IMSA Wire: Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Thriller Goes to No. 40 WTRAndretti Acura

By John Oreovicz and Mark Robinson

IMSA Wire Service

The 72nd running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Cadillac was decided by an intense battle for the lead with less than five minutes remaining in the classic endurance racing contest.

Louis Deletraz in the No. 40 Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Acura ARX-06 stalked Sebastien Bourdais in the No. 01 Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R throughout the last of 12 hours of hard-fought racing before finally forcing his way past to claim the overall and Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class victory in Round 2 of the 2024 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

The 26-year-old Swiss driver faked a pass to the outside of Sebring International Raceway’s hairpin corner before making a late dive to the inside. Bourdais attempted a crossover move exiting up the next straight, but Deletraz was able to edge ahead through the next sequence of corners, with the Acura and Cadillac making light contact. He held the lead in the car he shared with Jordan Taylor and Colton Herta over the final four laps of the 3.74-mile, 17-turn circuit to prevail by 0.891 seconds over Bourdais, Renger van der Zande and Scott Dixon.

Rolex 24 At Daytona winners Felipe Nasr, Dane Cameron and Matt Campbell rounded out the podium after finishing 8.898 seconds back in third place in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963. The No. 7 and No. 40 teams left Sebring tied for the lead of the GTP standings with 706 points each.

While Taylor is a multiple IMSA champion with 34 career victories (including three at Sebring), Saturday’s triumph was just the second for Deletraz, who is considered a rising star in the sports car world. It was also the third IMSA win for the No. 40 team’s endurance driver, IndyCar standout Herta.

Herta and Taylor were both swift to heap praise upon Deletraz, who put intense pressure on Bourdais and the Cadillac while never putting a wheel wrong.

“Incredible – that was all Louis there in the end,” said Herta.

“Louis won for us,” added Taylor. “I think we were third on the last restart and he drove the wheels off that Acura. Fantastic win, and it was clean.”

A crestfallen Bourdais thought it could have been cleaner. “They just came out like a rocket with new tires at the end,” he said. “I’m a little disappointed that it turned into a bumper car contest. I didn’t try to make any contact, but he sure banged us left, right and center.”

Deletraz is in his first full season in the WeatherTech Championship after making a strong impression in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). WTRAndretti team principal Wayne Taylor gave Deletraz his initial chance in IMSA as the team’s endurance driver in 2023.

“The car was really strong in the end, and I knew we were in a position to win,” said Deletraz. “I felt a lot of pressure being in the car to finish the race. I didn’t want to take risks initially, but in the end, I had to send it. Seb was tough but fair, so thanks to him. If he didn’t respect me, we would have both ended up in the wall.

“In the end I saw the gap and just went for it, and I think I’ll remember this one for a long, long time.”

The next round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, where the GTP and Grand Touring Daytona (GTD) classes will be in action April 19-20.

Era Motorsport Turns to Young Talent Again to Win in LMP2

For the second race in a row, when the going got tough, Era Motorsport got young.

Connor Zilisch hopped into the No. 18 Era Motorsport ORECA LMP2 07 with 90 minutes remaining Saturday night and drove to the front of the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class for a celebrated victory. The 17-year-old teamed with Era’s full-season drivers, Dwight Merriman and Ryan Dalziel, to win by 1.127 seconds over the No. 11 TDS Racing ORECA shared by Steven Thomas, Mikkel Jensen and Hunter McElrea.

The win is the second straight in 2024 for Era Motorsport on the heels of a season-opening triumph at the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

Zilisch, signed earlier this year as a NASCAR development driver for Trackhouse Racing, was running in fourth place Saturday when the race restarted from a full-course caution with 40 minutes to go. But the three cars ahead of him all made splash-and-go pit stops in the next two laps, pushing Zilisch into the lead when the final caution of the race waved with 35 minutes remaining.

That caution assured that the No. 18 had enough fuel to make it to the finish. Pushed first by Felipe Fraga in the No. 74 Riley ORECA and then Jensen in the No. 11, Zilisch never faltered to keep his WeatherTech Championship record perfect with two wins in just two starts.

It was Zilisch and 23-year-old Christian Rasmussen that Era turned to in January to close out the Daytona win. On Saturday, it rested solely on Zilisch’s shoulders.

“It’s an honor for the team to trust me and give me the chance to show them what I have at the end,” Zilisch said. “It was really tough to pass out there and it was kind of whoever could get track position, get to the lead, was going to end up winning. … Pretty unreal to get two wins in my first two WeatherTech starts.”

Dalziel, who collected his 15th career IMSA win and second at Sebring, didn’t think it would happen after the No. 18 ran over debris, causing the car to overheat and puncturing a tire. So much was the Scotsman’s skepticism that he told his wife and friends at the track to head back home to Orlando midway through the race.

“We still knew we had the pace in the car, we definitely didn’t give up,” Dalziel said. “We knew that we had the potential to get to the win based on the fuel time but how many times in racing do these things work out perfectly?

“Then once we got in the lead, you look at the list of drivers that were behind Connor on that restart – the talent and the guys with experience – and the kid just kept his head cool and brought it home. A good day for Era, a good day for Dwight and I, good points for the championship.”

Merriman, Dalziel, Zilisch and the No. 18 ORECA also moved into a tie for the lead in IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup LMP2 points. The class doesn’t race again until the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen at Wakins Glen International on June 23.