TRANSCRIPT: Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Post-Race Press Conference

Colton Herta / Jordan Taylor / Louis Deletraz – Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: We have the driving lineup of the winners of the Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Cadillac, Colton Herta and Jordan Taylor. Team’s second win here at Sebring, first since 2017. First Sebring win for the Acura brand, second for HPD/HRC.

For Jordan, this is his third win at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. He won overall in the prototype class in 2017 and GTD Pro.

This is Louis Deletraz, who just joined us.

Colton’s first Sebring Twelve Hours win, third IMSA win. Yeah, we’ll go with that.

Louis, since you did a little bit of the heavy lifting at the very end, talk about what it meant to bring it tomorrow.

LOUIS DELETRAZ: It meant a lot. First I want to agree, big thank you to the team, Acura, HRC, the two guys right here. Obviously without them it was not possible.

The car was really strong in the end. I knew we were in a position to win. Which to be fair was a lot of pressure. I’ve never really done that. Daytona was my first time. That’s my second time finishing a race.

I just obviously wanted to win and bring points for the championship. I saw I had the opportunity. Seb was tough, but fair, so thanks to him. Yeah, in the end I saw the gap. I went for it, I had more pace and we won. That’s fantastic. I think I’ll remember this one for a long time.

THE MODERATOR: Jordan, your third win here at Sebring. First win in the GTP car. How special is this for you?

JORDAN TAYLOR: Yeah, it’s a huge win for the team. I think it’s their first win in the GTP class for Acura. It’s a big win for the team. First time as a two-car team.

Our car, we stayed out of trouble all day. Didn’t have big issues. The 10 car was extremely quick, drove to the lead at one point, but had their issue they recovered from, recovered to a top five.

Louis’ closing stint is what made the difference today. The team did a good job to keep us in the fight. He really fought for that win and got it for us.

THE MODERATOR: Colton, you have a couple of Rolex 24 wins. Here is other big sports car prize. How big is this for you?

COLTON HERTA: It’s awesome. I feel very were to be able to come to these races, do these endurance events which is different than what I’m used to, take a lot of different attributes that maybe I didn’t have when I first started.

But it feels incredible to finally win this one. I got close in 2020 with BMW. Ended up getting taken out with five minutes to go. Ever since then, I really wanted to come back and try to win this. Luckily we were able to do that.

Can’t say enough about what Louis did in the last stint to bring it home, what type of pressure he was under, able to perform through it and put on a pretty spicy move on Seb.

Yeah, I think everybody did an amazing job on the team, drivers, every aspect of it was pretty perfect from us.

THE MODERATOR: Questions.

Q. Louis, did you expand more on the move with Seb? Did you think there were other opportunities on other parts of the track as well?

LOUIS DELETRAZ: Every time I got close, there was a yellow pretty much, which is not helping me. I saw I was strong on braking, especially the low speed, T7, T10. He was close, defending well on the inside. I was on the outside, he squeezed me off. I realized quickly I was never going to make it on the outside, which fair enough. It’s IMSA racing, it’s tough.

I thought about it, saw a gap in seven. I went for it. Bleed off the brake, try to avoid him crossing back. I think we had more contact on the straight. Again, hard racing, but I think fair. We both made it to the flag. I couldn’t have done it by myself. If he didn’t respect me, we’d both be in the wall. Really thankful for that.

Q. I want to ask Jordan, was there ever a point you felt like this team was out of contention for the win, or was it just a matter of staying in the ballgame, eventually this will come to you?

JORDAN TAYLOR: I don’t think it was that simple. I think we knew we had a good car. I think it was a big race on track position. Kind of in the heat of the day, about survival. No one was taking any risk. No one was kind of getting in any battles that we didn’t need to get into.

Once the eight-hour mark passed, that’s when the race began for us to try to gain that track position back, kind of strategize from the end.

I think once we were in the top three, a little off sequence with the 01 and the 7, the race was becoming a little bit more clear. But the yellows were falling in funny places, reset where we were leading at one point, the yellow reset us to be P3. We knew Louis was going to have to fight for it because we lost the track position.

