Corvette Wins Third Straight in GTLM at Sebring

Photo: Richard Prince/GM

Photo: Richard Prince/GM

Antonio Garcia put in a starring drive once the sun went down, keeping a brace of Ford GTs at bay in the final hours to claim GT Le Mans class victory in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

The No. 3 Corvette C7.R of Garcia, Jan Magnussen, and Mike Rockenfeller was strong all race after qualifying fifth but came to life in the final hours.

The Pratt & Miller-led squad used clever pit strategy to catapult to the class lead with just over an hour remaining and held off all comers to take home a third consecutive Sebring class win.

It is the first time a team has claimed three consecutive class wins in the Florida endurance classic since Level 5 Motorsports won four consecutive races in 2010-2013.

It was not a straightforward run to the finish in GTLM, as Patrick Pilet’s No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR was consistently the fastest car on track in the night portion of the race, only to be sidelined in the late running.

Pilet chased down Garcia and begun to apply pressure to the race leader when he abruptly dove into the pits with 31 minutes to go after suffering a tire puncture, then compounded by a pit lane penalty for running over the air hose.

It knocked Pilet out of contention for the win, and he settled for seventh in class.

Even after the demise of the No. 911 Porsche, Garcia still had to fend off Joey hand in the No. 66 Ford GT in the final 30 minutes.

Hand and co-drivers Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais were seeking a Sebring class win to go along with their titles at Le Mans and Daytona, but were forced to settle for the second step on the podium.

Third went to James Calado in the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE car, after a last-lap spin by the No. 67 Ford of Richard Westbrook, who was relegated to fourth.

The third Ford, entered by the UK-based WEC team, completed the top-five in class.

Jeroen Bleekemolen secured a historic class victory for Riley Team AMG in the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG GT3 after a dominant run.

From 7th on the grid, Bleekemolen and co-drivers Ben Keating and Mario Farnbacher swiftly moved up through the field and proved the be the combination to beat in the early going.

The only drama in the final hours came when the field was slowed for the final full course caution, when a fuel-only stop for the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 got Alessandro Balzan out ahead of the Dutchman.

However, it didn’t take long for Bleekemolen to retake the lead, getting around last year’s Sebring class winner with 44 minutes to go and cruising to a 4.453-second class victory over the Italian and co-drivers Christina Nielsen and Matteo Cressoni.

It marked the first class win for Mercedes-AMG in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition in only its second race, and the first for the German manufacturer in the 12-hour race since 1957. 

The battle for third turned on its head in the head in the closing moments when Jeroen Mul ran off track in the and Tristan Vautier leapfrogged from 8th on the final restart to take the final podium position in the class pole-sitting SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG.

Christopher Mies was fourth in the Land Motorsport Audi R8 LMS, while Mul in the No. 16 Change Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 slid all the way back to 11th in class.

RESULTS: 12H Sebring

53 Comments

  1. GrimBrother One

    March 18, 2017 at 10:49 pm

    Great fight all around. Hopefully anti-Ford GT conspiracy mongers quit their incessant bitching lol.

    • GrimBrother One

      March 18, 2017 at 10:57 pm

      Ahh, yep… there they are. lol

      So silly and uninformed.

      • NotAnEngineer

        March 19, 2017 at 2:38 am

        So please educate me then.

        • GrimBrother One

          March 19, 2017 at 12:41 pm

          The whole “Ford Prototype” deal makes people sound like petulant children in need of a built-in excuse for why their favorite car or team might not/didn’t beat them. They run in the same class, to the same rules, in an arena they’ve all agreed to. It’s a GT car built to the razor edge of the rules, but a GT car nonetheless. When we faced the MC12 in the ALMS in 05 we didn’t cry because we competed against the “Maserati Prototype,” or that Corvette’s budget was around literally 40 times our own, we just competed. We knew what class we were getting into.

          I worked in various capacities with teams and drivers in the ALMS/Rolex series for almost 15 years, and now am in the video game industry. It’s disappointing to see the S365 comment section look more like a forum or YT comment section of hyperbolic and angry 12 year-olds after we release our latest trailer or patch notes. I’ve also expected more from what I thought were fans of the highest caliber of motorsports (IMO lol). Just hate the incessant bellyaching instead of a respectful “damn, GG” more often.

