Derani, Nissan Win at Sebring

Tequila Patron ESM Nissan DPi speeds at Sebringq
Pipo Derani took the checkered flag in the No. 22 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPi at Sebring. | Photo: Jake Galstad / IMSA

A half day’s worth of IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship racing at Sebring International Raceway culminated in an overall victory for Tequila Patrón ESM with Pipo Derani taking the checkered flag.

The No. 22 Nissan Onroak DPi shared by Derani, Johannes van Overbeek and Nicolas Lapierre started the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in fourth place, two positions behind its sister car, driven at the start by Olivier Pla.

Overzealousness at the start led to contact between Pla and the pole-sitting No. 90 Cadillac DPi-V.R of Tristan Vautier, knocking the No. 2 Nissan out of the race. This opened the door for the No. 22 machine to shine, especially at the hands of Derani.

Over the course of the race, the winning car finished each hour in the top three except for eighth when it ranked fourth in the 16-car class. The conclusion of Hours 10, 11 and 12 were all led by the car at the hands of Lapierre and Derani.

The No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac piloted by Jordan Taylor, Renger van der Zande and Ryan Hunter-Reay finished in the second position. A seemingly quiet race for the car was interrupted by contact with the No. 31 Action Express machine in Turn 3. The incident knocked the right-rear quarter panel off the Wayne Taylor Racing car, bringing out a yellow flag for debris.

No. 55 Mazda speeds down Sebring front straight
The No. 55 Mazda, despite showing speed, had trouble in the pits that cost it a chance to win. | Photo: Jake Galstad / IMSA

Despite the setback, the car pushed on and trailed the winning Nissan by 12.4 seconds at the finish thanks to problems for the No. 55 Mazda RT24-P driven during the final stint by Harry Tincknell. The Mazda Team Joest machine looked to be fast enough to challenge Derani at the end but a recurring issue keeping the car running during stops struck on the car’s final visit to the pits, dropping it a lap down to the leader.

The No. 31 Cadillac finished third and proved to be the winning Nissan’s stiffest competition throughout the race. At the hands of Felipe Nasr, Eric Curran and Mike Conway, the car led at the end of second and third hours before falling outside the top five at the halfway point. The No. 31 finished the ninth through 11th hours in second before dropping to its eventual finishing position: nearly 41 seconds behind van der Zande.

LMP2 machinery completed the top five with help from DPi attrition. Both the No. 54 CORE autosport ORECA 07 and No. 32 United Autosports Ligier JS P217 entries in fourth and fifth ran outside the lead group of DPi cars until the last hour.

No. 6 Team Penske Acura speeds at Sebring
Both of Team Penske’s Acura ARX-05 DPi cars retired from the race. | Photo: Jake Galstad / IMSA

Contributing to the lack of IMSA-specific machinery at the end of the clock-spanning race was the retirement of both Acura ARX-05s fielded by Team Penske. The No. 7 car completed 172 laps before its engine gave out, prompting Ricky Taylor to pull off course. Later, the No. 6 retired with 203 laps completed shortly after contact caused Juan Pablo Montoya to spin in Turn 17.

The last DPi to retire was the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona machine when Vautier made heavy contact with the tire barrier in Turn 17, bringing out a caution and ending the day for the Cadillac with 294 laps completed.

Next up for the series is the first sprint race of 2018, where GTLM will join the Prototype class on April 14 for the BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach.

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