Everyone seemed to struggle a little bit to make a move on pure pace. Louis and Ricky kind of showed today, Colton had a bunch of passes, too, if you kind of time it right with some traffic, can you make some moves.

Yeah, I think the team did a good job strategizing.

Q. Louis, we’ve just heard your two co-drivers give you high praise. As you come into this as a full-timer, what does that mean to you?

LOUIS DELETRAZ: It means a lot. I think winning this coming here was an objective, but for sure was going to be hard work. To do it this way means really a lot.

Again, I got the car in a very good position. It’s thanks to those two. Jordan and Colton didn’t do any mistakes, gave me the car up there, then I could fight.

Obviously with them having won so much in their career, having them by my side, I can learn from different categories and keep improving. That’s always the goal in the end.

Q. (Question about Scott Dixon.)

COLTON HERTA: I hope. He seems to win a lot of stuff in everything does. I’ve got a lot of respect for what he does and what he has done in the sport, probably will continue to do for a few more years unfortunately for me (smiling).

But yeah, it’s just so enjoyable, so different than the INDYCAR racing. There’s a lot of aspects that are very different. I enjoy it so much. I love those kind of midnight stints at the 24 hours, the 3 a.m. stints, really pushing the car when you feel like nobody’s there. It’s a really cool feeling.

It’s just a different aspect to the INDYCAR stuff. There’s so many things that cross over and there’s so many things that don’t. You really do become a much more well-rounded racing car driver.

JORDAN TAYLOR: I’ll add on. Colton is really switched on every time he jumps in the car. He didn’t come to our test. He jumped in, 15 laps, hopped into the race.

They’re tricky cars to kind of jump in and understand. I’m the older guy now, compared to these two little guys. It’s kind of weird for me in that aspect.

Louis is coming from a different background, different racing style than what we have in IMSA. For him, his finish of the race is a true IMSA finish that you don’t get in other forms of racing. He could have proved to everyone today how well-rounded he is, and Colton as well jumping back and forth between GT cars, INDYCARs, GTP now. They both hop in and are super quick.

It’s super impressive. I think we all did a good job today, but hats off to them for really getting the job done.

Q. We’ve seen drivers come here to Sebring and make a name for themselves. Do you feel like you did that tonight?

LOUIS DELETRAZ: I think it’s not up to me to say that (smiling). I’m very happy and very proud. Again, to do it with the team that gave me an opportunity a year ago, brought me to the team as an entrance driver, gave me a chance to go full-time, gave me my first factory drive. I’m very thankful to be able to achieve that together.

Q. Jordan?

JORDAN TAYLOR: That’s one of the best finishes we’ve seen in a long time. We’ve seen a lot of good finishes here. No, I think, yeah, he definitely cemented his place in Sebring history with that win. Bourdais is an unbelievably well-rounded guy. Before the race even started, the weekend started, back when we were in GRAND-AM, we used to have different sectors. Bourdais was always the guy in turn 17 that was the guy.

I remember we were watching the finish. Louis was gaining on him in the center of 17, almost had a pass out of it. He was racing against the best of the best around here and proved that he’s one of them.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, guys. Congratulations.
Sebastien Bourdais / Renger van der Zande / Scott Dixon – Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: We have our second-place finishers here in today’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Cadillac, Sebastien Bourdais, Renger van der Zande and Scott Dixon. This is the team’s third podium here at Sebring in the last six years.

Seb, obviously you guys had a pretty strong day throughout, then there at the end, do you want to take us through what went down there from your seat?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, I think the whole Cadillac and Ganassi team did a great job. It was maybe not as straightforward as we would have liked. We had some electronics at some point. You saw the car slowing down. I was really worried this was going to happen again. Maybe that’s it’s the race.

It was a little more straightforward than that. Everybody did a really good job, executed. I think the moment where the 40 seemingly lost the race, because of the dirty wind stream behind the 10, they had to pit early and out of sync. They proved to be too strong for us. Hats off to those guys.

