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WTR Caddy Wins Sebring; Sweeps Tour Of Florida

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, March 19 2017

The drivers of the winning No. 10 Cadillac celebrate in Victory Lane at Sebring late on Saturday night.

The No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi V.R moved to 2-0 on the IMSA WeatherTech season on Saturday as it won 65th running of the Twelve Hours of Sebring. Ricky Taylor was at the wheel at the checkered flag.

The victory comes almost two months after WTR collected the win in season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway.

Co-driving the winning car were Jordan Taylor and team newcomer, Alex Lynn.

The victory came by 13.6 seconds over the second-place No. 5 Cadillac of Action Express Racing. Christian Fittipaldi was the wheel on the final stint in the runner-up car.

Ricky Taylor said the Sebring win felt a lot better than did the win in the Rolex as the finish of that race was marred by controversy: Taylor bumped the race-leading No. 5 car out of the way with seven minutes remaining at Daytona.

“I really wanted this race win to be conventional,” said Ricky Taylor. “This was a dominant win, so nobody can question it.”

Third was the No. 5’s team car, the No. 31 Cadillac DPi V.R of Dane Cameron, Eric Curran and Mike Conway, making it a Cadillac sweep of the Sebring podium.

“They ran a flawless race, they did an excellent job,” said Fittipaldi of the No. 10 team. “They were very strong when it counted. We pretty much got beat fair and square.”

“A 1-2-3 for Cadillac is unbelievable,” said Ricky Taylor, who made a late-race pass of Albuquerque to secure the Rolex 24 win seven weeks ago and Saturday took the lead for good over Barbosa on the final exchange of pit stops with 33 minutes remaining and stretched his margin over the final 19 laps to the checkered flag. “To say that a brand-new car out of the box has run 36 hours of racing absolutely flawlessly, I don’t think that has ever happened. It is a testament to Cadillac and all of the development partners. It says so much about the brand and the serious effort they have brought to sportscar racing. The Cadillac is the toughest car to beat. The (No. 5) Mustang Sampling and (No. 31) Whelen cars are fast. I am sure they are going to bring it at Long Beach and the rest of the season.”

Finishing fourth was the No. 85 JDC-Miller ORECA LM P2 entry, driven by Chris Miller, Stephen Simpson and Misha Goikhberg. That team moved up from the Prototype Challenge class this year.

The No. 55 Mazda DPi rounded out the top five. Rebellion Racing ORECA LM P2 of Sebastien Buemi, Nick Heidfeld and Neel Jani.

On Friday, Jani qualified on the pole, but they ended up ninth in the race after battling a variety of mechanical problems all day.

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The No. 4 Corvette C7.R took the lead on a superb final pit stop, held off the challenges of the Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs over the final 35 laps and went on to win the GT Le Mans portion of Sebring.

Antonio Garcia, who shared the car with regular driver Jan Magnussen and guest driver Mike Rockenfeller, drove the winning stint.

“I knew it was going to be really, really tough,” Garcia said. “Since yesterday in qualifying it was super close, the first two hours I managed to make my way up to P2. I did two hours first following the No. 66 (Ford GT). Then I did that third hour and I was kind of sick of following Fords. So at some point I just needed to go. We made that really good call to come in with the Ferrari. So the Fords stayed out on a poorer set of tires than us. I knew that had to be my stint.

“That first stint with two or three stints to go, I needed to make the moves and pass the Ferrari. I passed the No. 68 (Ford); I passed (Scott) Dixon. I passed everybody because I knew it had to be done then because that was probably the only time they would be a little bit weaker than we were. It worked. At the end the Porsche looked very, very strong. That second-to-the-last time they pitted quite a bit later than us, and they were flying. They passed all the way up to us until that last safety car. Again, there was a magnificent stop by the Corvette Racing crew.”

“Antonio drove a Superman stint at the end,” Magnussen said. “After the sun went down and the track cooled, we picked up the pace, and Antonio made the most of it.”

The No. 4 Corvette’s margin of victory was 4.43 seconds over the second-place No. 66 Ford GT of Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais, who was fresh from an IndyCar win last weekend at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The No. 66, with those three drivers, was the car that won at Le Mans and Daytona.

Third was the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE of Toni Vilander, Giancarlo Fisichella and James Calado.

“It was a great race, a tough race,” Fisichella said. “We had an issue on one of the pit stops and lost some positions, but apart from that everything went well. The entire crew did a fantastic job as usual. The pace was much better than yesterday in the qualifying session, but I think we were not the quickest car out there. We achieved the best result today, both Toni and, especially James at the end, did a fantastic job. I’m very happy with the result. It’s very important to score a podium here, especially for the championship points. So, we’re looking forward already to the next race.”

Fourth and fifth were the other two Ford GTs – the No. 67, followed by the No. 68. Sixth was the No. 25 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM, seventh was the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR. All seven cars were on the lead lap.

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In GT Daytona, the No. 33 Riley Motorsports Mercedes AMG GT3 collected the win, which was the first for Mercedes at Sebring in 60 years.

The Mercedes AMG GT3 joined the series at the 2017 Rolex 24. Driver and team principal Ben Keating, who shared the car with Jeroen Bleekemolen and Mario Farnbacher, has been racing Dodge Vipers, but with the company discontinuing production of the Viper, Keating had to find a new car, and he’s pleased with his choice.

It was the first win at Sebring for Keating and his team.

“We won the 2015 11 Hours and 56 Minutes of Sebring in 2015,” Keating said, “But our engine didn’t make it to the end.” Even worse was 2014, when Keating was driving his Viper early in the race and it caught fire, and practically burned to the ground. “We were third at Daytona, and first here, so we’re batting a thousand on podium finishes so far,” he said.

Second in the GTD class was the team that won Sebring last year, then went on to win the season championship: The No. 63 Scuderia Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 driven by Christina Nielsen, Alessandro Balzan and Matteo Cressoni. Third was another Mercedes – the No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing car, driven by team principal Kenny Habul, Boris Said and Tristan Vautier. On Friday Vautier qualified the car on the pole – a major accomplishment for a brand-new team in a new car. Early in the race the No. 75 fell back, but rallied at the end for a podium finish.

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In Prototype Challenge, the No. 38 Performance Tech ORECA FLM09 got the victory. The team won Daytona by 22 laps, but the margin at Sebring was two laps over the No. 8 Starworks ORECA FLM09 of Garrett Grist, Max Hanratty and Sean Rayhall.

The No. 38, with drivers James French, Kyle Masson and Patricio O’Ward, did what they did at Daytona: Execute, and make no mistakes.

“It’s awesome to win again in Florida,” said Masson, who lives in the Orlando suburb of Windermere.

“It feels really good to start the season off like this,” said French.

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, March 19 2017
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