IMSA: Felipe Nasr takes No. 31 Cadillac to Sebring victory in return
After missing the IMSA return to action two weeks earlier, Felipe Nasr drove to an overall victory Saturday in the Grand Prix of Sebring as Cadillacs swept the top three at Sebring International Raceway.
After Pipo Derani started behind the wheel of the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Action Express Cadillac from the pole position of the DPi class, Nasr took over midway through the 2 hour, 40-minute race and won by nearly 30 seconds over the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac of Ryan Briscoe and Renger Van der Zande.
The No. 5 Cadillac of Sebastien Bourdais and Jaoa Barbosa finished third after a last-lap pass of the No. 77 Mazda of Oliver Jarvis and Tristan Nunez, who ran out of fuel.
Fifth went to the No. 55 Mazda of Harry Tincknell and Jonathan Bomarito, who had won July 4 at Daytona International Raceway in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Series’ first race since the Rolex 24 after a layoff for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Nasr missed Daytona after a positive test for COVID-19 that he got after falling ill on his drive to Daytona from Miami.
The Brazilian underwent a two-week quarantine, and his Action Express team announced Friday that Nasr had been cleared to return (having tested negative twice in 24 hours this week under IMSA protocols).
“I have no words, really,” Nasr said on NBCSN in victory lane. “I think God is great, first of all. To be here today was the only thing I could ask for ... and I couldn’t think of a better gift.
“I’m out of words right now. We had a mega car from the first time I hit the track. I’m super pleased
Derani qualified the No. 31 on pole and now has four wins in his past five races at Sebring.
“I had to take care of the tires and save fuel,” Derani said in a team release about his stint. “The guys did a fantastic job. The Whelen Engineering/Action Express Cadillac was out in front, where it should be. A big thanks to my sponsor OYO Fitness for keeping me fit. Man, it was hot out there. It’s great to have Felipe with us again.”
This was the Action Express team’s second consecutive victory at Sebring after winning last year’s Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring race.
Other classes in the IMSA Sebring Grand Prix:
IMSA Sebring Grand Prix -- GTLM
Corvette Racing captured the top two spots in GTLM for the second consecutive race, but it was the No. 4 Corvette C8.R of Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin in victory lane this time.
Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor (who started on pole) finished second after being leap-frogged by their teammates during the final pit stop sequence.
“The Corvette Racing team did an amazing job in the pit lane,” Gavin told NBCSN. “Got us out in front of the Porsches; I don’t know what they were doing, running their own deal. But it was a good race between Jordan and I.
“It was close, nip and tuck and trying to save as much fuel as possible to hand the car off to Tommy of finishing off and leapfrogging those in pit lane. Great 1-2 for Corvette racing. Really great to follow up the win at Daytona.”
Said Milner: “Great strategy, great pit stops, just awesome job. To have this long break and have these cars as good as shape as they are is a testament to that team.”
Earl Bamber took third place in the No. 912 Porsches 911 RSR-19, which rebounded from with a teammate. After trying to squeeze in beside the No. 4 Corvette in the narrow pit lane, the No. 911 of Nick Tandy made contact with the No. 912 then being driven by Laurens Vanthoor, ripping off the left front bumper cover of the latter car.
Vanthoor lost a lap to repair the damage. A few laps later, Tandy nearly lost control because of a cut rear tire apparently from the collision. He was able to limp the car back to the pits but also lost a lap.
IMSA Sebring Grand Prix -- GTD
Jack Hawksworth and Aaron Telitz took AIM Vasser Sullivan to its second consecutive GTD victory with the No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3. Telitz, who joined the team only three weeks ago as a full-time, qualified on pole before handing off to Hawksworth.
“I mean, honestly, could it get any better than this,” Telitz said on NBCSN. “Two race wins, first two races full time. Our car was incredible today, and I just handed off to Jack, and he did an awesome job bringing it home.”
Said Hawksworth: “It feels pretty good. The Lexus RC F GT3 was brilliant today, the strategy was perfect, the decisions on pit lane made a massive difference. Yeah, the championship is on the mind for sure.
IMSA Sebring Grand Prix -- LMP2
The PR1 Motorsporsts entry of Paul Kelly and Spencer Pigot were declared the victors after IMSA penalized the No. 81 DragonSpeed entry, according to the NBCSN broadcast.