In the important Thursday night practice session for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts, round two of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, all Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing were at the front of the DPi field, with Sebastien Bourdais recording the fastest time in the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac that he shares with Renger van Der Zande and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Bourdais anchored the JDC-Miller Cadillac to victory last year, so he’s well aware of how important it is to have a good car for the night. At the Rolex 24 at Daytona, it’s all about surviving the night to start racing in earnest on Sunday morning; in Sebring, it’s all about holding on during the day to race to the finish line after the sun goes down.
“The race is won at night,” said Tristan Nunez, whose co-driver Pipo Derani was third-fastest in the No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac, with a time of 1:46.793 to Bourdais’ 1:46.180. “Honestly, we’ve also focused a lot on the set-up, just to make sure the car is OK at night. The temperature during the day is going to be incredibly different than it is right now. So there’s no point in trying to set up a car based on what the day will be like. This is what it’s all about: just marking the car up for the night.”
Earl Bamber was second in the session with a lap of 1m46.546s in the No.02 CGR Cadillac. Tom Blomqvist was the fastest of the Acura drivers, fourth in the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Curb-Agajanian ARX-05.
Scott Huffaker put the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA once again at the top of LMP2 with a 1m48.842s. The top three in LMP2 looked very familiar, as the No. 29 Racing Team Nederland ORECA was second to Giede van der Garde, followed by Sebastian Montoya in the No. 81 DragonSpeed ORECA. The No. 8 Tower Motorsport entry that had been toward the front in previous sessions did not surface during night practice.
No. 33 Sean Creech Motorsport Ligier was at the top of the LMP3 for the first time, Malthe Jakobsen setting a lap of 1m56.878s. Felipe Fraga was second in the No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ligier, less than 0.1 seconds behind, followed by Colin Braun in the No. 54 CORE Autosport Ligier.
For the first time today a GTD car was the fastest in the GT field, Toni Vilander setting the only time of two minutes with a lap of 2m00.962s in the No. 21 AF CORSE Ferrari.
“This session is important for that aspect, to not go crazy during the day with this set-up, and to confirm what you have here,” said Vilander who, with co-driver Simon Mann, also races in the WEC 1000 Miles of Sebring. “Sebring is always spectacular at night. The prototypes are aggressive, as always. There are a lot of cars, 53 cars, so it’s going to be a very, very difficult race.”
Bill Auberlen was second in GTD in the No. 96 Turner Motorsports BMW M4, nearly 0.5 seconds behind, with Madison Snow just 0.04 seconds behind Auberlen in the No. 1 Paul Miller Racing BMW. The top three GTD cars were faster than the fastest GTD Pro car.
That honor went to Daniel Serra in the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari, who has been near the top of the timesheets all day. Serra had a lap of 2m01.569s to beat Mirko Bortolotti in the No. 63 TR3 Racing Lamborghini Huracan and Philipp Eng in the No. 24 BMW Team RLL M4.
The session was interrupted by a red flag for Katherine Legge, who crashed the No. 99 Hardpoint Porsche 911 GT3R at Turn 17. As always, Turn 17 has seen plenty of action as the cars lose traction over the bumps.
Up next is a short 15-minute practice session at 8:55 a.m. ET on Friday morning, essentially a warm-up for qualifying, which starts at 9:20 a.m. Those will be the last sessions of the championship. WeatherTech SportsCar through to warm-up Saturday morning as the circuit hands over to the World Endurance Championship for its season-opening race, scheduled for a green flag at 11:55 a.m.