Mathieu Jaminet felt he “got really lucky” to avoid a “big crash” during the incident at the head of the GT Le Mans pack that ultimately set the Frenchman’s privateer WeatherTech Racing Porsche 911 RSR-19 on course to win the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
Jaminet was running third after the final full course caution restart of the race with just under 20 minutes to go, behind BMW Team RLL’s Connor De Phillippi and race leader Antonio Garcia in the No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R
With eight and a half minutes left, De Phillippi attempted to pass Garcia on the inside at Turn 7, but the pair touched resulting in the Corvette swiveling around the front of the No. 25 BMW M8 GTE.
The two cars then touched again, leaving Garcia’s car with damage.
Jaminet, meanwhile, was forced to swerve left in avoidance of De Philippi, who stepped onto the right-side grass before rejoining the track at a reduced pace.
The Frenchman said he had a reasonable view of the incident but very narrowly avoided a “big crash” with the BMW.
“I wasn’t that close but wasn’t that far,” Jaminet told Sportscar365.
“Going into Turn 7, I think the BMW had a chance and it looked like the Corvette didn’t close the door that much, so the BMW just dived in.
“It was maybe a little bit optimistic on the brakes but I did not really see the apex, but when I came to the corner they were just side-by-side, touching and hitting each other.
“Then they had big contact and I had to avoid the BMW which was going the other side of the track, so I just went left and straight on the grass.
“We got really lucky there, because I think it was pretty close with the BMW to being a big crash with us. We got past the Corvette and went down the straight towards Turn 10 with the BMW, so it was a little bit of a crazy fight.”
The incident forced Garcia to pit with a damaged tire, while De Phillippi was handed a drive-through for his part in the collision. This all helped Jaminet to maintain his lead to the finish and secure the fourth consecutive GTLM win for a Porsche at Sebring.
Jaminet, who shared the win with Matt Campbell and Cooper MacNeil, said that to prevail with an independent organization such as WeatherTech Racing and Proton Competition was an “amazing” feeling.
The outcome was in stark contrast to WeatherTech Racing’s GTLM debut in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, which was hampered by an accident on the start line with the No. 25 BMW.
“It feels even better than winning as a manufacturer, with full backup support from the factory like it was in the past,” said Jaminet.
“I’ve been pretty unlucky at Sebring before, especially in 2019 with Earl [Bamber] and Laurens [Vanthoor], and in the other endurance races with them.
“So it feels good to be at the top step of the podium, especially with these guys and Proton and WeatherTech Racing.
“I think we did something huge today and it’s a long season, so I hope that we can repeat that.”
Garcia: No. 3 Corvette ‘Deserved Better’
Corvette driver Garcia, who ultimately finished a lap down behind the Porsche and both BMWs, felt that the Chevrolet factory team deserved a podium result after running out front for large portions of Saturday’s race.
“I’m definitely disappointed in the whole situation,” said the Spaniard.
“It was a very hard race for all of us. We managed to be up there, and with two stints to go we were both going flat-out. It definitely was between them [the No. 25 BMW] and us.
“Up to that point, it was fair. The whole thing was good. He was pushing hard, and I was pushing as hard as I could. I think we put on a good show but I’m disappointed with the way it ended.
“I’m sure we would have been super happy to bring home a real result. It’s a tough break, especially after such a long race. I’m disappointed for the guys, for Corvette, for Team Chevy and the fans. We all deserved a little bit better.”
De Phillippi stated that BMW was satisfied with its double podium result despite failing to capture its first 12H Sebring victory in the primary GT class since 2012.
The American and his teammates Philipp Eng and Bruno Spengler left Sebring atop the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup standings after gaining maximum points at two of the three distribution markers.
“We put ourselves in the position to fight at the end,” said De Phillippi. “I could taste the win, tried to battle with the leader.
“I saw an opportunity and went for it but it didn’t work. We still came home second and third for BMW. It’s great to be on the podium.”
John Dagys contributed to this report