12 Hours of Sebring: Hours 7-9 Update – Top Six All in Contention as Darkness Engulfs Sebring

by Paul Hensby
The Porsche 911 leads GT Le Mans after nine hours

The battle for overall honours in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring remains intense as six cars all remain on the lead lap, with the #55 Mazda Team Joest leading the way as the ninth hour of the race concluded.

The battles in all three classes are intensifying as darkness came over the Sebring International Raceway, with the battle between the #31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac of Mike Conway and the #22 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPi of Nicolas Lapierre particularly enthralling to the eye, with the #90 Spirit of Daytona Racing Cadillac of Tristan Vautier shadowing them both.

The #55 Mazda is on a slightly different fuel strategy to those three runners, and often finds itself shuffled back to the front of the field, with Jonathan Bomarito putting in some strong laps after taking over the car from Harry Tincknell.

The #31 was particularly lucky are escaping a penalty for spinning the sister #5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac of Christian Fittipaldi just after the start of the seventh hour, but the #5 was not so lucky in hour eight, after Joao Barbosa collided with the #32 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca of James French at the final turn, costing both machines a lot of laps as their mechanics repaired their respective suspensions.

The #90, now in the hands of Matt McMurry, sits fourth ahead of the #32 United Autosports Ligier LMP2 of Alex Brundle, with the Briton having taken over the car following an impressive stint from eighteen-year-old Phil Hanson, with the car running as high as third during his stint.

The last car on the lead lap is the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R of Jordan Taylor, but the car was lucky to escape a collision with the #31, when Renger van der Zande and Eric Curran were behind the wheel of the respective cars, with debris from the #10 causing another caution period.

The third quarter of the race was a killer for the Acura Team Penske outfit, with the #7 of Ricky Taylor the first to fall with a mechanical failure whilst running second, while the #6 of Juan Pablo Montoya also suffered mechanical difficulties, stopping on track before being recovered to the pits for repairs, but the car lost over sixty laps to the race leaders.

Mazda Team Joest leads at Sebring

Mazda Team Joest leads at Sebring – Credit: Jake Galstad / LAT Images

GT Le Mans

Frederic Makoweicki holds an extremely small advantage in the GT Le Mans class, with all five of the represented manufacturers still on the lead lap and certainly in contention for the victory.

After two hundred and forty-six completed laps, the Porsche GT Team hold a nominal advantage of less than two-tenths of a second over the Risi Competizione Ferrari of James Calado, while the #3 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R of Tommy Milner is less than nine seconds back in third.

The second Porsche of Gianmaria Bruni, but the #912 is another car lucky to be where it is after it discarded its rear bumper after running too far across a kerb whilst Nick Tandy was behind the wheel, with the resulting debris causing a caution period as it was recovered from the racing line.

Bill Auberlen is currently behind the wheel of the #25 BMW Team RLL M8 GTLM, which held the lead earlier in the race.  The American regained their position on the lead lap after initially losing a lap when an enforced brake pad change while Connor de Phillippi was behind the wheel took longer than they had hoped, and when he was able to get going, he was forced to wait for the train behind the safety car to go before regaining at the back of the field.

The final car on the lead lap is the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing machine of Richard Westbrook, with the Briton having pitted from the lead a few laps before the end of the ninth hour.

GT Daytona

The three hours in GT Daytona were pretty unspectacular in comparison, despite the top ten in class still all being on the lead lap, with the #93 Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 of Lawson Aschenbach, which failed to set a time in Qualifying following a practice crash, ahead of the #48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan of Madison Snow.

Just thirteen seconds cover the first eight after nine hours, with the second Acura, the #86 of Trent Hindman running third ahead of the #33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports GT3 of Jeroen Bleekemolen and the #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari of Alessandro Balzan.

The #29 Montaplast by Land-Motorsport Audi, #58 Wright Motorsports Porsche and the #75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes are all in contention in a class that is providing extremely close and exciting racing.

Lawson Aschenbach holds the lead in GT Daytona for Michael Shank Racing

The #93 Michael Shank Racing Acura leads in GT Daytona – Credit: Jake Galstad / LAT Images

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