          <3

          • juneracer

            March 19, 2017 at 12:56 pm

            if you were in the know you’d have known the MC12 was handicapped to not be competitive in 2005. IMSA was scarred of what they didn’t know. the MC12 wasn’t even eligible for points. it ran as a ‘guest’. not a valid comparison…

            i don’t have a problem with the Ford’s, although i don’t like the teams lack of sportsmanship at Le Mans. it just needs to be BoP’d properly. and i think IMSA is getting close. the ACO is another matter…

          • GimmeShelter

            March 19, 2017 at 1:05 pm

            Hey Mr. Grim (alias “Ford Foot Soldier”) you are fighting a losing battle. The so called Ford “GT” is a very controversial entrant into the most competitive and beloved GTLM class. Many of us ignore the P class and focus solely on GTLM because it is the sh*t…pure and simply the best racing to be had anywhere. Now comes this Frankenstein-like Ford Prototype to louse things up by it’s clear advantage in speed over the others. The controversy will continue unabated until IMSA gets off their butts and addresses the problem. My best guess is that they are afraid of Chip Ganassi. So keep fighting your battle noble sir…but you will lose the war. Judging by other’s comments besides my own you also seem to be losing the battle.

          • Passin theTaurus~

            March 19, 2017 at 2:48 pm

            I think I remember GM crying about BMW in 2000/01. PTG and Schnitzer ran V8 engines they only sold in Europe (only V6 sold in US) I think that’s why they were mad, but could be wrong, but they definitely bitched.

            That’s a part of performance balancing. Its politics. When everyone complains that’s when you have it right (pretty close to that now in GTE)

            And when on track racing is so close, pit work means that much more. Pratt n Miller have the best. Fighting for seconds on track, then lose 10secs in a pit stop. That’s the advantage

          • Greg

            March 20, 2017 at 12:42 pm

            Passin theTaurus, iirc it was Porsche that complained about the E46 M3 GTR. They had a valid point since there was only a few (like 5 or there about) actually made and they never left Munich. GM was running Gt1 at the time and that was a gt2, they had no dog in that fight.

          • NotAnEngineer

            March 21, 2017 at 4:18 am

            Thanks for your explanation. Classifying others as uninformed only does add to the forum like discussion, which actually sparked my comment.

            I do admire the Ford GT from a technical point of view, but I don’t like the behaviour of the guys on the pit wall. I think Ford is only interested in as much silverware as possible in a short time frame and don’t care about close racing racing or hard fought victories or endurance racing in the future. Daytona already demonstrated that you can have a perfectly exciting race with two cars per team, but still they keep adding more cars to the entry list.

            And what happened last year at Le Mans is simply really bad. Threatening your competitor with a formal protest is just plain stupid. People might argue that it is time to get over it, but I think it is just really really bad. The person who thought of this idea should be ashamed for life and the people who actually executed it have no place in endurance racing.

            So yes, I am happy for Ford not to have won Sebring.

  2. GimmeShelter

    March 18, 2017 at 10:51 pm

    Fabulous win for the Corvette in GTLM! Garcia was on fire for his last stint. Left the Ford Prototypes in the dust.
    That’s what I’m talking about!

  3. GimmeShelter

    March 18, 2017 at 10:54 pm

    Ferrari also managed to sneak onto the podium right at the end by edging out a Ford “proto”. Nice one Collado!!

    • JohnQA

      March 19, 2017 at 8:51 am

      What ever it takes but Chevy remain the best

  4. elVeloz

    March 18, 2017 at 11:08 pm

    The only interesting category in this “series”.

  5. WBrowning

    March 18, 2017 at 11:25 pm

    Nice win for the Vette, they got first and last tonight. What happened to the #4 Vette? It was out before I could start watching and I haven’t gone back and started watching the DVR of the beginning.

    Did Pilet in the #911 Porsche ever do a stop and go for running over the air hose there near the finish? The guys on TV never mentioned or showed it.

    Looking forward to seeing them up close in a few weeks at Long Beach, and watching the Fords kick some ass!!!

    • Olly

      March 18, 2017 at 11:30 pm

      No. 4 corvette retired with a terminal thermostat issue early in the race.

  6. #1 BIG UGLY FIN hater

    March 19, 2017 at 1:15 am

    so glad a Ford Prototype didn’t win

    • KW

      March 19, 2017 at 4:09 am

      With this nickname, what do you think about the new Formula 1 cars? 🙂

  7. KW

    March 19, 2017 at 4:08 am

    This was again a “race inside the race” that was more interesting to follow than the fight for the overall win. Everyone is complaining about BoP, but in GTLM it seems to work; all brands were on pace and were still in the lead lap towards the end of the race.

