IMSA WeatherTech Championship

Bamber Bounces Back to Deliver Sebring Victory for No. 02 Cadillac

Cadillacs Sweep Top Three Positions for Fourth DPi Win in Twelve Hours
PR1 Mathiasen Completes Sebring Three-Peat
Sean Creech Motorsport Breaks Through for First Win in LMP3

March 19, 2022
By Jeff Olson & Mark Robinson
IMSA Wire Service

SEBRING, Fla. – Twice in the final 75 minutes of the race, Earl Bamber lost the lead. Twice he regained it.

Bamber overcame two incidents and a penalty in the final minutes Saturday and twice worked his way back into the lead, eventually prevailing to win the 70th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts.

His victory in the No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R co-driven with Alex Lynn and Neel Jani was nothing short of an adventure.

“It was a team effort, not an individual one,” Bamber said. “I was just the one lucky enough to do the last hour. I could’ve probably made it a hell of a lot easier for everyone else, but hey, I made it. It was a good show, I think.”

With 1 hour, 15 minutes remaining, Bamber replaced Lynn during a driver change with a lead of more than 30 seconds over the No. 5 JDC Miller MotorSports Cadillac DPi-V.R shared by Tristan Vautier, Richard Westbrook and Loic Duval.

On the out lap, Bamber collided with the No. 13 AWA Duqueine D08 LMP3 car driven by Kuno Wittmer, drawing a drive-through penalty that gave the overall and Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class lead to Westbrook. Seconds after he passed Westbrook to retake the lead with 59:53 left, Bamber spun in a collision with the No. 21 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 driven by Simon Mann.

Bamber recovered, chased down Westbrook again and passed him with 45 minutes left. This time, he didn’t let go of the lead, carrying it to the finish 6.471 seconds ahead of Vautier, who replaced Westbrook on the No. 5 car’s final pit stop.

“It was some of the best driving I’ve done and some of the worst at the same time, all in about one and a half hours,” Bamber said. “I’m just really happy that we could recover and get back to the front.”

After Vautier replaced Westbrook, Bamber made his last pit stop. He emerged 7.2 seconds ahead of Vautier, who wasn’t about to give up.

“I gave it all, mate,” Vautier said. “The 02 came out of the pits 7 seconds ahead and we entered the final lap 2.5 behind. Then I took it easy on the last lap. I knew it was over and we were tight on fuel. It’s a very solid day for the team. We were third at Daytona and second here. We can be proud.”

The top three finishers, all Cadillacs, finished within 14.616 seconds as Pipo Derani brought the No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac co-driven with Mike Conway and Tristan Nunez home third.

The 351 laps completed were a Sebring record for the DPi class, topping the previous mark set last year by two laps.

It was the 61st IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship victory for Chip Ganassi Racing and second at Sebring. Bamber and Lynn both scored their second Sebring victories, Jani his first.

The WeatherTech Championship resumes April 8-10 with the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

PR1 Mathiasen Completes Sebring Three-Peat

It doesn’t matter who PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports puts in the car at Sebring International Raceway, it seems to be a winning combination. Ben Keating, Mikkel Jensen and Scott Huffaker controlled the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class from the get-go Saturday, piloting the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen ORECA LMP2 07 to victory for the second straight year.

It was also PR1 Mathiasen’s third consecutive Sebring triumph – Huffaker teaming with Patrick Kelly and Simon Trummer to win the Twelve Hours in 2020 – and the team’s fifth Sebring victory in the past decade.

“This is my third win in a row here but this one by far the toughest, though,” Huffaker said. “Just the heat, everything. I think I had the longest drive time there close to the end. Physically I was just done when I got out of the car. Mikkel was having some stomach issues so I think it was a tough one for the team, but we just all pulled through and kept clean.”

Keating got the team off to a blazing start and the driving trio never let up, leading 276 of the 345 laps that the class winners completed, including the last 126 circuits. Even a midrace shakeup to the driver rotation when Jensen fell ill didn’t derail the No. 52’s victory express, winning by a full lap over the No. 29 Racing Team Nederland ORECA.

“I think with three or four hours to go, I was going in to do a double (stint) but ended up only doing a single,” Jensen said. “I started to get a little dizzy and asked if Scott could take over. He was in the car to do a double right before and he went in to do a triple, so big thanks to him. I had to recover, get some sugar and I was back in it. It was simply just the dehydration because it was so warm.”

Keating and Jensen won the 2021 LMP2 championship and, with Huffaker, captured the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup as well. They lead both championships again after two 2022 races, though the trio is driving in just the four endurance events this year, with another lineup that includes Kelly set for the sprint races.

Keating, who picked up his third Sebring win, will relish the team effort involved in this one, highlighted by Thursday’s second practice – a session in which the Texan didn’t even turn a lap.

“It was an hour and a half session and those two guys (Jensen and Huffaker) worked on the car the whole time,” Keating said. “We went from a car that was really tough to drive to a car that was really easy to drive. We just had a great car. … For everybody on the team to have a perfect race, it’s special. It’s hard to do and that’s why we’re here.”

Sean Creech Motorsport Breaks Through for First Win in LMP3

It took a little more than a year but Sean Creech Motorsport made it atop the WeatherTech Championship podium in Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) for the first time in one of the series’ marquee events. Joao Barbosa, Malthe Jakobsen and Lance Willsey survived 12 hours of class attrition and a nervous final few fuel-saving laps to claim the LMP3 victory at Sebring. It’s the third Twelve Hours of Sebring win for Barbosa and the first WeatherTech Championship victory anywhere for his co-drivers.

The team ran just three races in 2021, finishing second in the Rolex 24 At Daytona. The No. 33 Ligier JS P320 repeated the Daytona result this January and the drivers were eager to go one step better at Sebring. The mission was accomplished with a victory margin of 48.586 seconds over the No. 30 Jr III Racing Ligier co-driven by Ari Balogh, Garett Grist and Dakota Dickerson.

“It’s great,” said Barbosa, a longtime friend of team owner Sean Creech who earned IMSA career win No. 25. “We were very close at Daytona last year and this year, and we needed a big win. The guys have been working really hard. To come to this race and giving us a great car to race, to be able to help a little bit this team to move forward and get such a big win is a great sensation.”

With several LMP3 rivals sidelined with mechanical issues earlier in the race, the No. 33 ran a steady pace, recovered from clutch problems that slowed pit stops and going a lap down, to leading 116 of the final 126 laps. Jakobsen had to sweat it our for a final stint of nearly 50 minutes, concerned he may run out of fuel before the finish.

“I got the fuel light after I crossed the start/finish line (for the checkered flag),” the 18-year-old Dane said. “It’s my first win in sports cars. I only won in single-seaters before, so it’s a massive race to win. First time at Sebring and to win it, that’s not bad.”

Barbosa said Lady Luck decided it was the No. 33’s day and night to shine.

“Everything went our way,” he said. “We were able to get the lap back, we got the yellows at the right time in a couple places and it seems like everything was going our way. Sometimes, Sebring picks the winner and it seems like it was our turn to win this race.”

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