By Josh Farmer, Contributing Writer
Ryan Hunter-Reay along with Wayne Taylor Racing IMSA regulars Renger Van Der Zande and Jordan Taylor persevered through issues to lead the Verizon IndyCar Series contingent at the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.
The 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champion took the wheel of the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R just before the four-hour mark as Taylor brought the car in with overheating issues which lowered them from second to seventh.
Hunter-Reay remained steadily in seventh throughout his stint before turning the car over to Van Der Zande with just over six hours remaining.
The trio climbed forward over the next three hours, and Van Der Zande was running in third place with an hour remaining.
The Dutchman took place from Harry Tincknell as his No. 55 Mazda RT24-P stalled on his final pitstop. Van Der Zande couldn’t make up ground on race leader Pipo Dirani and crossed the line 12.427 seconds in arrears.
Dirani’ along with co-drivers Johannes van Overbeek and Nicolas Lapierre claimed the second Sebring win in two years for Tequila Patron ESM Racing.
The second place is Hunter-Reay’s best result at Sebring. After the hard fought day, the 2014 Indianapolis 500 noted that the finish was bittersweet.
“I think we experienced the full gamut today,” Hunter-Reay said. “We had ups and downs. My stint in the middle was certainly interesting. I had oil all over the windshield and dirt on top of that. The sun was setting into turn 17 and I could barely see 3 feet in front of the car.
“Jordan and Renger did a great job to finish the race from there. We got some good points for the team. We were close, but not the win I want here.”
Mazda driver Spencer Pigot could only watch as his shot for a race win slipped from his grasp. Piloting the No. 55 Mazda RT24-P with Harry Tincknell and Jonathan Bomarito, the trio led 38 laps and were running second with an hour remaining when Tincknell’s mechanical issue dropped them to sixth, one lap off the race winners’ pace.
In GT Le Mans, four-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon also saw an elusive Sebring win slip from his grasp. Dixon, driving the No. 67 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT with Rolex 24 co-winners Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe, ran in the top three and traded the lead with the race-winning No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR much of the day.
Briscoe picked up the lead with less than an hour to go, but issues with the headlights forced an extended pitstop which dropped him to fourth in class. The Aussie charged forward and overtook the Risi Competizione Ferrari of Alessandro Pier Guidi to take the final spot on the GTLM podium.
IndyCar season opener winner Sebastien Bourdais encountered a variety of issues with co-drivers Dirk Mueller and Joey Hand and ultimately retired with an hour to go, leaving them ninth in class and 37th overall.
Simon Pagenaud and Graham Rahal ran near the front but had their days cut short by mechanical issues in their Team Penske Acura DPis. Pagenaud finished 39th overall in the No. 6 with IMSA regulars Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron. Rahal ended the day 40th with Helio Castroneves and Jordan Taylor in the No. 7.