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Aitken Was ‘Waiting for Accident to Happen’ in GTP Battle

Jack Aitken recalls closing stint that vaulted AXR Cadillac from lead to fourth, then to unlikely win…

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

Jack Aitken said he was waiting for an accident to happen after the hard-fought battle for the win in Saturday’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

The Action Express Racing driver benefitted from a dramatic late-race pileup for the three leading GTP cars to give Cadillac its first IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship victory in the new top class era.

While Aitken took the race’s penultimate restart in the lead thanks to clever strategy to pit the No. 31 Cadillac V-Series.R for energy replenishment moments before a yellow, the British-Korean racer lost the lead to the No. 6 Penske Porsche 963 of Mathieu Jaminet following the restart.

He then was embroiled in a three-wide battle for second involving Filipe Albuquerque and Felipe Nasr on the front straight, with carnage ensuing ten minutes later when Albuquerque and Jaminet made contact entering Turn 3, which also collected Nasr’s No. 7 Porsche.

“It was very, very tough racing,” Aitken said.

“We were trying to hold our position as good as we could but the guys were fighting extremely hard, and some point you have to realize when it’s time to give up as well.

“That’s part of the reason we made it to the end today. We all drove very well today, as well as racing as hard as we could when we had the pace.

“I was waiting for an accident to happen at some points in the race. It was really hard racing.

“This new era that we’ve got where you’ve got so many teams and cars racing at a very similar level, I think it’s known that you’re going to get a little bit of bumping and some close calls.”

When asked by Sportscar365 if he thought any drivers went over the edge, Aitken said: “I don’t think anyone was particularly out of line.”

Aitken, meanwhile, described the crash scene as he drove past the wreckage to retake the lead with 20 minutes to go.

“I was trying to do some quick counting,” he said. “Those moments, especially so late in the race, you’re just pretty much in the moment.

“I saw the crash and was watching out for the debris and other cars because there were cars pretty much everywhere and was just trying to survive.

“It was after I got through the Porsches, [I realized] ‘That’s was a lot of cars and quite a few GTP cars, so maybe we were alright.'”

He then had to hold off the No. 25 Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8 of Nick Yelloly to take the win, despite not having had the best car on restarts all race.

“We had a great strategy that could get us into the lead [on the restart with 32 minutes to go],” Aitken explained. “The team was fantastic with that one; it was quick thinking.

“I just wasn’t able to really fight it. The other guys were really impressive with their speed at the restart.

“We didn’t quite have the pace especially on [tire] warmup so I was a little bit concerned but when the flag dropped we were able to sprint away pretty quickly and could just bring it home safely for the last laps.”

Derani: “Luck Played on Our Side Today”

Pipo Derani, who claimed his fourth Sebring victory, admitted that luck was on their side this time, which saw the Brazilian, Aitken and Alexander Sims take an unlikely win, despite having started on pole.

The Action Express Cadillac fought back from an Hour 3 incident where the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports Ligier JS P320 Nissan of Robert Mau spun in front of Derani, resulting in nose damage to the Whelen Engineering-sponsored GTP entry.

The car then was forced to serve a stop-and-hold plus ten-second penalty for an improperly serviced emergency service obligation.

“You’ve got to be lucky in motorsports,” Derani said.

“I think the most important thing is that we were there in the end with a car that was still running, especially after the earlier incident of no fault of our own.

“We were there to capitalize on others’ mistakes.

“We came here with a very strong car in qualifying and put it on pole. We had an amazing weekend, from Lap 1 to the end of the race.

“Jack had to start on old tires in the end. We didn’t quite have the pace to keep the position but we were there in the end.

“With the mistake the others made, it allowed us to get ahead and take the win.”

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for and SPEED Channel and has contributed to numerous other motorsports publications worldwide. Contact John

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