    • Tim

      March 19, 2017 at 7:08 am

      Besides BMW….they were way off all week and were a lap down all race. They need more power. But yes everyone else was balanced good. Even P class

      • Matt

        March 19, 2017 at 4:16 pm

        The M6 is just a really crappy car in general. The GT3 car isn’t competitive in the hands of Turner in the GTD class and they just won the championship a few years ago with the old Z4. Not to mention it runs with 2 mufflers, is the quietest car in the field, and isn’t exciting for the fans to watch race. Please try a little bit next time BMW… I can’t believe they’re using the same brick M6 again in 2018.

  8. Luna

    March 19, 2017 at 4:50 am

    A real GT beats the Ford Prototypes!

  9. Luna

    March 19, 2017 at 5:09 am

    Another no results for Lamborghini. We are getting used to that.

  10. JamieR

    March 19, 2017 at 5:29 am

    Garcia was rapid in the last 2 hours, the Fords lost some pace in the night.

    It was good to see the non-turbo cars pick up the pace and do well again.Although I suppose that means they were sandbagging 😉

  11. Dan

    March 19, 2017 at 7:56 am

    Anyone hear any details on the #4 Corvette overheating issue? Was it really as simple as a thermostat malfunction that had no track-side remedy? Maybe some engine damage caused by overheating?

  12. LineaRosso

    March 19, 2017 at 8:16 am

    Good Show Cadillac, Chevrolet and Ford

  13. Luna

    March 19, 2017 at 8:28 am

    Another DNF for those clowns of Dream Racing.

  14. Trevor Smith

    March 19, 2017 at 10:34 am

    Even a Vette win won’t keep the Ford haters from whining! What’s with this “prototype” and “not a true GT” crap? The Ford and the mid-engined Porsche both conform to the GT rules. Perhaps the Chevy people could tell me which option box I check at the dealership to get my 5.5 liter Corvette.

    • Nick

      March 19, 2017 at 12:33 pm

      Rules limited displacement to 5.5L without a waver.

    • Gerd Frankfort

      March 19, 2017 at 12:41 pm

      This “prototype” is a hand-built racing machine designed in England, built in Canada by the Multi-matic team. It has a price range of 475.000 to 550.00 depending on options. The rules state a and number have to be sold to be legal in this class, not one was delivered to a customer last season none that I have heard of this season. The Corvette has an option list that includes the Z06 and soon the ZR1. The Z06 puts out around 650 horsepower, the ZR1 will put out around 750 to 800 horse power. Now, to make this simple for you, either one of the “factory” engines placed in this 4 year old Corvette would run circles around the 1/2 million dollar Ford GT on the track. So, to make things more even against this 500.00 prototype Corvette has to “Dumb Down” and use a smaller and less powerful motor to comply with IMSA rules and to make it fair. I could go on, but you Fraud GT people have an extremely hard time seeing the obvious, and I have better things to do.

      • Zone

        March 19, 2017 at 12:57 pm

        Could not say it any better.

      • juneracer

        March 19, 2017 at 1:01 pm

        all the respective GTLM ‘street’ cars make more power then the GTLM spec cars. the ACO is trying to keep separation between the classes. they’d prefer not to have what are considered lower classes beating higher class cars.

      • Nick

        March 19, 2017 at 1:22 pm

        They built it to comply with ACO rules not imsa. When the car was built turbos were not allowed in the class and displacement was limited to 5.5L

        P.S. IMO the ford is the second crappiest sounding car on grid behind the Lexus RCF Gt3 when under load. At idle and rolling through the pits it sounds amazing tho. Funny

      • Joel

        March 19, 2017 at 1:56 pm

        The Corvette team could have gotten their 6.2L engine through waivers, but the team decided to run a proven engine instead of introducing an unknown element. Power is not an issue. Even at 5.5L it is running with restrictors.

    • JamieR

      March 19, 2017 at 1:02 pm

      Nice try. They only run the 5.5 due to displacement rules. I’m sure they would love to run the 6.2 if they could.

