Sportscar365 is recognizing its chosen top performers and key events from the 2020 sports car racing season. Up next is the race of the year, as selected by website staff.
Race of the Year – Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring
The 12 Hours of Sebring is always a calendar highlight, but this year’s edition carried an extra level of intrigue with it also serving as the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s season-ending round.
Sebring usually occurs in mid-March, but coronavirus restrictions made the traditional date untenable and prompted IMSA to postpone the event’s 68th running to November.
The additional eight-month wait and a new season finale status heightened the anticipation, but the race lived up to the promise.
Mazda took the win with Jonathan Bomarito, Harry Tincknell and Ryan Hunter-Reay ending the Japanese manufacturer’s streak of misfortune in the major North American enduros, while Ricky Taylor and Helio Castroneves clinched the DPi championship.
A one-two result had initially been on the cards for the Multimatic-run Mazda RT24-Ps until the leading No. 77 suffered a tire issue in the closing stages, marking the final major twist in a race that had already produced plenty of drama, especially in the title race.
Taylor, Castroneves and Alexander Rossi lost 11 laps early on due to a broken intercooler, but the title-contending Action Express and Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi-V.Rs also hit trouble in the form of clashes with rivals, enabling Penske’s No. 7 pair to become champions.
Porsche bowed out of its factory involvement in the GT Le Mans category with a “fairytale ending” as Nick Tandy, Frederic Makowiecki and Earl Bamber – who drove both Porsche 911 RSR-19s – led home a one-two result for the CORE autosport-run program.
In GT Daytona, Wright Motorsports triumphed despite its Porsche 911 GT3 R carrying a broken shock that made the car handle like a “bucking bronco”, according to Patrick Long.
While PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports dominated LMP2, the race as a whole produced some of the best wheel-to-wheel action seen this year. Those who enjoyed it will be relieved at the shortness of the gap between 2020’s November Sebring and the next one in March.
***As usual, the Total 24 Hours of Spa boasted a narrative full of twists and turns. You had the early dominance of AKKA-ASP before its demise at halfway and Lamborghini’s overnight lead until a crash at dawn. You had Ferrari cleverly racking up vital series points whilst factory Audis fought each other on different tire strategies. Those storylines and more all fed into a brilliant conclusion, as Porsche’s Nick Tandy made a stunning wet weather charge to the front for ROWE Racing. Tandy then endured a nerve-wracking final lap, clinging on to what was left of his car’s ailing gearbox to take the win.
***Contact between Action Express Racing’s Derani and Team Penske’s Taylor with 12 minutes to go enabled Renger van der Zande to snatch Wayne Taylor Racing’s third Motul Petit Le Mans victory. Penske had been the quickest team, particularly with Dane Cameron at the wheel, but it couldn’t match WTR’s ability to keep a clean nose.
***Super GT’s fourth and final 300km race at Fuji Speedway is worthy of a mention for the last 10 seconds alone. Ryo Hirakawa was sailing to the title after running a perfect season finale with Kenta Yamashita, only for his Toyota GR Supra to run out of fuel exiting the final corner. This gifted the championship to Honda’s Naoki Yamamoto and Tadasuke Makino, sparking jubilation from their end of the pit lane and despondency over at Toyota. It was heartbreak on the same level as Toyota at Le Mans in 2016.
***The cancelation of this year’s Nürburgring 24 qualifying race turned the six-hour ADAC-Ruhr-Pokal NLS round into a makeshift dress rehearsal for the Nordschleife’s blue riband event. Audi claimed its first NLS victory in almost three years after Christopher Mies and Mirko Bortolotti efficiently hunted down a fuel-conserving Luca Ludwig, who had chanced on an improbable nine-lap final stint from his Octane 126 Ferrari.