TRANSCRIPT: Motul Pole Award Winners at Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring

THE MODERATOR: We have our overall GTP class pole winner for the Mobil 112 Hours of Sebring presented by Cadillac, Pipo Derani. This is his 10th career pole in IMSA competition, second consecutive.


THE MODERATOR: Maybe it’s 11th. We’ll check that and confirm.

Anyway, second consecutive in 2024 because you had the pole at Daytona. Also your second consecutive here at Sebring because you had the pole here last year. This is overall your third pole at Sebring. Tomorrow you’re going for your fourth win.

PIPO DERANI: Fifth win.

THE MODERATOR: Yes, of course (smiling).

An abbreviated session for the GTP class, but you managed to find the speed. How is it shaping up for tomorrow?

PIPO DERANI: Yeah, no, it was a difficult qualifying session. Never easy when you have a red flag situation where you have to put the lap in.

I was told over the radio that I potentially could have a second lap if I pushed. I obviously pushed, but I was way too close for comfort for the No. 40 Acura. Was able to put the lap in. Was a little bit disrupted because it wasn’t such a clean lap. He made a few mistakes in front of me. I literally lost a little bit of time having to control that distance to try and make sure I guaranteed a lap in case I didn’t have a second one.

Then obviously I started the second lap. He was able to do let’s say an okay sector one. Then I was quicker than him. By the time of turn seven more or less, I have a few 10ths quicker than my previous lap. Then I got way too close and I had to abort it.

For sure let’s say there’s more from the lap time. It wasn’t a perfect lap because of those things I said: traffic. Nevertheless, it looks like it was enough to be on pole.

It’s never, let’s say, the nicest way to get a pole when you know, for everybody, for the grid, that no one was able to achieve the full potential of their cars. Nevertheless, it’s still the same for everyone. You still got to put a lap in and make sure you make no mistakes in such a pressure situation.

I’m happy with that. Was able to extract to a certain point a good lap out of the car that was enough for pole. Very hot conditions, which obviously makes it even more interesting on how you operate the tires because we all know these tires are in a way not difficult but they operate in very specific temperatures. To be able to go out and put a lap in with such a hot condition and not, let’s say, overstress the tires was in a way important to be able to put the first lap in and still have enough.

Had I needed or had I had the option to do the second lap, always trying to find the balance with that because we know also that after a little bit of stress on those tires, you tend to have a big drop. If you don’t optimize the performance when they’re there for you, you will not be able to be on pole. That’s also a tricky situation, especially on a situation where you don’t have enough time to prepare to do a slow lap to bring them up the way they should.

We had to go out there, boom, lap. It’s difficult, but we managed well. I’m really happy with pole.


Q. Where do you think the Cadillac is best at around the track?

PIPO DERANI: I don’t think quite honestly there’s a specific place where the Cadillac is stronger. I think, let’s say, if we look at the DPi era, the car itself was better throughout the race, beginning to the end.

I think in GTP the Cadillac seems to be, at least here in Sebring, very positive on the heat of the day compared to the others. We tend to lose a little bit that advantage at night, I believe.

Last year we saw Acura and Porsche very strong at the end. We restarted first and we lost some of that edge that we had throughout the day. We led a bunch of the race last year, but at the end we weren’t as competitive as in the beginning.

It’s an area that as a team we’ve been working on from last year to try and improve. Obviously also last year at the very beginning of the race I had a contact with a P3 car that spun right in front of me, which damaged the floor of the car. We as a team are not sure how much of that damage influenced the end of the race.

I think my honest opinion is that it’s not a matter of having a part of the track that it’s better for us, it’s more a matter of how the tire is reacting to the temperature.

It still remains to be seen if a good car without any damage, if we are as strong as we were during the day, at night. Obviously the 01 didn’t get to the end of the race last year. It’s a bit of a question mark on that point.

I would say it’s more temperature related as to a specific part of the track itself.

Q. (Question about the short session.)

PIPO DERANI: Well, the reality is that it’s the same for everyone. It’s not like there was someone who had put a lap in and then all the others were just basically waiting.