    • Andres

      March 19, 2017 at 2:39 pm

      They do not whine nor anything else, the Chevy fans (including me), hate the lack of sportmanship of Chip Ganassi, who is the biggest sandbagger in racing history, and what they did in Lemans last year, and the fact that Ford will only sell 500 units of the GT, that is neither designed nor built by Ford, at an astronomical price, when you can buy any other street version of the cars that race in the series, even the Porsche that changes its engine position, that is what everyone hates about the Ford GT operation, i hope this comment makes clear what everyone hates

      • Trevor Smith

        March 19, 2017 at 5:44 pm

        Please do enlighten us on this sandbagging at Le Mans. Surely you aren’t referring to the atmospheric/weather changes in France that occurred between the test date and the race that significantly reduced the horsepower of all the naturally aspirated cars. It was not some lame conspiracy that put the Ford and Ferrari at the front of the class last year. It was their turbochargers that crammed air into the engine at a constant pressure regardless of the falling barometer that hampered the Chevy, Porsche, and Aston Martin.

        • Andres

          March 19, 2017 at 8:51 pm

          Bro, this can take off from your lap times in a track that long like Lemans someting like a second or two, not FIVE SECONDS like it was, and do you remember the round of BOP between the first testing and the qualy??? the Corvette ran same times that in 2015 qualy, then got a WAY SMALLER air restrictor, Ford and Ferrari got a brutal increase in turbo boost and in fuel tank capacity, this way we went to qualy, where we saw that the cars that were severely restricted (Corvette and Aston Martin), couldnt reach the lap times posted in the 2015 qualy, and all the Fords and Ferraris were 5 SECONDS faster than in 2015, the weather was not an issue, cause the pressure benefits the turbo cars as you said, but the humidity benefits the n/a engines, and when the qualy was taking place, the humidity was over 80% due to rain

    • R. Hughes

      March 19, 2017 at 6:09 pm

      Try to buy a Ford GT for less than $500 or actually
      even buy one period. Ford also dodges any question concerning the number of GTs they are producing for the public by stating they want to keep the numbers down so they don’t depreciate. Sounds a little suspicious to me. Could it be they are starting to hedge on the number of units for sale to the public as a requirement to race in GTLM? This is reminiscent of the Shelby Cobra era when only 50 were initially produced out of the promised 500.

  15. TopCat501

    March 19, 2017 at 11:09 am

    @ Trevor Smith >> you are spot on

    Strange how even in victory, the Corvette fans can’t leave their make-believe world in which the Ford GT is somehow class illegal. Truth be known, the Ford GTLM powertrain more closely mirrors real world factory than the Corvette GYLM. So yes, where can I go buy a 5.5L corvette direct from the factory??

    • Andres

      March 19, 2017 at 2:42 pm

      No, you cannot, but the y NEED to downsize it because THE RULES MANDATE THAT, so maybe you forgot that fact

    • Don Bingaman

      March 19, 2017 at 3:04 pm

      I think Ford should be at Sebring, and I admire Chip Ganassi – he knows how to win, but so does Doug Henin. My complaint is the Ford GT is in the wrong class. It is clearly a prototype, and it should be going head-to-head with the Wayne Taylor and the Cadillac DPi’s. They can easily wedge a 7.0 liter Coyote motor in the the thing, so why don’t they try it ?

      The answer is, GTLM is much easier for them to win. Unfortunately for Ford, the Corvette is not, and never has been a pushover. Too bad, so sad. Now that the high speed tracks are done, Ford will actually have to race other sports cars who are the equal or better in handling on tracks like Lime Rock, Road Atlanta, COTA, etc. I would expect they will continue to be competitive, but certainly not dominant.

  16. Zone

    March 19, 2017 at 12:34 pm

    Better yet where can I buy a Ford GT. I had a 05 Ford GT but for $450K plus $31,500 tax…. Ford lost their way. All this stuff of winning La Mans. Chevy has won it 8 times. The Ford gt not the overall winner like 1966. They could not compete with the big boys. I now own a 14 Shelby GT500 with 662 hp. I will say when Ford wins a race I don’t identify with the car. When the corvette wins a race there are a lot of people who identify with that win.

    • GimmeShelter

      March 19, 2017 at 1:12 pm

      Well just race and beat a Camry with your monster Shelby. THEN you can identify with Ford team when they win. Simple!

  17. juneracer

    March 19, 2017 at 1:05 pm

    Corvette/Chevy/GM are in it for the long hall. the sport needs that commitment. the Ford’s wont be around long. someone at Ford wrote a book of press releases. once they’ve got all those out it will stop racing. lets just see how many years the Ford announced multi year GT racing program actual is racing…

    • GimmeShelter

      March 19, 2017 at 1:19 pm

      Well said! Ford will leave the series long before GM quits it.

