Another starring drive by Pipo Derani has delivered Tequila Patron ESM another major endurance race victory, with the young Brazilian taking the team’s Ligier JS P2 Honda to a thrilling win in Saturday’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
Derani, who took the final restart with 12 minutes remaining in third, got around both Action Express Racing Corvette DPs, first Filipe Albuquerque with seven minutes to go and then leader Dane Cameron the following lap.
He bridged out a slight gap in the closing minutes, crossing the line 2.926 seconds ahead of the No. 31 Corvette DP of Cameron in second.
Albuquerque and co-drivers Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 5 entry finished third in the mixed-condition race, which saw a two-plus hour red flag period for weather.
The win saw ESM claim its second consecutive IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship win following its triumph in January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, with the same lineup of Derani, Scott Sharp, Johannes van Overbeek and Ed Brown.
What’s more, the Florida-based squad becomes the first team since Doran/Moretti Racing in 1998 to have won Daytona and Sebring, known as the “Florida 36 Hours” overall in the same year.
Derani held the lead prior to the final round of stops, which saw both Action Express entries leapfrog ESM’s Ligier-Honda in the pits after taking fuel-only, compared to four new Continental tires for Derani.
He restarted in fourth, behind the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier-Honda of Olivier Pla, who faded on the restart and pitted with right-rear suspension failure on the final lap.
The No. 81 DragonSpeed Oreca 05 Nissan of Nicolas Lapierre, Nic Minassian and Henrik Hedman finished fourth in the team’s P2 debut, following an impressive late-race charge by the ex-Toyota LMP1 factory driver.
Lapierre jumped to 2nd on the restart but was no match for the Action Express entries, or Derani, for that matter, and slowly dropped back.
The No. 90 Visit Florida Racing Corvette DP completed the top-five after also contending for the win until Marc Goossens spun out from the lead with 1 hour and 10 minutes remaining.
Both of the Mazda Prototypes got to the checkered flag with no mechanical issues, giving the SpeedSource-run team its first-ever double top-10 overall result.
The No. 55 entry of Tristan Nunez, Jonathan Bomarito and Spencer Pigot finished 6th overall, and on the lead lap, after overcoming an early pit lane penalty and trip into the barriers during the rain.
Mazda’s sister No. 70 entry was 8th, benefiting by a late-off by the DeltaWing under the final caution.
The No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP, one of the pre-race favorites, retired in the 9th hour with electrical issues.
CORE autosport scored Prototype Challenge honors, in a battle-scarred class that saw every car hit trouble at one point over the race.
Colin Braun took the No. 54 Oreca FLM09 to a narrow 1.282-second class victory over Tom Kimber-Smith in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports entry in second.
The two cars fought tooth-and-nail, with Kimber-Smith having taken the lead from Braun following the final round of pit stops after Braun was hit by a GT car.
Braun then charged back to the lead. He shared class honors with Mark Wilkins and team owner Jon Bennett, who rebounded from an early race spin in the rain.
The No. 8 Starworks Motorsport entry completed the class podium in third, following a late-race battle with the Rolex 24 class-winning No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports entry, which came home fourth.
RESULTS: Twelve Hours of Sebring