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LALLY: Sebring Debrief

Andy Lally files his Sportscar365 column following GTD victory at Sebring…

Photo: IMSA

Photo: IMSA

“We Won Sebring!”

Those were some of the most exciting words to have ever left my mouth as I keyed the radio across the finish line this past Saturday night.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I have been so fortunate to race with incredibly prepared cars and with great teammates over the years, and it has resulted in some great victories. However Sebring has always bit me for some reason, as I’ve come close to a win so many times but never stood on the top step of the podium.

Dating all the way back to 1996, I finished 2nd in my first and only SCCA National after starting from pole, second in what is now the Continental Tire SportCar Challenge, second to Dan Wheldon in a US Formula 2000 race, and even a second place finish OVERALL with Dyson Racing at the 2008 12 hours of Sebring.

This win was 18 years in the making and when you push hard for something for that many years you begin to wonder if it will ever happen. It happened this Saturday and it feels amazing.

The win Saturday also marked a significant achievement for me. The collective goal of winning every major endurance race in the country.

When I started really focusing my career on sports car racing I had set a goal of winning the four biggest endurance races in North America. The Rolex 24 at Daytona, The Six Hours of The Glen, Petit Le Mans, and The 12 Hours of Sebring. As soon as Indy came on the schedule that was also obviously added to the list.

This Saturday was the final “check in the box” that I needed to have accomplished this goal and the emotion was almost overwhelming, especially the way it all went down on Saturday.

We were decent in first practice but not great, but then we found something. My engineer, Lars Giersing, found a set up that moved the car up to the top of the charts and all of a sudden there was a little bit of clarity in what had been a hard couple of months looking for speed.

We had a shot at the podium on speed alone, and with the right strategy and preparation maybe we could pull this thing off. The team did exactly what they needed to do and then some.

You will always hear me brag about how the dedication, work ethic and professionalism shown by Magnus Racing is second-to-none and they keep proving me right every week. John Bedell and the guys work so hard for a result and it is inspiring to get behind the wheel of something that you 100% know is the best machine someone can give you.

This amount of workload from your crew also brings a lot of pressure to perform, and after incredible stints from John Potter and Marco Seefried it was my turn to take the reigns and bring the car home in a good position.

Adding to the pressure was a great heads-up call from the team on a strategic pit stop that moved us from 3rd to 1st during the last pit stop. We went green with 28 minutes to go and it was like a storybook ending to a race with just the last page missing.

I had the Daytona winning Ferrari on my bumper with my friend Townsend Bell driving, and another four excellent and hungry drivers behind him all looking for victory.

One final restart was needed to accomplish one of the hardest races on the planet, and our car was fast and solid. I was able to get a good jump on the opening lap of the restart and that was 90% of the challenge. I opened up a 2.5 second lead on the first lap and although the gap went up and down, over the next 14 laps it proved to be crucial as I was able to drive my line and let the others fight it out.

When the checker fell I was as chocked up as I ever was in any other race and had trouble getting those three words out, but after 18 years was finally able to exclaim the words… “We Won Sebring!”

Andy Lally (@AndyLally) is a three-time GRAND-AM champion and former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie-of-the-Year, currently driving for Magnus Racing in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.

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