Joao Barbosa led Ricky Taylor and Misha Goikhberg under caution with 6 hr 12 min left in the race. Garret Grist ran first in Prototype Challenge. Joey Hand was at the point in GT Le Mans in front of Scott Dixon in the sister car. Mike Rockenfeller held P3 in class. Jeroen Bleekemolen topped GT Daytona.
Fittipaldi took over in the #5 with 5:48 to go, ceding the lead to Taylor. Taylor pitted 8 min later and came out in front of Fittipaldi. Fittipaldi retook the lead on track.
With 4:33 left Taylor had closed to within 0.7 sec of Fittipaldi.
The #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi V.R won by 13.614-sec over the #5. Ricky’s brother Jordan and newcomer Alex Lynn were co-drivers in the #10. “I really wanted this race win to be conventional,” said Ricky Taylor. “This was a dominant win, so nobody can question it.”
Third was the #5’s Action Express teammate, the #31 Cadillac DPi V.R driven by Dane Cameron, Eric Curran, and Mike Conway, making it a Cadillac sweep of the Sebring podium. “They ran a flawless race, they did an excellent job,” said Fittipaldi of the #10 team. “They were very strong when it counted. We pretty much got beat fair and square.”
Finishing fourth was the #85 JDC-Miller ORECA-Gibson, driven by Chris Miller, Stephen Simpson, Goikhberg. That team moved up from the Prototype Challenge class this year. The #55 Mazda DPi rounded out the top five.
Another repeat winner from Daytona – the #38 Performance Tech ORECA-Nissan FLM09 driven by James French, Kyle Masson, and Patricio O’Ward – topped PC. The team won Daytona by 22 laps, but the margin at Sebring was two laps over the #8 Starworks entry piloted by Grist, Max Hanratty, and Sean Rayhall.
The #3 Corvette won GTLM. Two of the Ford GTs posted faster lap times than the Corvette, as did one of the two new Porsche 911 RSRs. The #3 made a very fast last stop, coming out in front of the rest of the field, and driver Antonio Garcia took it home. “Antonio drove a Superman stint at the end,” co-driver Jan Magnussen said. “After the sun went down and the track cooled, we picked up the pace, and Antonio made the most of it.”
The Corvette finished 4.43 sec ahead of the #66 Ford GT of Hand, Dirk Mueller and guest driver Sebastien Bourdais, who won last weekend in the IndyCar season-opener at St. Petersburg. Third went to the #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE driven by Toni Vilander, Giancarlo Fisichella, and James Calado. Fourth and fifth were the other two Ford GTs, #67 ahead of #68.
The #33 Riley Motorsports Mercedes AMG GT3 won GTD, the first Sebring victory for Mercedes in 60 years. The Mercedes is news to the WeatherTech Championship this year but has an extensive racing history overseas. Driver and team principal Ben Keating, who shared the car with Jeroen Bleekemolen and Mario Farnbacher, had been racing Dodge Vipers, but with production of the Viper discontinued, Keating had to find a new car.
“We won the 2015 11 Hours and 56 Minutes of Sebring,” Keating said, “But our engine didn’t make it to the end.” Even worse was 2014, when Keating was driving his Viper early in the race and it caught fire, and practically burned to the ground. “We were third at Daytona, and first here, so we’re batting a thousand on podium finishes so far,” he said.
Second in the GTD was the team that won Sebring last year, then went on to win the season championship: the #63 Scuderia Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 driven by Christina Nielsen, Alessandro Balzan, and Matteo Cressoni. Third went to another Mercedes, the #75 SunEnergy1 Racing car, driven by team principal Kenny Habul, Boris Said, and former IndyCar competitor Tristan Vautier. Vautier had qualified the car on pole.