      But to be fair to Ford back in 1968 the FIA outlawed the huge V8’s in the winning GT40s and killed them off outright. Wyer of Britian raced the beautiful 5 liter GT40 and had stunning wins in 1969 at Sebring and LeMans but the big American-entered Fords were gone after 1967.

  18. Keith G.

    March 20, 2017 at 8:13 am

    So tell me oh wise race engineers. What make the Ford a prototype? With all of your vast knowledge of race cars please enlighten the rest of us mere mortals who know nothing of racing. Man corvette fans are the worst.

    • Andres

      March 20, 2017 at 11:17 am

      The race car being designed and built MONTHS BEFORE the so called “production” car was built, the fact that it was not even built nor designed by Ford, but by Multimatic in Canada with an existing engine that is the ONLY THING BUILT BY FORD INSIDE THE CAR, the fact that it will cost nearly half a million bucks, when any other car in its level of performance (Corvette, Ferrari 488, V12 Vantage and so on) costs way less than that number, the VERY LOW number of units that will go to sale, and please, if anyone knows about any other thing that i forgot, please reply to my comment saying what i forgot
      AND YES, IM A CORVETTE AND ASTON MARTIN FAN, WHAT IS WRONG WITH THAT??

    • J Lewis

      March 20, 2017 at 4:45 pm

      I wouldn’t lump all fans of a brand into one group based on the crying/gloating of the loudest, and usually most naive, percentage. Lunacy exists in all the camps. The comments section of this and similar threads is example enough. If you haven’t noticed it, you’re either not paying attention, or willfully ignorant.

  19. fourloko

    March 20, 2017 at 8:17 am

    so much ford prototype crying. sounds like election 2016

    • Crossmai'n

      March 20, 2017 at 1:53 pm

      I honestly don’t get why, though. Yes, the Ford GT isn’t built completely by Ford, that was Multimatic, but so was the original GT40, which started as a Lola. Yes, the street car came after the race car, but they were allowed when all the manufacturers took a vote. Yes they are only doing 2016-2019, but at least they made a real effort rather than the last generation (2005-2006) which didn’t race with he factory at all. Yes, they were deliberately slower to get better BOP, but that’s just tactics, and yes they had four cars at Daytona and Three at Sebring, but that for me honestly was a hark to the days of 3-4 car factory teams taking on races, with the likes of Porsche, Ferrari ,Matra, Ford, Lola, Alfa Romeo and others, all which again was a callback to the 1960s-1970s.

  20. Jeremy

    March 20, 2017 at 9:50 am

    What stands out the most to me is how willing every other team in the GTLM paddock is willing to work together to de throne the might of chip ganassi and his fords. As a sports car fan you cannot ask for more exciting finishes. It is obviously clear whether through favourable bop/aerodynamic advantage or whatever that Ford is the benchmark product in this class at this time . I am not a Ford fan nor have I really ever been a GM fan until recently. The difference to me is seen in the paddock, the frindliness of the corvette team always opening their doors allowing fans to walk through , ask technical questions. They never have anything to hide and to me that stands out. The fords seem to be on a high horse high profile team that has only one interest . Their success . Having been a Risi Ferarri fan I’m super stoked to see what they have in store this season as they have a stout driver line up and the ferarri-Ford battle is the one that will never die . Great job on Calado to shut the podium out for a potential Ford 2-3. Excellent stuff. Is it just me or is Richard Westbrook an extremely over rated driver who always finds a way to crack under pressure ?

    • Maxood

      March 20, 2017 at 10:27 am

      It is also a pity that Porsche did not factor in the waning laps of the race.The car seemed to have an edge on the rest of the GTLM field in the final laps, but poor Pilet could not make up so much lost ground to the Ferrari, Fords and Corvette running up front. Jeremy, you’re right about the friendliness of the Corvette camp- I’ve seen kids sit in the car, helped in by the drivers, and answering questions from the public. As for westbrook, he is an overrated driver in IMSA, as I remember him spinning perpetually in Petit Le mans 2 years ago when his fellow Brit,Tandy was flying in the rain.

  21. fan

    March 20, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    Ganassi spend a lot of resources, both financial and time, trying to cheat the system. That is the way you win in a BOP series. I’m not sure if you call that cheating or not. Ganassi cheated in Indycar running illegal wind tunnel tests, they cheated in Grand Am with engine legality. They have a long history of cheating. It wouldn’t surprise me if they are still doing it.

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