Image credit: RJE Photos.
Tequila Patrón ESM made it two in a row in this year’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship on Saturday when Pipo Derani took the chequered flag in their Honda Ligier JS P2 at the Sebring 12h.
With five minutes and 45 seconds to go, Derani passed Dane Cameron in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering/Team Fox Corvette DP from Action Express Racing to take the lead and the eventual victory, sweeping Daytona and Sebring in back-to-back rounds of the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup.
“What a tough race this was,” said Derani. “We had some contact, some spins, and moving our way back to the front was just unbelievable. In the end, I knew we had a great car, and new tires. But with only 10 to 15 minutes to go and still be in fourth was difficult to believe that we were going to make it. God had an eye on me and everything I executed was perfect. I can’t believe it all. It happened like that. I was so focused to bring the car home. The adrenaline was so high I couldn’t think about anything else.”
Cameron took second place in the No. 31 Corvette DP along with co-drivers Eric Curran and Scott Pruett. After leading the first two Patrón Endurance Cup segments, the sister Action Express #5 Mustang Sampling Corvette finished third, driven by Christian Fittipaldi, Joao Barbosa and Filipe Albuquerque.
Fittipaldi led at the four-hour mark, picking up the five-point bonus for the first Patrón Endurance Cup segment. Barbosa had control at the eight-hour mark, bringing home another five points the No. 5 team earning the maximum 10-point bonus for leading both segments.
In the Prototype Challenge Colin Braun took the lead at just under the halfway mark – at 5 hours and 52 minutes – and the #54 CORE autosport Flex-Box Composite Resources ORECA FLM09 dominated the second half of the race.
Joined by Jon Bennett and Mark Wilkins, Braun gave the team its second Sebring victory in three years. While attrition thinned the seven-car PC field, Tom Kimber-Smith stepped up in the defending class-winning #52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA FLM09 to challenge Braun. Kimber-Smith was leading with 23 minutes remaining, but Braun executed what proved to be the winning pass moments before the final caution period began on lap 229.
“It was fun racing Tom [Kimber-Smith] and that whole group,” Braun said. “They are all class competitors. We almost had the field a lap down, but then the Corvette and the Porsche got together to close up the field. Mark did a great job holding Tom off before I got in. Then on the restart, some GT car ran into my door and spun me out. So we worked our way back through the field, and we did, because we had a fast race car. Jon did a great job early in the race managing the car in the monsoon – that certainly wasn’t an easy task. So it was a great job for the team.”
Braun took the checkered flag 1.282 seconds ahead of Kimber-Smith, who co-drove with Robert Alon and Jose Gutierrez. Renger van der Zande, Alex Popow and David Heinemeier Hansson rebounded from problems early in the event to take third in the No. 8 Starworks Motorsport entry.