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Van der Zande Leads First Hour at Sebring; Trouble for Whelen

Van der Zande out front for Ganassi as Whelen Cadillac hits trouble early on…

Photo: Rick Dole/IMSA

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Renger van der Zande led the opening hour of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring as the pole-sitting Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R lost ground following a wall strike.

Van der Zande started from third on the grid aboard the No. 01 Ganassi Cadillac but got past Ricky Taylor’s Acura ARX-05 on the run down to Turn 1.

The Dutchman then closed in on pole-sitter Pipo Derani before rounding the Whelen/Action Express Racing driver at the same corner when the DPi field encountered GT traffic.

Van der Zande stayed ahead through an early Full Course Yellow period, which was caused by the need to clear up debris at Turn 17 after Jimmie Johnson spun his Ally Action Express Cadillac into the side of Loic Duval’s JDC-Miller Motorsports machine.

After the restart on 23 minutes, Derani applied pressure on van der Zande and mounted a challenge for position into the right-hander at the end of the Ullman Straight.

However,  the Brazilian struck the inside wall, causing damage to his Whelen car’s right side that required a lengthy pit stop for repairs to the suspension that cost four laps.

At the same time, seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Johnson ran out front for a few laps owing to him making an off-kilter first stop following his incident.

After Johnson made his second stop, Van der Zande returned to the lead and entered the second hour with around six seconds over Taylor in second place, while Olivier Pla was running third in Meyer Shank Racing’s Acura.

In GT Le Mans, Corvette Racing’s Antonio Garcia controlled the first stint from pole but did briefly lose the lead to BMW Team RLL’s Jesse Krohn at the end of the hour.

However, Krohn pitted immediately after making the move, while the Finn’s teammate Connor de Phillippi got ahead on pit road while Garcia settled back into the lead.

The No. 4 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R had a troubled start to the race, with Tommy Milner first receiving a drive-through for changing lanes at the start, followed swiftly by an unscheduled pit stop due to a possible engine issue.

This dropped Milner to fifth in class, behind Cooper MacNeil in the WeatherTech Racing Porsche 911 RSR-19.

Vasser Sullivan Lexus pair Aaron Telitz and Frankie Montecalvo led the first hour in GT Daytona, with Daniel Morad close behind in Alegra Motorsports’ Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo.

Telitz made a place on Morad, who started second, in the early stages while a penalty for Jan Heylen’s directional change at the 10:10 a.m. green flag promoted the No. 14 Lexus driver to the lead.

Rasmus Lindh led the way in LMP3 for Performance Tech Motorsports, while Steven Thomas commanded the opening stanza in LMP2 for WIN Autosport.

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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