With a bit of luck and a late-race yellow, Chip Ganassi Racing powered through to claim victory in Saturday’s 62nd Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, the second round of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
After an unforgettable around-the-clock endurance classic, that saw nearly half the race run under yellow, Marino Franchitti took the No. 01 Telcel Riley-Ford across the line 4.682 seconds ahead of the No. 1 Extreme Speed Motorsports HPD ARX-03b of Ryan Dalziel in second.
Dalziel held the lead heading into the final hour but his margin was equalized after a Corvette DP stopped on track and brought out the race’s 11th full-course caution with 51 minutes remaining.
All of the leaders pitted for fuel-only stops except for the No. 01 Ganassi DP car, which came in for service just moments before the yellow was called, and inherited the lead as a result.
It set up a 21-minute run to the checkered flag, which saw Franchitti bridge out to a six-second gap to the fellow Scot by the second green flag lap, although Dalziel closed the margin in the final moments due to traffic.
The win marked the first victory for Chip Ganassi in his team’s Sebring debut, while Ford notched the first win for its new EcoBoost engine, in only the powerplant’s second race.
Additionally, Ganassi becomes the first team to win the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Indianapolis 500, Daytona 500 and Twelve Hours of Sebring.
Dalziel and co-drivers Scott Sharp and David Brabham settled for second, ahead of the pole-sitting No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP of Sebastien Bourdais, which completed the podium in third.
The top-three were separated by less than ten seconds at the checkered flag, aided by the late yellow, which lasted 30 minutes to retrieve the stationary Marsh Racing Corvette DP.
OAK Racing’s Morgan-Nissan of Olivier Pla, Alex Brundle and Gustavo Yacaman finished fourth, while the No. 2 ESM HPD ARX-03b of Simon Pagenaud, Johannes van Overbeek and Ed Brown made it three P2 cars in the top-five.
Nine cars finished on the lead lap, with a number of Prototype class contenders also hitting trouble.
The No. 6 Muscle Milk Pickett Racing Oreca 03 Nissan, which contended early, suffered driveline issues early before retiring in the final hour with power steering failure.
Spirit of Daytona’s Corvette DP, meanwhile, lost more than 10 laps with a throttle sensor issue in the fourth hour. The No. 90 entry came home 29th overall, one position ahead of the No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda, which recorded its first finish in TUDOR Championship competition.
Prototype Challenge class honors for the second consecutive race went to CORE autosport, following a thrilling dual between RSR Racing in the closing stages.
The late yellow saw the No. 54 Oreca FLM09 of Colin Braun retake the lead and hold off a hard-charging Bruno Junqueira for the class win, which was just 2.428 seconds at the line.
Braun shared the winning CORE entry with team principal Jon Bennett and James Gue, the latter who exchanged the lead with RSR’s David Heinemeier Hansson prior to the final round of driver changes.
While the No. 8 Starworks Motorsport entry completed the podium in third, the class was marred by two massive accidents, plus a number of spins and off-course excursions that attributed to the five-plus hours of yellow flag running time.
David Ostella lost control of his Performance Tech Oreca FLM09 and was hit by the PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports entry of Frankie Montecalvo exiting Turn 17. It resulted in a brief red flag period in the fourth hour.
Two hours later, Gaston Kearby spun in Turn 16 and rejoined in front of Alex Tagliani, who slammed into the No. 87 BAR1 Motorsports entry. All four drivers escaped serious injury.