Patrón ESM Honda Prototype Wins Second Straight

Photo: IMSA
Photo: IMSA
Photo: IMSA

Coming off of a stirring victory in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, the No. 2 Tequila Patrón ESM Honda Ligier JS P2 returned to Victory Lane with a second consecutive triumph in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Pipo Derani captured the checkered flag in a final sprint in Saturday’s 64th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida. With five minutes and 45 seconds to go, Derani passed Dane Cameron in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering/Team Fox Corvette DP from Action Express Racing to take the lead and the eventual victory, sweeping Daytona and Sebring in back-to-back rounds of the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup.

“What a tough race this was,” said Derani. “We had some contact, some spins, and moving our way back to the front was just unbelievable. In the end, I knew we had a great car, and new tires. But with only 10 to 15 minutes to go and still be in fourth was difficult to believe that we were going to make it. God had an eye on me and everything I executed was perfect. I can’t believe it all. It happened like that. I was so focused to bring the car home. The adrenaline was so high I couldn’t think about anything else.”

Cameron took second place in the No. 31 Corvette DP along with co-drivers Eric Curran and Scott Pruett. After leading the first two Patrón Endurance Cup segments, the sister Action Express No. 5 Mustang Sampling Corvette finished third, driven by Christian Fittipaldi, Joao Barbosa and Filipe Albuquerque.

Fittipaldi led at the four-hour mark, picking up the five-point bonus for the first Patrón Endurance Cup segment. Barbosa had control at the eight-hour mark, bringing home another five points the No. 5 team earning the maximum 10-point bonus for leading both segments.

The Patrón Endurance Cup continues with the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen at Watkins Glen International in July and Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta in October.

CORE autosport Cruises To Victory In Prototype Challenge
Colin Braun took the lead in the Prototype Challenge (PC) at just under the halfway mark – at 5 hours and 52 minutes – and the No. 54 CORE autosport Flex-Box Composite Resources ORECA FLM09 dominated the second half of the race.

Joined by Jon Bennett and Mark Wilkins, Braun gave the team its second Sebring victory in three years. While attrition thinned the seven-car PC field, Tom Kimber-Smith stepped up in the defending class-winning No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA FLM09 to challenge Braun. Kimber-Smith was leading with 23 minutes remaining, but Braun executed what proved to be the winning pass moments before the final caution period began on lap 229.

“It was fun racing Tom [Kimber-Smith] and that whole group,” Braun said. “They are all class competitors. We almost had the field a lap down, but then the Corvette and the Porsche got together to close up the field. Mark did a great job holding Tom off before I got in. Then on the restart, some GT car ran into my door and spun me out. So we worked our way back through the field, and we did, because we had a fast race car. Jon did a great job early in the race managing the car in the monsoon – that certainly wasn’t an easy task. So it was a great job for the team.”

Braun took the checkered flag 1.282 seconds ahead of Kimber-Smith, who co-drove with Robert Alon and Jose Gutierrez. Renger van der Zande, Alex Popow and David Heinemeier Hansson rebounded from problems early in the event to take third in the No. 8 Starworks Motorsport entry.

NOTEBOOK
• Eric Curran, No. 31 Whelen Engineering Corvette DP: “It was eventful for sure, a pretty wild day – between the weather and delayed race and red flags. Overall we’re really happy. The Whelen staff did such a good job putting together a great car. Leading with just a few laps to go and finishing second is still a great result … a win would have been nice but we’ll take the second and head on to the next race.”

• The No. 2 Patron ESM Ligier JS P2 is the first team to sweep Daytona and Sebring since Doran-Moretti Racing last accomplished the feat in 1998 in a Ferrari 333SP. Wayne Taylor and Jim Pace also accomplished that fete in 1996 co-driving a Riley and Scott Oldsmobile, with Sharp sharing that car in the Rolex 24 victory.

• The No. 10 Corvette DP brought out a caution flag with two hours and 33 minutes remaining when Max Angelelli stopped on track in Turn 7 due to electrical problems, leading to the team’s eventual retirement. Rubens Barrichello and brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor also co-drove.

• Competition was halted for a two-hour, 15-minute, nine-second red flag period called due to lightning and track conditions. After running under yellow as track drying continued, the race went back to green with six-hours, 31-minutes remaining.

• This was the seventh time the Sebring event has been impacted by rain in its 64-year history, and first time since 1997. It was the fifth time the Twelve Hours has been red flagged. The race was stopped in 1993 and 1995 for rain, and 1997 and 2014 for on-track incidents.