Cadillac Dominates Cadillac Grand Prix at Sebring

By Colin Wood
Jul 20, 2020 | Cadillac, Corvette, IMSA, sebring

Photography Credit: LAT Images

When a race carries the name of a car manufacturer, it's definitely a good thing when that manufacturer's cars win that race.

Thankfully for Cadillac, that's exactly what happened with a one-two-three finish in the Daytona Prototype class at this past weekend's Cadillac Grand Prix of Sebring.

As the third race of the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship series, the July 16-18 Cadillac Grand Prix of Sebring followed the hotly anticipated WeatherTech 240 At Daytona. Just like the WeatherTech 240, a reduced number of spectators were permitted at the race with strict social distancing practices put into place

For Grand Touring LeMans, the Corvette C8.Rs crossed the finish line first and second, almost a full minute ahead of the third-place Porsche 911 RSR.

The LeMans Prototype and Grand Touring Daytona classes saw Dragonspeed's ORECA LMP2 and AIM Vasser Sullivan's Lexus RC F GT3 finish first, respectively.

The next race on the calendar will take place July 31-August 2 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

See the race results here, or read the full press releases below:

Spring or Summer: Cadillac Dominant at Sebring

Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani didn’t necessarily expect to dominate the Cadillac Grand Prix of Sebring, but that’s exactly what they did.

Derani started from the pole position Saturday in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi V.R. and pulled ahead of the field. Nasr then took over and did much the same, crossing the finish line 36.432 seconds ahead of Ryan Briscoe to win the DPi class and finish first overall in the two-hour 40-minute race at Sebring International Raceway.

For Nasr, who missed the IMSA WeatherTech 240 on July 4 after testing positive for COVID-19, the victory was special.

"I really went through a lot the last days," said Nasr, who experienced mild symptoms before testing negative and returning to racing. "I was frustrated, but it was something I couldn’t control. My first intention was to protect the team. It was hard to miss Daytona."

The victory was the first for the No. 31 team during the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, which resumed earlier this month after being delayed more than five months because of the virus. The car finished fifth July 4 with Gabby Chaves filling in for Nasr, and seventh in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona in January.

It also was Derani’s fourth victory at Sebring; he previously won the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts three times.

"I think this place likes me," Derani said. "It was a fantastic day for us. We had our last win last year at Petit Le Mans. This team is so used to winning, and not having the two races at Daytona go our way wasn’t what the team expected. … I love this place. We had a dominant car the whole way. It’s fantastic when you can roll off the truck with a setup that is as good as we had today."

Briscoe tried to challenge Nasr during the second half, taking the lead in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R he shared with Renger van der Zande when Nasr pitted in the final 45 minutes. But when Briscoe pitted with 34 minutes remaining, Nasr took the lead and sailed away from there.

"I couldn’t think of a better race to come back to IMSA," he said. "I love this series. I love this track. Sebring is just amazing, and I think Sebring loves us back. … It’s such a gift. I can’t describe it."

Sebastien Bourdais charged up to pass Oliver Jarvis on the final lap to give the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing/JDC-Miller MotorSports Cadillac DPi V.R he shared with Joao Barbosa a third-place finish. It was their third consecutive podium result.

The season resumes July 31-Aug. 2 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

Kelly, Pigot Claim Surprise LMP2 Win

Patrick Kelly and Spencer Pigot received a surprise after Saturday’s Cadillac Grand Prix. Instead of finishing second as expected, they were declared the winner of the LMP2 class at Sebring International Raceway.

IMSA officials ruled that Henrik Hedman, who shared the No. 81 DragonSpeed USA ORECA LMP2 07 with Gustavo Menezes that finished 12.258 seconds ahead of Kelly and Pigot, hadn’t met the minimum driving time of 45 minutes during the 2-hour 40-minute race.

That dropped the No. 81 car to last place in the class and awarded the class win and ninth place overall to the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA shared by Kelly and Pigot.

Kelly and Pigot were congratulating the DragonSpeed drivers when they heard the ruling over the track’s public-address system.

"I had already said ‘good job’ to Gustavo," Pigot said. "We used to race go-karts together. This is the first time we’ve raced against each other in probably 10 years, but it was cool to be back battling with him. I got out of the car and thought we finished second, I actually heard over the loudspeaker that they got a penalty. It was as a surprise to me as it was to all of us."

It’s not exactly the way Pigot and Kelly wanted to win, but they’ll take it.

"I’ll take a win anytime I can get it," Kelly said. "This isn’t the way you want to get it, necessarily. I want to take my hat off to the guys at DragonSpeed. They drove a hell of a race. They had fantastic pace. They seem like really great guys. Kudos to them."

It was Pigot’s first win in IMSA. He was a late replacement for Simon Trummer, who competed in the European Le Mans Series race in France this weekend.

