Krohn Racing’s #57 Ligier JS P2-Judd started from pole with Olivier Pla behind the wheel. Ryan Dalziel (#1 Extreme Speed Motorsports HPD-ARX 03b) started on the outside of Row 1.
Porsche North America’s #912 entry, driven by Frederic Makowiecki started at the front of GTLM, followed by the #911 sister car and the #3 Corvette Racing C7.R.
Martin Plowman (BAR1 Motorsports #16 Oreca FLM09) started from PC pole for the second straight race. Jeroen Bleekemolen (Riley Motorsports #33 Dodge Viper SRT) topped GTD qualifying.
Dalziel got the jump on the green flag and briefly looked as if he were going to take the lead from Pla, but fell back into second exiting Turn 1. Oswaldo Negri ran third through the first lap in the #60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier JS P2-Honda. Colin Braun (#54 CORE autosport) led PC ahead of Plowman.
At the 11:39 mark Joao Barbosa (#5 Action Express Corvette DP) tried overtaking Negri through traffic, but when Negri moved outside to clear the car in front of him the two made light contact and Barbosa had to abandon the move. Half an hour into the race Makowiecki led Antonio Garcia (#3) and Patrick Pilet (#911) in GTLM.
“The Porsches seem to be really strong,” said Garcia after his first stint. “What they showed in qualifying they are still showing in race pace. Now we’re going into a different period of the race where the track will be completely different. So far the car is behaving how we expected. It feels like the car is slowly coming to us. We need to stay where we are and keep pushing but not do anything crazy out there. If we can find just a little bit more from the car, it will be great.”
Barbosa made it around Negri before the 11:20 mark, taking third overall, 26 sec off the lead. Pla pitted from the lead at with 11 hr 19 min to go, Dalziel coming in as well. The ESM machine left the pits well ahead of Krohn’s Ligier, with owner Tracy Krohn now behind the wheel. Ricky Taylor (#10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP) passed Krohn for position at 11:14.
Jorg Bergmeister took over in the #912 during its first pit stop with 11:08 to go. The race’s first full-course caution came out moments later when Paul Dalla Lana, having taken over for Pedro Lamy in the #98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage GT, lost his right rear wheel exiting the pits.
The #60 came in for suspension work at 10:55, still under yellow, Negri complaining of looseness. Dalziel ran first, Barbosa second, and Dane Cameron (#31 Action Express/Whelen Racing Corvette DP) third. The green flag flew at with 10:45 left. Ten minutes later the #10 came in for brake work.
One and a half hours into the race Dalziel led Barbosa by 1.593 sec and Cameron by 4.908. Conor Daly (#38 Performance Tech) led PC by 24 sec over Alex Popow (#8 Starworks). Bergmeister was in front of Garcia by 0.530 sec in GTLM and Pilet by 3.334 sec. Bleekemolen led GTD by 8.886 sec over Madison Snow (#58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911).
Negri crashed out at 10:17, clipping the curbing in Turn 14, spinning across the track into the tire barrier, and damaging the #60’s rear end. “I was just pushing very hard trying to stay on the lead lap,” explained Negri. “I got behind a GTLM car and I thought he let off and gave me the way, but then he started to turn into the corner and I thought I was going to hit him. So I tried to avoid it and went over the curb and when I hit the curb, that’s when the car took off and spun the other way. It’s one of those things. Maybe I should have been a little more patient and passed him elsewhere but in the heat of the moment, you have to push, push, push. I’m just bummed for the Michael Shank Racing team that worked so hard changing over to a new engine yesterday.”
#31 ran in second 3 hr 30 min into the race, when Eric Curran lost his right-front wheel shortly after exiting the pits, bringing out the race’s third caution and dropping the team two laps down.
Near the halfway mark of the race, Dalziel radioed the team and said he was having handling issues. He drove to the Tequila Patrón ESM paddock where the crew removed the bodywork for further inspection. The team determined there was an issue in the rear suspension. The #1 was nine laps down and retired from the race.
Last year’s GTD race winner Magnus Racing was eliminated from contention shortly before the 6-hr mark, contact with another car breaking the #44 Porsche 911 GT America’s suspension and sending the car driven by John Potter into the wall. The car lost significant time for repairs and returned to the track 69 laps down.
#5 completed its 10,000th consecutive mile of competition in the Tudor Championship when it crossed the line at Lap 149. Dating back to the 2014 Rolex 24 At Daytona – the inaugural event – the team has completed every lap of competition in series history. The 2014 prototype champions lead the race after 8 hr.
Defending PC-class Patrón Endurance Cup champions CORE autosport raced their way back from one lap down to trail PC leader PR1/Mathiasen Motorsport by less than 80 sec. The #38 team also remained in contention after 8 hours, two laps down.
The #3 Corvette ran second in GTLM after 8 hours. Corvette Racing has won Sebring eight times since 2002 dating back to the American Le Mans Series.
With 30 min to go Corvette DPs held the first two spots; the #5 Action Express with Barbosa behind the wheel more than 1 min ahead of Ricky Taylor in the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing machine. The #01 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford-Riley ran third, one lap down, driven by Scott Dixon.
Garcia led GTLM in the Daytona-winning #3 Corvette. The #912 Porsche had retired and the #911 was experiencing gearbox problems. Pierre Kaffer (#62 Risi Competitzione Ferrari 458 Italia) ran second, just 9.667 sec back with another 3 sec to Patrick Long in the #17 Falken Tire Porsche 911.
Barbosa put Taylor 1 lap down coming out of Turn 1 with 21 min left. Tom Kimber-Smith led PC in the #52 and Mario Farnbacher (#23 Alex Job Racing Porsche 911) was out front in GTD. Farnbacher locked his brakes going into Turn 10 with less than 10 min to go, putting Bleekemolen back on the point.
Richard Westbrook (#90 Visit Florida.com Racing Corvette DP) took third from the #01 as the race crossed the 5 min mark. Bleekemolen pulled into the pits and retired from the GTD lead, Farnbacher taking it back.
Barbosa took the win for Action Express by one lap over Taylor who finished 11.962 sec ahead of Westbrook. Garcia won GTLM, 58.453 sec ahead of Kaffer and 1 lap in front of Long. Kimber-Smith topped Braun in PC by 11.614 sec. Farnbacher topped GTD, 8.837 sec ahead of James Davison in the #007 TRG-AMR Aston Martin Vantage.
The Action Express victory was the first overall win by a Corvette at Sebring in 50 years. Barbosa (Portugal) and Christian Fittipaldi (Brazil) became the first overall winners from their respective countries. The win moved Action Express into the lead in the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup after two of four events. “It was very special to check this one off the list,” said Barbosa. “We couldn’t have done it without a flawless car. It’s pretty amazing what our guys are doing at the shop to give us this car. The car was consistent, it was still improving over the length of the race.”