Cadillacs Strong Through Four Hours at Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring

By Mark Robinson

IMSA Wire Service

Cadillac dominated the first third of today’s 72nd Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Cadillac, with the No. 01 Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R in front of the 58-car field after four hours.

Follow the continuing action from Sebring International Raceway through the exciting race finish with the NBC Sports streaming currently available on Peacock. USA Network joins the coverage at 4 p.m. ET through the finish at approximately 9:40 p.m.

Scott Dixon was at the wheel of the No. 01 Cadillac, which started second to the polesitting No. 31 Whelen Cadillac Racing Cadillac, the defending race winner. The two V-Series.Rs led all but 10 laps through the first four hours, battling fiercely for the lead on several occasions, including when Sebastien Bourdais completed a bold pass on Pipo Derani for the lead on Lap 29.

“I felt from the get-go that Pipo was really, really careful with his tires, maybe overly careful, so I gave it a shot,” said Bourdais, co-driver of the No. 01 Cadillac. “I saw he was very tentative going into (Turn) 1 and I was very strong there, so I just launched down the inside and got it done and pulled away a little bit.”

Derani called Bourdais’ move “a little bit on the aggressive side.”

“A little bit of an unnecessary move there into Turn 1,” added Derani, chasing his fifth overall victory at Sebring. “I took a little bit of avoiding action just to not have any contact there, but still 11 hours to go is quite a lot.”

Derani added that his team was playing the long game in the demanding 12-hour race on the bumpy and treacherous 3.74-mile road course.

“We just want to do a clean race, make sure that the car is intact at the end of the race,” he said. “Last year was not the case. I had contact with a P2 (Le Mans Prototype 2) car that spun and damaged the floor, so this year we are trying to do a little different approach, take it to the end and then fight in the last hour of the race. Let’s see how it goes.”

Other class leaders after four hours were: Mikkel Jensen in the No. 11 TDS Racing ORECA LMP2 07 in LMP2, Neil Verhagen in the No. 1 Paul Miller Racing BMW M4 GT3 in Grand Touring Daytona Pro (GTD PRO) and Indy Dontje in the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 in Grand Touring Daytona (GTD).

Winward Racing made an impressive charge to the front in GTD. The No. 57 Mercedes clocked the fastest lap in qualifying on Friday but was moved to the back of the grid after the car was penalized for running unapproved sensors. Starting 20th in class, Philip Ellis moved the car into fourth in class within the first hour and the No. 57 was in the GTD lead by lap 58.

“It’s unfortunate what happened, but look, these mistakes happen,” co-driver Russell Ward said of the qualifying infraction. “The car is really, really good, especially in this heat. We’re already up at the front. We were able to capitalize on a yellow. The guys made an amazing strategy call and got it out there.”

The No. 3 Corvette Racing by Pratt Miller Motorsports also was impressive. All four Chevrolet Corvette Z06 GT3.Rs were also moved to the back of the grid for making an unapproved modification to a homologated part, but No. 3 co-drivers Alexander Sims, Antonio Garcia and Daniel Juncadella had climbed to second in GTD PRO at the four-hour mark.

“It seemed like the car’s pace throughout the whole stint was pretty strong,” said Sims, who opened the race in the No. 3. “But I tried to be sensible as well and not take too many risks and be too crazy this early in the race. A solid start and it seems like we have good pace to fight the others.”

The Twelve Hours of Sebring is the second race of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season and is also the second of five races making up the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup, which offers a separate points competition to determine the best drivers, teams and manufacturers in the endurance races. Endurance points are being awarded at the four- and eight-hour marks at Sebring as well as the finish.

The Michelin Endurance Cup season leaders after four hours at Sebring were: the No. 31 Whelen Cadillac in GTP, the No. 04 CrowdStrike Racing by APR ORECA in LMP2, the No. 1 Paul Miller Racing BMW in GTD PRO, and the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes in GTD.