The 12 Hours of Sebring always seems to generate dramatic finishes, and this year was no exception. In a nail biter that went down to the wire after four full-course cautions in the final two hours, a pair of BMW M4 GT3s finished 1-2 in the GTD class, with the Paul Miller Racing trio of Bryan Sellers, Madison Snow, and Corey Lewis taking the win in the #1 car, followed in second by the #96 Turner Motorsport car of Robby Foley, Patrick Gallagher, and Michael Dinan.
The #24 BMW M Team RLL M Hybrid V8 of Connor De Phillippi, Nick Yelloly and Sheldon van der Linde also made it onto the podium in the GTP class after a dramatic battle at the front of the field took out three of the top five GTP cars in the closing laps. The GTP class was won by the #31 Cadillac that started from pole. In GTD PRO, the Turner Motorsport #95 car of Bill Auberlen, Chandler Hull and John Edwards finished in seventh with the win going to the #9 Pfaff Motorsport Porsche.
The M4 GT3s were given a BoP adjustment before Sebring but were still not contenders for the pole in qualifying. Snow was the fastest BMW in the GTD class in the Paul Miller car slotting into sixth with a 2:00.229 lap and was followed by Turner Motorsport driver Patrick Gallagher in seventh with a 2:00.504. The GTD pole went to Kyle Marcellin in an Acura NSX GT3 with a 1:59.714. In GTD PRO, the #95 Turner Motorsport car was disqualified after Bill Auberlen stepped out of the car before the session was over, which is against the rules. The GTD PRO pole went to the #3 Corvette. In GTP qualifying the #31 Cadillac was on the pole, with the BMWs in sixth (Farfus) and eighth (De Phillippi) out of eight cars.
As is typical, the Sebring race was filled with a lot of attrition and wrecks. The Paul Miller M4 GT3 stayed competitive in the race despite some brake issues and worked their way to the front by the end, with Madison Snow putting in an impressive 40-lap stint while trying to save fuel to get the win, followed by the Turner Motorsport #96 car. It was an impressive result for the BMW teams, as they had a car that was still not on par in terms of outright speed with some of the others. The #1 BMW only had the sixth fastest race lap in GTD. “We’ve had some great battles with them (Turner Motorsport) over the last year and a half or so,” Sellers remarked after the race. “I think the teams are at a high level, and today we executed well. Madison at the end got the job done. He credited the engineer, but he’s the one who held the ball and took the last shot.”
The GTP class race was very dramatic throughout the race and in the closing stages. With just nineteen minutes left in the race, close racing between the #6 Porsche and the #10 Acura resulted in a wreck that took both of them out, as well as the #7 Porsche. That put the #31 Cadillac in the lead and the #25 BMW in second, as they were the only two GTP cars left running at the end. If not for the accident, the #25 BMW would have likely ended up in fifth, but crossing the finish line is all part of racing. “We were there at the end, just as we said,” remarked De Phillippi after the race. “That’s what this race is all about. In the past, we lost this race from the lead from a crash – this time luck was on our side. I am just super happy for everyone. P2 is something we can build on and start fighting forward for the rest of the season.”
The next race for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is on April 14th-15th on the Long Beach street circuit. —David Haueter
[Photo by David Haueter]