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Twelve Hours of Sebring at halfway: Major trouble for DPi title contenders

IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship

#7 Acura Team Penske Acura DPi, DPi: Helio Castroneves, Ricky Taylor, Alexander Rossi

LAT Images

Two of the three WeatherTech SportsCar Championship title contenders in DPi encountered major trouble through halfway of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

A mechanical disaster struck for Acura Team Penske’s No. 7 barely 40 minutes into the race when pole-sitter Ricky Taylor lost power after his first pit stop.

The team discovered a broken left intercooler and needed 25 minutes for repairs, sending Taylor back on track 11 laps down.

That seemed to put Wayne Taylor Racing’s No. 10 Cadillac, which entered the Sebring season finale trailing Penske by two points, in the catbird seat.

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But in the fifth hour of the race, the No. 10 lost five laps replacing a radiator after Scott Dixon was punted by the No. 77 Mazda being driven by Oliver Jarvis. Dixon also picked up a drive-through penalty for passing under caution (the second penalty of the race for the No. 10 after Renger van der Zande was penalized for an improper lane change on the start).

“That was two stints of hell for me,” Dixon, who had won in his previous two endurance races with the team this season in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Petit Le Mans, told NBC Sports’ Marty Snider. “Getting connected in turn 10 did a ton of damage to the car. We were having a smooth day until that happened.

“I think there was no way (Jarvis) was going to make the corner. I kind of saw him coming and tried to give him enough (room) without braking myself. I don’t think it was our fault.”

At the six-hour mark of the race, Acura Team Penske’s full-time duo of Taylor and Helio Castroneves (who are joined by Alexander Rossi this weekend) were a point ahead of the WTR tandem of Ryan Briscoe and van der Zande (who have six-time IndyCar champion Dixon as an endurance teammate).

The No. 10 was five laps down in seventh, and the No. 7 was eight laps down in eighth.

IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship

#10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R. Cadillac DPi, DPi: Renger Van Der Zande, Ryan Briscoe, Scott Dixon

LAT Images

Pipo Derani of the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac was seven points behind and still could win the title with a Sebring victory.

Acura Team Penske, which had won four of the past five races, is trying to win its second consecutive championship before exiting the series as Acura moves to Wayne Taylor Racing and Meyer Shank Racing next season.

“It’s absolutely agonizing,” Castroneves, who is trying to win his first championship with Penske in what’s likely his final start of a 20-year career at the team, told Snider. “Watching us doing everything we can to get laps back. Then seeing what happened to the 10, it was incredibly difficult, but you can never count on what’s going to happen. Still a lot of race to go. Have to keep fighting.”

In other classes:

--Nick Tandy led in GTLM with the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR-19, trying to give the core Autosport factory team a victory in Porsche Motorsport’s final race before leaving IMSA’s top GT division.

--In GTD, the No. 48 Lamborghini was leading while the championship battle remained tight between the No. 86 Acura NSX GT3 and the No. 16 Porsche 911 GT3R.