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TAYLOR: Sebring Debrief
- Updated: March 20, 2017
After the Daytona 24-hour win, there were only two races left on the IMSA WeatherTech Series schedule that WTR had not won, Sebring and Road America.
Since our first 12 hour in 2014, we have had a huge challenge getting all the pieces together for this hugely challenging race.
As tough as Sebring is, with the bumps, the changing conditions, and the great drivers and teams that show up for the event, Sebring is one of the toughest events to put everything together to create a fast and strong car while not making any mistakes for the entire event.
The weekend started off well and we had good pace throughout practice and were making our car better and better leading up to qualifying.
When qualifying arrived, the car did not feel like it had through practice and I was struggling to adapt to the handling. When the team told me what the pole time was, I think I pushed even harder, and ended up overdriving the car to try and achieve more than was capable and ended up not putting together the perfect lap to start the 12 hour.
We ended up 6th but our team went to work to find out what we were missing in qualifying versus practice.
The engineers stayed up late into the night working in their hotel rooms and came up with a list of solutions to get us back to our practice speeds.
I don’t tell them this, but I like it when they stay up late before the race, that’s when the magic happens. I always have a ton of confidence in them and I know they won’t rest until they know we have a great car for the race.
At the start of the race, we settled in and just tried to stay out of trouble for my first double stint. We cycled through both of Alex and Jordan’s stints for the first rotation and were running solidly in the top 3 but the other Cadillacs were also very strong.
The race started to take shape after the next rotation of drivers. By the end of my next triple stint, we pitted from just behind the leader and the boys did an awesome stop to get Alex out on track in the lead of the race for the first time.
It was about six hours to go and now was when we were to start setting up the end of the race and working the time backwards.
Alex had an awesome stint and led for nearly the entire thing, just losing the lead in a bit of bad luck in traffic.
Jordan was next in and the race was getting intense, it was down to us versus the 5 car as the only two cars on the lead lap. Jordan was pushing hard and putting a lot of pressure on Albuquerque in the 5 and finally made a great move in the middle of Turn 17 in traffic to take the lead again.
With about two hours to go that was a huge move to set us up for the finish. I got in for the final double stint under green flag conditions after Jordan and the guys in the pits gave us about a 15-second advantage before the full course yellow flew with one hour to go.
This was a huge moment in the race and it would be a real test to see the two cars head to head following the restart.
After the restart, the team told me we would have to do a short run until we got to our get home lap, then take fuel only or rears only on the final stop so I would have to take care of the tires but also try to build a gap to take a bit of the pressure off.
After the green flag flew, our car was very strong on the new tires and we were able to open a two second advantage on the short 15-minute run to the final stop.
The 5 pitted one lap after us and our guys did an outstanding job to increase the gap to about 8 seconds on the 5 car.
The final 21 laps were the longest laps in history and crept by, every lap getting updated on laps to go and the gap to the 5 car. It took forever! But finally, when we had a 12-second gap with 4 laps to go, I could breathe a little bit and just focus on getting our car to the finish line.
Crossing the line to win the 12 hours of Sebring was an incredible feeling.
I took an extra slow in lap to enjoy the sights of Sebring, watching the corner workers, the fans along the infield, and finally getting back to join our amazing Konica Minolta team!
We had an amazing car and an amazing team performance, everyone executed to perfection and we finally put all the pieces together for victory in Sebring.
A truly amazing team effort from every bit of pit stop practice, the car preparation at the shop, the guys making tons of long setup changes over the weekend, staying up late before the race to go through tons of data to get the car right for the race and to Jordan and Alex for driving flawlessly all race and giving me the car in the lead for the end of the race.
After Daytona, as excited as we were to win the race, it was very sad for me to know that not everyone thought we had deserved to win.
Coming to Sebring, the only thing on my mind was that we had to win convincingly and win beyond all doubt. We did it!
Finally, one of the most incredible things was the 1-2-3 finish for the Cadillac DPi-V.R.
The car has run flawlessly for 36 hours of hard racing straight which shows the great work done by everyone on our team as well as Cadillac and their technical partners Dallara, ECR, X-Trac, Brembo, and proves to the world the commitment that Cadillac has brought on its return to sports car racing.