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Corvette Takes Controlled GTD Pro Victory; Cetilar Wins GTD

Corvette Racing claims maiden GTD Pro victory at Sebring with Garcia, Catsburg, Taylor…

Photo: Chris DuMond/IMSA

Corvette Racing earned GTD Pro class honors at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring based on a polished drive from Antonio Garcia, Nicky Catsburg and Jordan Taylor.

Garcia took the checkered flag 4.4 seconds ahead of an encroaching Mirko Bortolotti in the second-placed TR3 Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo, earning the GM factory team’s first win competing against GT3-spec cars in IMSA’s new-for-2022 GTD Pro category.

The No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R GTD was strong throughout Saturday’s race and controlled the proceedings after Catsburg overtook Pfaff Motorsports Porsche driver Matt Campbell for the lead with four and a half hours remaining.

After that moment, when Catsburg challenged Campbell around the outside before completing the move at Turn 3, the strong running of the Corvette and the absence of late full course caution periods combined to ensure a clear win for the Pratt & Miller-run team.

Bortolotti shared second with fellow Lamborghini factory drivers Maro Mapelli and Andrea Caldarelli, while Jules Gounon crossed the line third in the No. 97 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo that also featured Maro Engel and Cooper MacNeil.

The sole Corvette, which received a mid-event BoP break on Friday, started third in GTD Pro behind Ferrari squad Risi Competizione and the TR3 Lamborghini.

After an early dice between the trio, Garcia emerged from the first round of stops in the lead. Risi Competizione’s challenge quickly faded when the Texan squad encountered power steering issues, costing it several laps.

The Corvette held a slender advantage over a tightly-bunched field through to the halfway mark. A collection of cautions kept the order close and enabled some other cars, including the No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 and the Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R, to take turns at the front based on pit stop strategies.

Both Vasser Sullivan and Pfaff cycled to the lead during safety car pit cycles in hours seven and eight respectively, but on both occasions Corvette returned to the front on-track.

Catsburg made the moves on both occasions, the Dutchman first dispatching Lexus driver Jack Hawksworth down the Ullman Straight before dramatically getting past Campbell after Pfaff emerged from the final caution period in the lead.

Garcia came out from his final stop with 17 seconds in hand to Bortolotti, and Aaron Telitz a further 25 seconds back in the Lexus.

Bortolotti brought the gap down but was unable to mount a challenge for the win. Telitz, meanwhile, stopped his Lexus for currently unknown reasons on the penultimate lap, allowing Gounon to burst through and complete the podium.

BMW Team M RLL was more competitive with its new M4 GT3 in the car’s second IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race after diffuser issues hampered its run during the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Both BMWs were competitive in the opening stages but the No. 25 fell away in hour three when the power steering failed.

The No. 24 BMW driven by Philipp Eng, Marco Wittmann and Nick Yelloly enjoyed a more sustained presence at the sharp end and ran second to the winning Corvette for much of the second half, but a couple of unplanned stops late on consigned it to fourth.

Fuoco Makes Amends to Win GTD for Cetilar

Cetilar Racing took its first IMSA GTD class win as Antonio Fuoco made amends for an eighth-hour incident to deliver the race-winning pass for the Italian Ferrari squad.

Fuoco picked up a drive-through penalty when he tagged class leader Bill Auberlen into a spin at Turn 3, costing the No. 47 Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020 several positions.

But the Ferrari factory driver, who shared seat time with Giorgio Sernagiotto and Roberto Lacorte, inspired Cetilar’s fightback and got past Auberlen’s Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT3 with a clean overtake into Turn 15 with an hour and 20 minutes remaining.

With two hours to go Fuoco had recovered Cetilar to third, behind the Turner BMW and the Alegra Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo driven by Maximilian Goetz.

The AF Corse-run Cetilar squad jumped Alegra in the pits during the tenth hour and Sernagiotto kept ahead of DTM champion Goetz through to the penultimate stops.

Alegra fell out of contention when its Mercedes-AMG picked up a power steering issue, while Fuoco worked his way past Auberlen before setting off into a significant lead.

Turner, which had been a front-runner throughout, then lost its likely podium when Auberlen was forced to get out of the No. 96 BMW to avoid breaching the drive time rules.

That unscheduled pit visit with half an hour to go enabled the Gilbert Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes-AMG to take second with Daniel Juncadella, Mike Skeen and Stevan McAleer.

AF Corse’s Toni Vilander, Simon Mann and Luis Perez Companc came through in third, putting two Ferraris on the podium.

Robby Foley settled for fourth in the Turner BMW that was also driven by Michael Dinan, while Jordan Pepper brought the Inception Racing McLaren 720S GT3 home in fifth.

RESULTS: 12H Sebring

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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