comments Off on Corvette Wins Third Straight in GTLM at Sebring
Antonio Garcia put in a starring drive once the sun went down, keeping a brace of Ford GTs at bay in the final hours to claim GT Le Mans class victory in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
The No. 3 Corvette C7.R of Garcia, Jan Magnussen, and Mike Rockenfeller was strong all race after qualifying fifth but came to life in the final hours.
The Pratt & Miller-led squad used clever pit strategy to catapult to the class lead with just over an hour remaining and held off all comers to take home a third consecutive Sebring class win.
It is the first time a team has claimed three consecutive class wins in the Florida endurance classic since Level 5 Motorsports won four consecutive races in 2010-2013.
It was not a straightforward run to the finish in GTLM, as Patrick Pilet’s No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR was consistently the fastest car on track in the night portion of the race, only to be sidelined in the late running.
Pilet chased down Garcia and begun to apply pressure to the race leader when he abruptly dove into the pits with 31 minutes to go after suffering a tire puncture, then compounded by a pit lane penalty for running over the air hose.
It knocked Pilet out of contention for the win, and he settled for seventh in class.
Even after the demise of the No. 911 Porsche, Garcia still had to fend off Joey hand in the No. 66 Ford GT in the final 30 minutes.
Hand and co-drivers Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais were seeking a Sebring class win to go along with their titles at Le Mans and Daytona, but were forced to settle for the second step on the podium.
Third went to James Calado in the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE car, after a last-lap spin by the No. 67 Ford of Richard Westbrook, who was relegated to fourth.
The third Ford, entered by the UK-based WEC team, completed the top-five in class.
Jeroen Bleekemolen secured a historic class victory for Riley Team AMG in the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG GT3 after a dominant run.
From 7th on the grid, Bleekemolen and co-drivers Ben Keating and Mario Farnbacher swiftly moved up through the field and proved the be the combination to beat in the early going.
The only drama in the final hours came when the field was slowed for the final full course caution, when a fuel-only stop for the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 got Alessandro Balzan out ahead of the Dutchman.
However, it didn’t take long for Bleekemolen to retake the lead, getting around last year’s Sebring class winner with 44 minutes to go and cruising to a 4.453-second class victory over the Italian and co-drivers Christina Nielsen and Matteo Cressoni.
It marked the first class win for Mercedes-AMG in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition in only its second race, and the first for the German manufacturer in the 12-hour race since 1957.
The battle for third turned on its head in the head in the closing moments when Jeroen Mul ran off track in the and Tristan Vautier leapfrogged from 8th on the final restart to take the final podium position in the class pole-sitting SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG.
Christopher Mies was fourth in the Land Motorsport Audi R8 LMS, while Mul in the No. 16 Change Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 slid all the way back to 11th in class.