It was a good day, good points day, but it’s always disappointing to win the race like that in the closing laps.

THE MODERATOR: Scott, pretty solid day all things considered. Your thoughts?

SCOTT DIXON: It’s always an action-packed race. I had a ton of fun out there, as Seb kind of spoke of. About five hours to go, four hours to go, some electronics. But we seemed to get that worked out.

Pretty good pace. I don’t think we had the extreme pace of some of the other cars. I think we did everything we could have. We tried to stay out of trouble. Team did a fantastic job, strategy they nailed. Ultimately at the end we came up a little bit short, which is frustrating.

Got to thank Seb. He did a tremendous job. It’s always tough in those situations. Of course we wanted to go slightly different, but that’s the way it rolls sometimes.

THE MODERATOR: Renger, from your perspective, a good points today. Tough to think about. At the same time getting a little bit of early momentum.

RENGER VAN DER ZANDE: Yeah, I mean, this is IMSA racing. That’s why we love it. This time we were on the wrong side of the prize. I think the hard fight with the traffic. That last hour in Sebring is always spectacular, like it was again now.

They did a great job. They had fantastic pace in the car to win this race. I can only say Seb took the most out of our car, that’s for sure. It’s cool to see him go, how he’s fighting till the end to make it happen.

Hey, second place, good points, champagne showers. Let’s go home for prepare for Long Beach.

THE MODERATOR: We’ll go to questions.

Q. Seb, when was the last time you had the electrical issues?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, I don’t know. We kind of had an EBS failure time and time again. We tried to do some defaults and every time it came back. We cleared it, then the motor stopped coming out of seven. That’s where we lost the three spots to the two Acuras and the BMW.

Yeah, got going again. We never heard of it anymore. That was kind of weird. I honestly don’t really remember when it was. It was my second time in the car during my second stint. The rear brakes started to get on fire, the rear tire pressures take off. Didn’t look pretty for a minute.

But the guys did a great problem. They debugged the problem and found a solution, we got going and are there in the end. That’s all you can ask for.

Q. Seb, I just saw your quick quote. Did you think the racing at the end could have been a little cleaner?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, I mean, I don’t know. Louis seems to think that I was the instigator. I’m a little shocked. Definitely, that was way too many contacts. Both sides of the floor, toward the rear, are significantly damaged. I think we can both be pretty lucky it didn’t rip a stem of a wheel ’cause we probably could have picked up a puncture four or five times during the last few laps there.

Yeah, I’m not really accustomed to that and not a big fan of it. To be honest, I don’t think he needed it because he had so much pace anyways. Hats off to them anyways. They had the package at the end to make the difference. We just had to settle for second.

Q. Renger, knowing that the Ganassi collaboration with Cadillac is coming to an end at the end of the season, does that relieve the pressure, nothing to lose at this point?

RENGER VAN DER ZANDE: I mean, I’m here to win, man. That’s the only answer I can give. Every time I’m in that race car, I’m going to try to extract the most out of it, try to win races together with my team, Ganassi.

It was a bit of a shock. Bit of a surprise and all that. At the end we’re focused on what we do today. Today was racing in Sebring. When we get to Long Beach, that’s what we focus on, try to win that one, then we look ahead in the future.

For now, yeah, that’s it.

Q. You definitely had the pace very early on. Was it the mechanical problems or just balance of the car changing into the night that maybe put the 40 on a little more equal footing?

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No, I don’t think so. I think we don’t play any games. I think if you look at the race, both Acuras had a lot of pace. They were quite a bit faster on the fastest lap. We managed the tires very well over the double stints we had to do, both Scott, Renger and I, managed to keep the degradation in check.

When they turned it up, we simply didn’t have anything for them.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, guys.
Connor Zilisch / Ryan Dalziel / Dwight Merriman – Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: We have LMP2 winners here at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Cadillac. We’ll have Connor Zilisch, Ryan Dalziel, Dwight Merriman. This is obviously back-to-back wins for the team. They won the season opening Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Connor, talk about getting the call to close it out here and what you had to do to bring it home again.

