By IMSA Wire Service
SEBRING, Fla. – The 66th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts is now one third of the way in the books and the No. 7 Acura Team Penske Acura ARX-05 DPi car shared by Helio Castroneves, Ricky Taylor and Graham Rahal led the way at the four-hour mark.
The No. 7 Acura DPi has been among the front-runners throughout the week at Sebring, leading practice on Thursday and qualifying third in the hands of Taylor, a defending champion of both the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype class. It has stayed true to form through the early stages of the race, running most of the race inside the top five and battling for the lead.
With Castroneves leading at the four-hour mark, the drivers and team earned the maximum five points toward the 2018 Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup title at the first of the race’s three scoring intervals. Additional points will be awarded at the eight-hour mark and at the finish.
Those five points enabled the No. 7 team – which entered the race third in the Patrón Endurance Cup standings – to close the gap to the two leading teams. It is still third in the standings with 16 points, but is just one point behind the Rolex 24 At Daytona-winning No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R and drivers Joao Barbosa, Filipe Albuquerque and Christian Fittipaldi.
The No. 5 team, which has won every previous Patrón Endurance Cup, is currently second in the Prototype standings, and was running eighth at the four-hour mark. The No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R team of Felipe Nasr, Eric Curran and Mike Conway continues to lead the Patrón Endurance Cup Prototype standings and now has a total of 21 points. It was running fourth at the four-hour mark.
In the Prototype manufacturer battle, the lead at four hours moved Acura to within just one point of leader Cadillac, 23-22.
The No. 4 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R shared by Tommy Milner, Oliver Gavin and Marcel Fassler led the way in GT Le Mans (GTLM) after four hours to earn the maximum five points in class. After earning the minimum eight points at Daytona, the team now has moved into a tie for third in the Patrón Endurance Cup standings with the No. 3 Corvette team.
The No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT team of Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais was seventh in the race after four hours but continues to lead the standings with 21 points. It is two points ahead of Rolex 24 winners Richard Westbrook, Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon, who were eighth at the four-hour mark.
Ford leads Chevrolet by three points, 22-19, in the GTLM manufacturer standings.
The No. 29 Montaplast by Land-Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT3 of co-drivers Sheldon van der Linde, Christopher Mies and Alessio Clemente Pica led the GT Daytona (GTD) class at four hours, moving the team into a tie for the class Patrón Endurance Cup lead.
With 16 points, the No. 29 team is tied with the No. 86 Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3 and co-drivers Katherine Legge, Alvaro Parente and Trent Hindman. The No. 86 team was running fifth in the GTD class at the one-third mark of the race.
In the GTD manufacturer standings, Lamborghini leads the way with 18 points, one more than a two-way tie for second between Acura and Audi. The highest-running Lamborghini at four hours was the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Huracán GT3 shared by Bryan Sellers, Madison Snow and Corey Lewis.
– The race was only slowed twice by full-course cautions in the first four hours, including right at the end of the first third of the race when a pop-up tent blew onto the course from an infield that is packed with race fans.
– The race’s first full-course caution period came out barely 20 minutes into the race when Sebastian Saavedra spun the No. 52 AFS/PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA LM P2 Prototype machine in Turn 17 and collected the GTD car of Frankie Montecalvo in the No. 64 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3. The contact sent the No. 64 car onto its roof and into the tire barrier, but both Montecalvo and Saavedra avoided injury.
– The No. 77 Mazda DPi of Oliver Jarvis, Tristan Nunez and Rene Rast charged from the rear of the Prototype field along with its No. 55 Mazda team car after post-qualifying technical infraction and took the lead for the first time just before the two-hour mark. However, a brake issue in the fourth hour brought the No. 77 to pit lane for an extended stay. It was 15th in the Prototype class after four hours.
– The No. 93 Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3 co-driven by Justin Marks, Lawson Aschenbach and Mario Farnbacher that was heavily damaged in a crash during Thursday practice was back on track in time for the prerace morning warm up. The car started from the rear of the GTD class grid but charged through the field and got as high as second in class at one point. It was seventh in class with four hours complete.
– It was a tough start to the race for the defending GTLM-winning No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R team, as starting driver Antonio Garcia suffered a cut left-rear tire on the opening lap. The car was forced onto pit lane and a lap down to the leaders, but returned to the lead lap before the first hour was complete. However, the car later had battery problems, sending it back to the paddock for an extended period. Yet another mechanical issue sent the car back to the garage in the fourth hour. It was ninth in class, 35 laps down to the leader at the four-hour mark.
– The No. 99 JDC-Miller Motorsports ORECA LM P2 car otherwise known as the “GAINSCO Red Dragon” encountered prerace electrical issues that were rectified just in time for the car to start the race. Driver Stephen Simpson started the car from pit lane, incurring a drive-through penalty. The team of Simpson, Misha Goikhberg and Chris Miller was running 11th in the Prototype class at four hours.
– After starting from the outside of the front row, No. 2 Tequila Patrón ESM Nissan DPi driver Olivier Pla tangled with polesitter Tristan Vautier in the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R in Turn 1, forcing Pla’s car to spin. While Vautier continued into the lead, Pla lost several positions after the spin. Shortly thereafter, the car came to pit road and then went back to the paddock as the team suspected gearbox problems. It retired from the race before the first hour was complete.