"It’s great to get a win here at Sebring," Pigot said. "I was close to a podium in the Twelve Hours, but never got to finish the race. I just got a call from (team owner) Bobby (Oergel) last week. I was sitting at home and they said they needed a driver and asked if I’d be interested. I’m very thankful to them."

The ruling moved the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports driven by Cameron Cassels and Kyle Masson up to second in the LMP2 class. Dwight Merriman and Kyle Tilley completed the class podium in the No. 18 Era Motorsport ORECA.

The season resumes July 31-Aug. 2 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

Twice is Nice: Corvette Goes Back-to-Back, Wins Cadillac Grand Prix of Sebring

It took more than two years for Corvette Racing’s IMSA win total to go from 99 to 100 and just two weeks to make it 101.

Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner scored the Cadillac Grand Prix of Sebring victory in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class aboard the silver No. 4 Corvette C8.R, leading a 1-2 sweep for the Michigan-based squad. Milner held off a charging Antonio Garcia by a scant 0.480 seconds ahead to score his and Gavin’s first victory since the 2018 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

"It was close there at the end," Milner said. "Olly did a great job of saving fuel and that allowed us to get out ahead of the (No.) 3 car. It was a great strategy from Chuck (Houghton, race engineer) and great pit stops from Brian (Hoye, car chief) and the whole crew. To have these Corvette C8.Rs in as good as shape as they were after the long break is a testament to everyone on this team."

It was Gavin’s 49th IMSA premier series victory, moving him into a three-way tie for fourth on the all-time IMSA win list with the legendary Al Holbert and Butch Leitzinger. It was Milner’s 17th IMSA win and his and Gavin’s seventh win in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition.

"It’s been an amazing day," Gavin said. "Thanks to Corvette Racing and Tommy for doing a wonderful job to bring the car home at the end. It was the strategy and pit stops that made the difference. Our guys did an outstanding job throughout the race.

"Our Corvette C8.R has really come alive in the last two races. It was a great result for the No. 3 Corvette to get the 100th victory in IMSA for Corvette Racing at Daytona. For us to get No. 101 and my 49th in IMSA is fantastic. A great day."

For the first two hours of the two-hour, 40-minute race, it looked like Jordan Taylor, who qualified on pole earlier Saturday afternoon, and Garcia would score their second win in as many races. Taylor kept Gavin in his mirrors before giving way to Garcia just before the two-hour mark but the No. 4 leapfrogged their No. 3 teammates, which took just a bit more time on pit lane.

Nevertheless, the runner-up result moved the Garcia and Taylor to the top of the WeatherTech Championship GTLM standings with three races now in the books.

A pit-lane kerfuffle with just over two hours remaining effectively removed both Porsche GT Team entries from victory contention. Nick Tandy’s No. 911 Porsche was sandwiched between Gavin and Laurens Vanthoor’s No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR-19, leaving Vanthoor without nose bodywork and Tandy with an eventual cut tire. However, Vanthoor and co-driver Earl Bamber recovered to finish third.

Next up for the WeatherTech Championship is the annual visit to Road America for a two-hour, 40-minute battle on Saturday, Aug. 2. The race will be televised live on NBC network beginning at 12 p.m. ET.

Lexus Victorious at Sebring in GTD

The No. 14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 has done it again.

Co-drivers Aaron Telitz and Jack Hawksworth backed up a dominant performance two weeks ago in the IMSA WeatherTech 240 At Daytona with their second straight IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Daytona (GTD) class win.

Telitz started second after qualifying just .067 seconds behind teammate Frankie Montecalvo in the No. 12 Lexus. However, the Wisconsinite quickly found his way to the front on Lap 12 of the 3.74-mile circuit.

It was a crucial final pit stop that put the team in prime position to collect its second victory of 2020. Hawksworth got out in front of the GTD field and only mere car lengths in front of Bill Auberlen, in search of his 61st IMSA victory in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3.

The Brit then opened a gap and sailed away to the win.

"The car was brilliant today and to be honest the strategy was perfect," said Hawksworth. "The decisions on pit lane, the decision to take four tires at the first stop, put full fuel in for the second and short fill the last, made all the difference. So yeah, the championship is on the line for sure."

"I mean honestly could it get any better than this at all?" said Telitz, who was named as the car’s second full-time driver just last month. "Two race wins, first two races full time. Obviously, our Lexus RC F GTD car was just incredible today. We had to go through the field once there after the first round of pit stops, and then handed it off to Jack and he did an awesome job bringing it home."

Cooper MacNeil and Toni Vilander continued their Sebring success on Saturday night, finishing second in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa / WeatherTech Racing Ferrari 488 GT3. The runner-up finish extended their podium streak at Sebring to three consecutive years, after finishing on the GTD podium at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts in both 2018 and 2019.

Auberlen’s quest to become the winningest driver in IMSA wasn’t achieved today, but he and co-driver Robby Foley held on for a third-place result.

Making it four different manufacturers in the top four was the No. 74 Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Lawson Aschenbach and Gar Robinson for Riley Motorsports, their highest finish of the season.

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