By IMSA Wire Service
SEBRING, Fla. – The stage is set for an epic battle to the finish in the 66th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts.
Six cars were on the overall and Prototype class lead lap with the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R and driver Eric Curran leading the way with eight hours complete.
Leading at the eight-hour mark also enabled the No. 31 team to extend its lead in the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup Prototype standings after the second of three scoring intervals in the race. Taking the maximum five points now gives the No. 31 team – which also includes co-drivers Felipe Nasr and Mike Conway – 26 Patrón Endurance Cup points.
They lead their No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPI-V.R teammates Joao Barbosa, Filipe Albuquerque and Christian Fittipaldi – which encountered problems late in the eighth hour — by seven points.
The No. 55 Mazda Team Joest Mazda RT24-P DPi car of Jonathan Bomarito, Harry Tincknell and Spencer Pigot was second after eight hours, while the No. 32 United Autosports Ligier LMP2 machine of Phil Hanson, Paul Di Resta and Alex Brundle was third.
Other lead-lap runners include the fourth place No. 22 Tequila Patrón ESM Nissan DPi of Johannes van Overbeek, Pipo Derani and Nicolas Lapierre, followed by the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R of Tristan Vautier, Edward Cheever and Matt McMurry and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R of Jordan Taylor, Renger van der Zande and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
In the Patrón Endurance Cup Prototype manufacturer standings, Cadillac extended its lead to four, 28-24, over Acura.
The GTLM battle was equally thrilling heading toward the final third of the race with one car from each participating manufacturer still in contention for the victory. Leading the way was the No. 911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR of Patrick Pilet, Fred Makowiecki and Nick Tandy who held a lead of 5.034 seconds over the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE of Toni Vilander, James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi.
This year’s Rolex 24 At Daytona winners, Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook and Scott Dixon were third in the No. 67 Ford GT from Ford Chip Ganassi Racing.
While the car fell out of contention for the victory early in the fifth hour of the race due to an incident on a restart, the No. 66 Ford GT trio of Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais cling to a one-point lead in the Patrón Endurance Cup standings over their teammates in the No. 67. Ford also leads the GTLM manufacturer standings with 25 points, four better than Chevrolet.
Defending Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring GT Daytona (GTD) class winners Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen and the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports entry is the best-positioned to repeat. Keating, Bleekemolen and co-driver Luca Stolz were leading the race ahead of the No. 93 Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3 of Justin Marks, Lawson Aschenbach and Mario Farnbacher.
That race lead also moved the No. 33 team into the Patrón Endurance Cup GTD lead by two points, 21-19, over the No. 86 Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3 team of Katherine Legge, Alvaro Parente and Trent Hindman, which was running third after eight hours.
It is now a three-way tie atop the manufacturers in the GTD Patrón Endurance Cup standings between Acura, Mercedes-AMG and Lamborghini, the latter of which was running in fourth place at eight hours with the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Huracán GT3 of Bryan Sellers, Madison Snow and Corey Lewis.
– Just as the race reached the halfway point, the No. 7 Acura ARX-05 DPi driven by Ricky Taylor brought out the full-course caution when the car rolled to a stop with flames coming out of the rear of the car. The car – which contended for the victory throughout the first half with Taylor and co-drivers Helio Castroneves and Graham Rahal – retired due to loss of oil pressure.
– With five laps remaining, Juan Pablo Montoya in the No. 6 Acura Team Penske Acura ARX-05 DPi and polesitter Tristan Vautier in the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R tangled in Turn 17, forcing Montoya off course at the exit of the turn while both cars were battling for top-five positions. Montoya eventually got the car running, but stopped again on course after less than one lap with a drive-train problem, bringing out the full-course caution. Vautier, meanwhile, drew a drive-through penalty for incident responsibility.
– With four hours and 25 minutes remaining, 2018 Rolex 24 At Daytona winner Joao Barbosa and 2017 WeatherTech Championship Prototype Challenge (PC) class champion James French were involved in an incident coming onto the front straight. Barbosa continued to the pits for repairs after a brief delay in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R, while French’s No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA LM P2 car suffered front suspension damage and also limped into the pits. French eventually continued, but the No. 5 was still in the pits at the eight-hour mark.
– The defending race champion No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R lost a considerable amount of time but remained on the tail end of the lead lap after repairs due to contact with the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R.
– With just over four-and-a-half hours left in the race, the GTLM pole-winning No. 25 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTLM fell off the class lead lap after a lengthy pit stop for a brake change. Driver Connor De Phillippi narrowly missed making it back on course before the red light at the pit exit was illuminated.
– One of the GTD class front runners, the No. 14 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 was forced to pit lane on two different occasions with a loose hood. The car shared by Dominik Baumann, Kyle Marcelli and Philipp Frommenwiler was running 16th at the eight-hour mark.