CONNOR ZILISCH: Yeah, it’s an honor for the team to trust me, give me the chance to go out there and show them what I have at the end. Scott was on it with the strategy calls all day. It was really tough to pass out there. It was kind of just whoever could get track position, get to the lead, was going to end up winning.

There about an hour to go, we were all running in a train. I think I was seventh. I knew I wasn’t going to pass them, so I just started saving fuel, was going to wait for the last pit stop. I saved enough to get back. I took the lead when I came back out.

Pretty unreal to get two wins in my first two WeatherTech starts. I’d be curious to know if anyone else has ever done that. Anyway, just super thankful that they gave me an opportunity to come here and do this. It’s been a dream come true. I’ve definitely had worse days in my life.

THE MODERATOR: Ryan, again, back-to-back wins, huge start to the season. You got points in both of those. You’re atop the points standings. Not only two huge wins, but a points lead. What does all that mean?

RYAN DALZIEL: Yeah, I mean, it was a weird day. Feel like every time we kind of got to the front, we ended up in the back. I think when I got in the car, the plan was double me, double Connor at the end. I got in the car, we were in the lead. I think one of the GTPs went off and threw out some carbon, and in the space of one lap, we got overheating, then we got a puncture.

That’s when we pitted off sequence. I think it was only four or five laps after the restart. I want to say I thought that was it. Without a yellow, I knew we were going to be struggling to make time back.

We still had the pace in the car. We definitely didn’t give up. We knew once the yellow came out, we did the driver change. We were already a little bit offset with the fuel time.

Connor, like he said, he kind of just started saving a little bit of fuel. There was a whole conversation for a few minutes on the intercom, which is this call is going to be the hero or zero call for the team (laughter).

We knew we had the potential of getting to the lead based on the fuel time. How many times in racing do these things work out perfectly? Once we got this the lead, you look at the list of drivers that are behind Connor on that restart. The talent and the guys with experience. Kid just kept his head cool and brought it home.

Just a good day for Dwight and I. Looking forward to the next one.

THE MODERATOR: Dwight, another crown jewel victory here to go with the Rolex wins. Now you got a Sebring win. How bringing is that for your racing résumé?

DWIGHT MERRIMAN: I’m super happy because every time I’ve been here before, we podiumed but never won. First time I was really excited. The third time it was like, Am I ever going to win this race or not?

The team did a great job, including these guys. Also, as they mentioned, engineering, the whole crew. These off sequence stops, the one that was off sequence by strategy, they were fast. Mistakes were not made. The prep on the car, the car was fast. The development of the car. These guys, the other Ryan in engineering, the crew. The car was good.

You saw some cars going off today. A lot of times it’s too low or something. The long run pace was good, right? It was working both daytime and nighttime.

I’m super happy. It’s definitely so much a team sport. Yeah, I drive first, so I’m trying to hand it to them without damage. If there’s a hole in the floor, it’s not as fast in the last hour. You’re in trouble. These things are on my mind, so…

THE MODERATOR: Questions.

Q. Connor, I think you got in the car with an hour and a half left in the race. I think there was a yellow around 45 minutes or so. Pretty much everybody came in for a pit stop. I think you came out fourth. You managed to get to first by the time the next yellow came out. How did you do it?

CONNOR ZILISCH: Yeah, I was in seventh, we were coming to the green on the restart about 45 minutes to go. I was the fourth car to come out of the seven in line. Thankfully I’d been saving enough fuel, when I came out, we were leading those four cars that came in. We jumped those three guys.

I didn’t pass anybody on track at all the last hour and a half. I passed one car, but then he passed my right back. Honestly, I did no passing. It was all strategy.

I literally said on the radio when that second caution came out with 30 minutes to go or whatever, There is literally zero chance we’re in the lead right now.

They’re like, no, you’re the leader.

I was like, You’ve got to be shitting me. There is no way (laughter).

It was honestly unbelievable. It takes a team effort. Ryan and Dwight did a great job. We kept the car clean all day. I had a code brown out of turn one. It’s never good when you’re looking at a guy going backwards at 130 miles an hour. Thankfully I kept it all clean. It was a wild race.

