12 HOURS OF SEBRING: HOURS 4-6 UPDATE – Derani and ESM Pull Away


Credit: Jake Galstad/LAT Images

Pipo Derani and ESM Tequila Patron Nissan set the pace, despite a rash of caution periods as the Sebring 12 Hours reached its half-way point.

Derani in the #22 Nissan powered Ligier lead Ricky Taylor in the #7  Team Penske Acura having pulled out an impressive 17 second lead before the field was neutralised by a caution period.

The #22 ESM Nissan had always been amongst the top three and took advantage of slow Penske pitstops and a drive-thru penalty for Mike Conway in the #31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac, to  break away.

Spencer Pigot ended the sixth hour in third with the #55 Mazda making full use of the Mazda’s superior fuel economy to undercut the front runners.

Despite a drive-thru penalty caused by Harry Tincknell running into the back of the #99 JDC Miller Motorsport Ligier, Pigot’s performance demonstrated the potential of the new Mazda-Joest Racing partnership after a testing Daytona debut.

Yet all was not perfect for the Mazdas as team-mate Tristan Nunez in the #77 machine lost eight laps due to rear brake problems.

 

After an action packed first hour, the sustained period of green flag running was ended with a series of bizarre cautions in the space of a few laps in the fifth hour.

The first caution was bought out when a spectator gazebo was blown over the trackside fence and landed on the track.

This caution was perfectly timed as far as Taylor and Acura was concerned as they had completed their pitstop just before the caution was called, which allowed them to emerge ahead of Derani and Conway upon the restart.

Yet as the race was restarting, Alex Brundle in the #32 United Autosports Ligier, which has just got back onto the lead lap, spun at the final corner after running offline onto the dirty line as he overtook the GT field.

Brundle’s misadventure brought out another caution, even though he had moved his car out of harms way when the safety car emerged.

The next green flag period did not last long as debris from the #99 car on the front straight and a collision between Jonathon Edwards in the #24 BMW and the #66 Ford of Dirk Muller, brought out the safety car.

Yet the restart nearly produced a fourth caution as Christina Nielsen spun the #58 Porsche at the final corner after an ambitious overtaking attempt on fellow Porsche race Jorg Bergmeister.

Despite ending up facing the oncoming pack the rest of the field mercifully avoided her and was able to rejoin the race without need of a fourth caution.

The ensuing pitstops saw the #7 and the #22 switch places and when the safety car pulled in, Derani bolted.  

The next hour and a half of green flag running saw Derani build up a 17 second lead over Taylor’s Acura.

The caution periods and pitstops had also negated the time loss of drive-thru penalties given to the  #55 and the #31 machines allowing them to occupy third and fourth places.

Yet the sixth hour ended under caution when the front end of Dominik Baumann’s #14 Lexus worked itself loose and obscured the driver’s view.

Unable to properly see, he left the track between turns 1 and 2 and collected an advertising hording, dumping it on the track, forcing the safety car out again and the field into the pits, although the order mostly remained the same.

In GTLM, Connor di Phillipi in the #25 BMW came out on top over Toni Vilander in the #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari, with the two cars dominating the previous three hours of racing.

Toni Vilander in the #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari battled for the GTLM lead with the #25 BMW of Connor di Phillipi, ending the sixth hour in second. Credit: Jake Galstad/LAT Images

Nick Tandy holds third place in the #911 Porsche.

In GTD saw a three-way battle between the #48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini, the #86 Michael Shank Racing Acura and the #29 Monaplast by Land Motorsport Audi.

The Audi dominated hour four but fell behind due to a penalty.

The pitstop cycle on the final caution saw Luca Stolz in the #33 Riley Motorsports AMG Mercedes lead the field at the half-way point, but Bryan Sellers in the #48 Lamborghini was keeping a watching brief behind.