In the end of the day, when you think of it this way, you just got to go and do the best you can. I honestly don’t feel much pressure in those situations. I feel like I handle it quite well. At the end of the day sometimes it’s better to be a bit on the conservative side and put a lap in than try a little bit over and make a mistake.

In our car, I went out with a set of tires, had a red flag. I asked the team to change the tires and go with another new set, which was a risk because we didn’t know how much time the red flag was still going to be on. As you guys saw, as we went out, the 40 car, I think he kept the warm tires from the previous run, so he overtook me on cold tires.

That’s the only situation where in that situation you don’t really know whether you’re going to have enough time to get the tire ready to do the lap.

I think what helped us is it’s really hot out there and it helped us to bring the tires in a different way on the out-lap so that they were ready.

That’s not always the case. It could in a much cooler condition be disruptive to one team or another because you might make the wrong choice whether you keep or not the tires, then you don’t have enough time to have them in the right window for a lap.

I like pressure situations like that. I was happy to be able to put the lap in.

Q. Did you use three sets of tires?

PIPO DERANI: No, I went out on one, then as we came into the pit for the red flag, I asked them to change.

Q. Some people changed tires right away at the beginning.

PIPO DERANI: They must have scrubbed some tires.

Q. (No microphone.)

PIPO DERANI: No, I think the whole weekend the track is not as quick as last year. At Sebring, it’s quite usual to see that happen. Sometimes even during the day there’s periods of the day where you’re much quicker than others. Especially compared to when we were here a month ago during private testing, we were quicker then than we are now.

It’s just the condition that we have right now I think is a track condition and not cars. I would say, let’s say, if I had a perfect lap, it’s hard to say, but you could possibly be 4/10ths quicker than what I was, which would still be, if I’m not wrong, far from the pole position last year.

What lap time did I do last year?

Q. (No microphone.)

PIPO DERANI: Yeah, it’s definitely a track thing. Temperature, asphalt, whatever it is. We wouldn’t be able to do that today, I don’t think.

Q. (No microphone.)

PIPO DERANI: Just now before I got here. But I don’t know, were they quicker than us?

Q. (No microphone.)

PIPO DERANI: By how much? Tiny bit?

Q. 148.0 three.

PIPO DERANI: I’m not surprised. Like I said, had I had a really clean lap, that was doable because it showed on the first sector of my second lap, the one I aborted, I was already 3/10ths quicker. I’m not surprised that someone with a proper clean lap would be able to do that on the first flying. I’m not surprised.

I did a 48.1? It wasn’t the perfect lap. Like I said, I’m happy it’s, let’s say, enough to be on pole, enough by whatever situation. In such a disruptive qualifying session, it’s really not representative of what all the grid could have done. I think even maybe the 47.5 or 47.6, had we had a proper, clear run was doable by a lot of the cars.

It’s just a situation that made for it to be that way, so…

THE MODERATOR: Pipo, thanks for coming in.

PIPO DERANI: Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
PJ Hyett – Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: As I mentioned, we are now joined by our LMP2 pole winner for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Cadillac, driver of the No. 99 AO Racing Oreca LMP2 07, PJ Hyett. PJ’s best lap was 1 minute 52.142 seconds. This is his first career IMSA pole. He’s co-driving with Paul-Loup Chatin and Matt Brabham.

Note that I thought was semi-interesting, AO Racing did have the pole at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, with Rexy, now today Spike gets one. Looking for your first win.

Talk about at least the qualifying momentum that your whole team has gotten going so far this year, what it feels like for you to get your first pole here.

PJ HYETT: There’s a lot of emotions going through me right now just because of how special this feels. Yeah, the dragon was definitely the breathing fire today, I’ll say that.

The really cool thing about what’s happened this season between pole at Daytona and Spike at Sebring is that we tried to build this team in a new, fun way to attract a whole new generation of fans and get people excited about these fun-loving characters racing around the racetrack, the green dinosaur and the purple dragon, to be able to back that up with really strong performances in qualifying to show we’re not just screwing around, we’re out here trying to win and get poles. We’ve been able to do that this year.

It’s been a lot of work, a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes. But I love that we’ve been able to now marry our fun new approach to sports car racing with actual results now. Obviously we got to do our job tomorrow. It’s going to be a long, hot race. Yeah, I couldn’t be more thrilled about what’s happening.