Like Ryan said, we went to the back, came back to the front more than once or twice. Total team effort. Just so proud to be a part of this team.

Q. Were there any fuel concerns in the last 30 minutes?

CONNOR ZILISCH: No, none at all. Once that caution came out, we knew we were good.

DWIGHT MERRIMAN: The big decision was the stop. I think at that particular point, it was a short yellow, so it’s more of a decision.

CONNOR ZILISCH: We had to pit.

DWIGHT MERRIMAN: We were coming in, we were quite far back, but we have a little more fuel than everybody else. Of the cars that came in, we could beat them. It turned out that we’re thinking, like, should we do this or not. Most of the cars came in who weren’t the leaders.

CONNOR ZILISCH: It was going to be tight.

DWIGHT MERRIMAN: We were up on fuel because of this other incident. He was the first one out of the pits of that group.

Q. Ryan, you’ve talked about what this race means to you. The family connection to Sebring. Now you’ve won this back to back with Daytona. What does it mean?

RYAN DALZIEL: My wife is going to be really upset because I sent her home halfway through the race. She hasn’t been at race since preCOVID. She wanted to come here. After Daytona, we did so well. Got to the point where I’ve done this so many years, no family here. Stresses me out too much to figure out if they’ve got food or are in air-conditioning. I sent her and my friends home early. They watched the rest from home.

A lot of support I get down here. My wife and all her extended family are from here. Many of her family are still here. Many of them were here watching the race. I have posters from her late father from the very first one he went to. He had every poster that he kind of left for me after he passed away.

It’s a special. They both are for me for different reasons. But I think at the same time I don’t think of them as home races. I just think of them as the races that you want to win. This one’s been a tough one for us, for me as well. Daytona, we’ve had a lot of success. Here there’s been a lot of, like, what could have been, no more so than Watkins Six Hour. That’s my freaking nemesis. Now I have to go tick that one off now.

Q. Connor, fuel saving. Not doing a lot of that in sprint races. Where did you learn how to do that?

CONNOR ZILISCH: Simulator. I’ve done a good bit of it in simulators. I obviously do a lot of the Trackhouse Racing simulator, for their Cup series team.

It’s still the same concept. I’ve done a lot of it there. A lot of it’s just learning from these guys, right? We have a mode on our steering wheel that kind of teaches us. I’ve used that throughout the weekend to kind of learn it.

Yeah, I mean, it’s been, like I said, my second WeatherTech race. A lot of the stuff is still really new to me. Just been trying to figure out all the ebbs and flows of how these races go. Every time a caution comes out, I honestly have no idea where I need to be, where I need to go when they tell me to wave around. Every race I’m going to get more comfortable and hopefully will continue to get better and continue to have success.

Q. Connor, you obviously have been a revelation in prototypes. Your stockcar racing is continuing to grow. Is it easy to manage all this coming in as quickly as it has?

CONNOR ZILISCH: No, it’s definitely not easy to manage. It takes a lot of work and a lot of people. The people that I have behind me supporting me behind the scenes is what makes me successful, what allows me to go out there and do my job without having to worrying about outside factors.

To answer your question, no, it’s far from easy. Every day I’m always racing, right? I’m still a senior in high school. I still got to worry about some schoolwork here and there. I do school online, three hours a week. I say that because it sounds cool (laughter).

It’s not easy at all. Bouncing back and forth from car to car every weekend, the stockcar that can’t go 30 miles an hour through a corner, to a prototype that goes 130 miles an hour for a corner. It’s all different.

It all challenges me and makes me a better driver.

THE MODERATOR: Guys, congratulations.
Ben Barnicoat / Jack Hawksworth / Kyle Kirkwood – Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: We have the winners here at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Cadillac in the GTD PRO class. We have Ben Barnicoat, Jack Hawksworth and Kyle Kirkwood.

Ben, first win at Sebring, first win for Lexus at Sebring, how important is that?

BEN BARNICOAT: Yeah, it’s huge. Obviously huge for the organization. All the Lexus racing guys have been grinding, working so hard, looking for perfection year in, year out. I’ve been lucky to step in the program satellite such a good time.

First year got Atlanta, Petit Le Mans win, which was incredibly huge. Last year we won Watkins Glen and the championship. Now we ticked off Sebring. Just got Daytona left to go.

We had a real rough start to this season, but that performance today showed why we were champions last year. That was definitely a champion’s comeback and got our season well and truly back on track. We’re looking forward to going from here.

THE MODERATOR: Jack, you converted the pole position yesterday into the victory today. It was quite a battle. Tell us about it.

JACK HAWKSWORTH: Yeah, it was. We knew it was going to be a battle. These long races, you have to do everything perfectly. Everyone has to do their job absolutely perfectly just to be there to even have a chance at the end. Then you just hope that the cards fall your way.

As Ben touched upon, we had a tough day. But the team, we made good steps over the off-season. We wanted to come and show what we could do, right? This has been a proper bounceback. Today everyone was perfect. We had the one obviously drive-through early in the race, a wobble there. Other than that it was rock solid all day. The guys on pit lane were unbelievable all day. Ben and Kyle were absolutely monsters out there.

Yeah, we ended up in the fight there at the end. Come out on top. I couldn’t be prouder of everybody. Yeah, the last four hours out there were absolutely nuts.

THE MODERATOR: Kyle, one of the crown jewels in at least sports car racing. Talk about how big it is for you to have that on your résumé.

KYLE KIRKWOOD: Yeah, I’ve never been so nervous in my life watching a race car that you’re part of go around a racetrack other than today. It got to the point where Ben and I would literally have to walk off the stand and not watch because of how nerve-wracking it was, watching Jack absolutely send it on every single car that was out there.

To be honest, we didn’t really have the pace, the raw pace, at the end of the race. Jack just knew at every moment that he had a chance to pass somebody, he’d just send it in there and keep them behind him.

It ended up paying off. It reminds me of our win at Petit. Similar situation to that. I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys right here. Of course, the team as well. These two drivers right here, it’s like you put them in the car, and they’re automatic. They get in, they send it, do everything perfectly. I’m proud to be a part of this team.

THE MODERATOR: Questions.

Q. Jack, the battle at the end, I heard some people were not particularly happy with the way it all went down, maybe a bit too physical. What was your take on that?

JACK HAWKSWORTH: I mean, everything seemed all right after the race. It is what it is. It’s hard racing at the end of the race. You’re racing for the Twelve Hours of Sebring. At the end of the day we’re racing to win. Nothing beyond the line, if that makes sense. It was rough, hard racing. I got roughed around a bit, lost positions. Other times I won positions.

Yeah, this is IMSA racing. It’s hard-fought. There’s a bit of rubbish racing, right? This is what we do over here. We come out on top. If people want to cry, they can.

BEN BARNICOAT: Side of the car was still pretty clean.

KYLE KIRKWOOD: I think it was on the rear bumper that was damaged. I wonder why that is.

Q. What does it mean to get this win in the context of missing out last year and what happened at Daytona?

BEN BARNICOAT: Yeah, as we touched on, obviously last year was fantastic. We came second here. We were close. There was a point in the race last year where we thought we had it. That last yellow meant that the Porsche could make it. Then we suddenly didn’t have it.

Last year was a bit more, at that point, still felt like we were building something special. Now it feels like we have all the cards we need to go out and deliver these performances week in and week out.

There’s been a lot of talk over the winter of Ford coming in. We’ve delivered today and shown why we are one of the big leaders and champions and we plan on trying to go back to back.

Q. Jack, you talked about rubbish racing, all that. How fun is that?

JACK HAWKSWORTH: I love it.

BEN BARNICOAT: It’s not fun to watch (laughter).

JACK HAWKSWORTH: These races are crazy, right? These long races, IMSA races, the way the rule set is, the way that it comes down to the last two hours, the last hour, 20 minutes. You have to make hay in the last four hours of that race, right? It was restart, restart, restart.