THE MODERATOR: A lot of tough competition, this year especially. To come out on top today, what does that mean to you?

PJ HYETT: Guys like Ben Keating are my hero. To have sort of this late-in-life sports car racing career, I see him as one of the pinnacles of the Bronze driver, if you will, of the sport.

To be out there racing with him and getting to go faster than him today, it’s really hard for me. It’s unbelievable. Honest to God, I’m not trying to be modest, it’s like a childhood dream coming true that I get to race car and go real fast. It’s amazing.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for PJ.

Q. It looks like you’re really clicking. Good qualifying in Dubai last month. Is it just an occasion finding out you really get along with the LMP2 car really well?

PJ HYETT: There is something about that P2 car that I do enjoy. I like the extra aero. I like how physical it is. I like going fast as hell around the corners. All of these things that the P2 kind of lends itself to.

It’s not that I disliked driving the GTD car last year. It’s just think I for me the P2 car and I get along very nicely together.

Q. Suits your style a bit more, perhaps?

PJ HYETT: Yeah. I think with the Porsche last year, there’s a little bit of finesse. There’s always finesse with racing cars. But, yeah, I just like the physicality of the LMP2. I enjoy driving it. Hopefully that’s reflected in my lap times.

Q. (Physicality of the track.)

PJ HYETT: That’s what I’m talking about with behind-the-scenes work. We worked not only in testing but with the engineer how to get the best performance out of the tire, how to warm up the tire correctly, how not to over-push too early.

You come up with a game plan prior to going out for qualifying. I think we executed that basically perfectly today where on that second timed lap, the tires were in, the brakes were in. I was able to push as hard as I could and the car responded positively to that.

Obviously – not obviously – but when we came here to test, it was 30 degrees cooler out. You come on a weekend like this when it’s 85 or 90 degrees, obviously the car needs to be set up differently.

We worked as best as we could yesterday in practice how to maximize the car, not just for qualifying, but also for the race tomorrow. So I think, yeah, we did a great job.

It’s not me, it’s the whole team that’s able to put a lap like that together.

THE MODERATOR: PJ we appreciate you coming in. Congratulations.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
Jack Hawksworth and Philip Ellis – Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everybody. We’re pleased to be joined by our GTD Pro and GTD pole winners for the 72nd Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, presented by Cadillac, GTD Pro, Jack Hawksworth, No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3. Jack is right here to my left. His lap was 1 minute 58.714 seconds. It’s his 12th career IMSA pole, first pole since Motul Petit Le Mans last October. He and his co-driver, Ben Barnicoat, are the 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTD Pro champions. He’s co-driving again this weekend with Ben and Kyle Kirkwood.

Jack, congratulations. Obviously a pretty hectic session out there with all the cars in both classes. You and Philip will be sharing the front row. Tell us about what it took to get the pole.

JACK HAWKSWORTH: Yeah, no, we got a lot of cars in GT, right? Maybe 34, 35, something like that. Getting track position, trying to find a gap, then whilst doing that, trying to bring your tires in. It’s really hot today. How you bring your tires in, the peak of the tire, the window is smaller than it would be, say, if we were here and it was 60 or 70 Fahrenheit.

The team did a really good job kind of dropping me into a nice gap. Completely clear track. Could bring my tires in the way I wanted to, then could put a nice lap in.

That was good. As a whole, the weekend has been really good for us so far. We struggled a little bit with setup early on, not feeling super comfy. Last night we found a couple things. Ever since then we’ve felt pretty good.

Excited for the race tomorrow and look forward to it.

THE MODERATOR: We’ll slide over to our GTD pole winner in the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3, Philip Ellis. Philip’s best lap was 1 minute 58.714 seconds. It’s his second career pole since the 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona. He’s co-driving with Russell Ward and Indy Dontje. They won the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

Just a note, Mercedes has won at least one class in each of the last three consecutive WeatherTech Championship races, dating back to last September at Indianapolis.

Philip, congratulations on your pole position. Second one of your career. Tell us about how big this is for you and how the momentum that you are continuing from Daytona.