There’s a lot of cars out there. Everybody wants to win. Yeah, you go out there and I feel like the way IMSA run the race, it’s fair, hard racing. Look, nobody ran into the back of anybody. No one dumping anyone out there. Just hard race, side to side. Who is good? This is what racing is. I like it. Worked out well today.

Q. At what point do you turn to the TRD guys and say we don’t need a new car?

BEN BARNICOAT: We definitely do.

Q. Doesn’t look like it from here.

BEN BARNICOAT: We’re doing well with what we have. One of the beauties of having an old car, we know it inside-out, how to manage the race, when to go, when not to go. The beauty of being in it for so long, absolutely everyone knows their job and what they need to do to make this thing click.

But yeah, still doesn’t mean it can’t improve and look forward. It’s been great to go through such a period with this car and become champions in it. We plan to be here for many years. Hopefully claim many more titles. That probably needs a little look further down the line.

Q. Kyle and Ben, you said you had to walk off the stand at times. Were your eyes opening on the screen during the final restart? What was the reaction on the stand when Jack went from third to first?

KYLE KIRKWOOD: I mean, it was insane. I’ve never screamed so much in my life over any instance in racing, other than probably today. Petit was another one, like I mentioned. It’s a different feeling being a part of a car when you’re not in it and you’re relying on someone else to go do it.

For us, we’re screaming like, C’mon, Jack. Yeah, that was a cool moment for the team, right? Of course, the win was great. Everyone was hooting and hollering then. During that last bit, we knew that he needed to get it done right there to hang on to the lead. That was probably the moment that would have won us or lost us the race. It ultimately won us the race.

Yeah, we were pretty stoked about it.

BEN BARNICOAT: Kyle hit the nail on the head. When you kind of go through that, if you had a clean race, you kind of bring the win home easily, it does feel a little different. Obviously the record books don’t change no matter how the race goes. We’re in there as the winners, extremely proud of that.

The moment and adrenaline of Jack doing those moves gives to the entire organization, then gives those guys fuel to work day in, day out, all the hours we need, to make sure we go and do this again. It’s what we live off of. The little extra bits of adrenaline definitely help fuel you more to go get it done again in a few weeks’ time at Long Beach or Laguna.

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations. Thanks for joining us.
Russell Ward / Indy Dontje / Philip Ellis – Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, we’re joined now by our GTD class winners in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Cadillac. Co-drivers Russell Ward, Indy Dontje and Phil Ellis.

Russell, start us off. Big, big win, back to back. How does that feel?

RUSSELL WARD: It feels great. We’ve been chasing this one for a couple of years. It’s really awesome to be able to get it done.

THE MODERATOR: Indy? Thoughts on another win here, wig bunker at Sebring?

INDY DONTJE: Yeah, great (smiling). Like Russell said, last year we were quick and we knew we were also in the game. Unfortunately it didn’t happen. This year I think it came together. I mean, team is doing such a great job. Also on the driver side, on the team side, mechanics, engineers. Yeah, everything comes together. We kept our head cool.

Really cool to win the 12 Hours of Sebring.

THE MODERATOR: Phil, a lot of momentum with Mercedes, four class wins in a row. What’s going on there?

PHILIP ELLIS: I mean, as we spoke yesterday, I think the Mercedes-AMG is a great all-around car. Probably this is the track that suits us the most. A lot of medium speed corners, a lot of bumps. Super happy.

THE MODERATOR: We’ll go to questions.

Q. Sort of the obvious question. After yesterday’s disappointment, how did you approach today’s race? What were your thoughts about your chances of coming basically from last to first?

RUSSELL WARD: We were used to it because the last three years we’ve started from last and have driven to first at some point (smiling).

We knew we had the car for it. We just wanted to keep our heads clean. We started off the season in such a great form winning Daytona. Our goal really was just to get the maximum amount of points that we could out of this race.

I mean, like Philip said, this track really suits this race car well. The Mercedes-AMG gives you a ton of confidence here. You need it at Sebring. A dangerous racetrack. A lot of chances to make a mistake.

The crew performed flawlessly. No mistakes on their part. Few mistakes on the drivers’ part. Came out on the top.

Q. Philip, the last hour of the race, you were in the lead. Full course yellow after full course yellow, restart after restart with the Ferrari right in your wheel tracks. Talk about getting all those restarts right and managing to win by a slightly secure margin.

PHILIP ELLIS: Yeah, definitely not comfortable. I was actually hoping for the safety car to come out when I saw the Corvette standing in turn three.

Initially I battled with Elliott a lot as well in the Porsche in the restarts. He seemed to be fast as well. At that point we were trying to save fuel because we wouldn’t have made it to the end on green flag racing. It was actually tough to keep the pack behind you and save as much fuel as you can.

That was a bit of a different ballgame compared to the last two restarts. I had the Ferrari behind me. Initially I thought I could pull a little bit of a gap on him, but probably the last 10 laps or so in the race he was pulling back on me.

A little bit nervous. I really didn’t know how much else he had. Maybe he could have gotten to me. We certainly saw that we were a bit weaker in certain corners compared to other cars, which makes it a little bit vulnerable when fighting.

I think it helped with the GTPs coming through as well, opened up a bigger gap for me. I think it was a great fight with Elliott and Antonio. Happy I didn’t have to go too much side to side with them.

Q. Philip, I want to ask you about the first lap of the race because there was a whole lot of melee happening in front of you. Talk to me about it from your perspective.

PHILIP ELLIS: I mean, it’s better than being in the middle of the chaos, for sure. Would have preferred to be at the front. Being all the way back there, all you see is smoke and car bits flying around. It’s a bit of hit and miss if you’re going to hit any debris or not. We drove over some debris, but luckily it didn’t damage our car or our tire.

Honestly the only thing you’re hoping for is nobody else does a dumb move and tries to make up positions in the first lap. All of us at the back felt like we were pretty cautious and backed out of it trying to get through safely.

It wasn’t too bad. We actually had the same situation I believe last year with a car spinning, which is a bit more hairy because it happened close in front of you and you didn’t have time to react.

Honestly, from my point of view, it wasn’t too bad. I’m sure some other guys in front of me had a worse time.

Q. The season started off pretty great at Daytona. Now you add Sebring to it. What does it mean to get this good a start for the team? How are you going to keep it rolling?

RUSSELL WARD: I think now we’re with the car with the most to lose. We have such a big points lead on especially all of the full-season competitors.

I mean, it’s just kind of in our hands to make sure we come out clean every race, capitalize on the most points we can.

INDY DONTJE: Well, I’m only joining for the endurance races. I think it’s important that these guys keep their heads clean. They need to keep their nose clean and their heads cool, yeah, to get the championship.

For us, I think the next race is Watkins. Let’s see where we are there. We didn’t have success last year. I hope we can turn around that as well. It’s all about grabbing those points and drive especially with your brain. I think we did that today, and we showed what we can do when we keep our heads cool.

PHILIP ELLIS: As Indy said, I think all of us have the speed to go to where we want to be. We just have to have clean races, not take too much risk like sometimes we did last year unfortunately. I think we all learned from the mistakes, not only as drivers, but the team as well. It just matured into a more successful team.

I think as long as everybody pulls in the same direction, we’ll be up there again.

Q. Starting from the back, change anything in the approach coming in?

RUSSELL WARD: I don’t think so. I mean, especially in this series, you need some luck to win it. It’s not all about outright pace. We’ve got some really, really smart guys on the pit stand making the calls. We capitalized on three yellows that got us up to the lead. We were in the lead by hour two.

For the endurance races, doesn’t really matter where I start, in my opinion. It’s always nice to start at the front, show the performance of the car, the performance of the team. At the end of the day we’re here to win the race.

Starting at the back is better than starting at mid pack, what Philip said, because there’s always carnage at the start.

THE MODERATOR: Guys, congratulations.

IMSA PR