PHILIP ELLIS: Yeah, I mean, thank you very much. It’s been a great start to the weekend. I think we had a great car. The last few years we came here, we never really put it together unfortunately in the race, so the results didn’t reflect our performance.

Today the team was spot on, put me in a good gap, gave me a good car to do one good lap that was enough to put us in pole.

It would have been nice to be in front of Jack, of course, but I’ll hand that to him, and, yeah, looking forward to tomorrow.

THE MODERATOR: We’ll go to any questions for either Jack or Philip.

Q. Jack, you said changes overnight. I’m assuming that was in reference to night practice. How can you be sure no running after that, quite a lot cooler then than it is now, how can you be sure those changes will pay off?

JACK HAWKSWORTH: It was more of a direction. We have a new tire this year. With that new tire, we’re having to adapt ourselves a little bit to get the most out of the car. It was a direction which we started to kind of look at last night. I think it was showing some promise.

Yeah, we kind of just carried on down that path. Obviously the qualifying car is a little bit different to the race car in terms of setup. We set it up more aggressively than the race car.

In terms of the philosophy of what we were doing with it, it was heading down the same direction, which was looking good last night. In qualifying it felt really good.

We kind of know where we’re going to go for the race with the race car based off of what we did last night. It was nice to run again today, different circumstances, less fuel in the car, a little bit more aggressive setup, but it was looking better.

Q. Philip, pretty good gap between you and second place. Question about the gap between first and second place.

PHILIP ELLIS: I think it’s a couple of factors playing in. As Jack mentioned, we have a new tire this year, so it’s a bit harder to bring in. The last couple years it was easy, bring it in slowly, you have quite a few laps where you can put down a good lap. Now it’s really a peaky tire. If you’re lucky you get one good lap, then it starts dropping.

If you’re in a bad gap and have some traffic or run into traffic, maybe you can’t bring it in as you want. That will definitely cost lap time already.

I think for Jack and I, we were both in the perfect spot to do it on our pace. We want to bring it in in one clean lap. Actually, I tried a second lap, but already then I was way off. Maybe the cars just didn’t get that one lap in.

Q. (No microphone.)

PHILIP ELLIS: Yeah, I mean, I think everybody knows that the Mercedes is quite a good all-around car. It’s never been the top dominant car at any track we go to specifically, but it’s always been one of the top contenders for podium position or maybe a class win.

And especially with Winward, we have two programs. We have the one here in America, and we have one in Europe. So there’s a lot of information going back and forth between the teams, the mechanics and engineers. I think the team just developed really well the last two years.

It shows now when we have a new tire coming in. It’s a new playground for everybody. I think we’re just a bit ahead of some of the other teams that don’t have that experience with new tires.

For sure it’s a little bit of an advantage on our side that we have those two teams operating separately and that information flow going forward.

Q. (Off microphone.)

JACK HAWKSWORTH: I mean, for sure. The tire is faster. I think that was Michelin’s target. Obviously there’s also with this tire the, I guess, opportunity to double stint. Probably don’t want to double stint around this track tomorrow. But that’s kind of the philosophy of the tire. It should be better in all aspects, peak performance, like we saw in qualifying, and then longevity during the race should be better.

These conditions are, like, the hardest test of a tire, right? Yesterday when it was super hot, tomorrow in the middle of the day, even with a great tire, the degradation is pretty big.

I like the fact we have a new tire this year. It’s mixed things up a bit. Keeps the engineers on their toes, everybody on the team, because it’s kind of a lot to delve into.

Q. (Question about the tires.)

PHILIP ELLIS: Yeah, I think it’s going to be a completely different picture than qualifying. We’ll have other cars being at the front after one hour of green flag running that maybe weren’t that fast on a one-lap stint now.

We as a driver have a lot of input now on the tire that maybe last year was a bit easier to manage. We already saw in Daytona, which is not a high tire deg track, we suffered a lot if you didn’t manage your tire throughout the stint.

As I say, keeps everybody on their toes, not only the engineers, but the drivers. Mercedes, we had to adapt a lot of driving lines as well, which the tire just couldn’t handle anymore. Especially combined load is quite tough to do on this tire.

It just opens up, as Jack says, a new window for other cars and teams to come up to the front. I think it’s a good thing.

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, guys. Thanks for coming in.