The No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing/Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi V.R, with Ricky Taylor behind the wheel, won the 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona, with the No. 5 Action Express Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi V.R finishing second. But it wasn’t pretty – with just seven minutes left, Taylor nudged the No. 5 out of the way in turn 1, causing the No. 5 to spin.
The top two finishers in Saturday’s 65th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring were the same, but Ricky Taylor didn’t need to nudge anybody this time, winning with a healthy 13.614-second lead over the No. 5.
The No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R was fast during several practice sessions leading into qualifying, where they qualified 2nd and led much of the race through the daylight until darkness began to fall.
The No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R would take the lead shortly after Filipe’s stint began by overtaking teammate, Eric Curran. Filipe continued to set the pace as the four-hour mark approached to award Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup points, earning the maximum five points for leading the first segment of the race.
For the next eight hours, the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R swapped the lead with the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R as the teams cycled through pit stops and driver changes.
Though multiple pit-stops and strategy plays remained, the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac team of Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Filipe Albuquerque finished second at Sebring Int’l Raceway. “I am really proud of the Mustang Sampling Cadillac team,” Barbosa said. “It is a great sweep of the podium for Cadillac. We missed just a little bit when the conditions changed from daytime to night, but second is a great result. I am very proud of our whole team.”
Filipe Albuquerque, who spent much of his stints either leading or running 2nd, gave thoughts on his evening. “We ran a good race and made no real mistakes,” Albuquerque said. “We led a lot of the race, but when the track got cooler, the No. 10 Cadillac just came alive. They had just a little bit more today, but we will work to close the gap at Long Beach.”
The defending IMSA WeatherTech Champs have to wonder when will the bad luck end? Fortunately, the Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R was once again fast and leading until bad luck changed their race, but not their determination!
Dane Cameron qualified 3rd and took the lead just thirty-four minutes into the 12-hour classic after passing the No. 13 Rebellion car, following a pass-thru pit penalty.
The Whelen Engineering Cadillac continued to the lead through the first two hours of the event following pit stops and driver change to Eric Curran. At the 2:25 mark, the No. 31 Whelen Cadillac DPi-V.R had contact with the No. 22 ESM Prototype.
Eric was at the wheel when he exited Turn 17 and tucked underneath the No. 22 to pass on the inside when the No. 22 driver turned to go onto pit lane. Curran hit the No. 22 and was stalled in the middle of the track.
Unfortunately, he had to be towed to the paddock, but the team quickly re-fired the Cadillac DPi-V.R 6.2L engine and he rejoined the race. The team then received a stop-and-go-penalty for working on the car in pit lane while the pits were closed. The incident combined with penalty dropped the No.31 Whelen Cadillac to 6th place, 3 laps down.
The Whelen Engineering Team would continue to fight for positions and points. At the 5:30 mark, Mike Conway would pit for tires, fuel and driver change to Dane Cameron for his second driving stint. By the 7:00 mark, Dane would give the drive back to Eric Curran for his second driving stint, only 2 laps down. At the 8:20 mark, Eric would run down and pass the No. 85 prototype for third place!
After getting as close as one lap down, the Whelen Engineering Team’s never give up attitude and third place finish allowed for a 1−2−3 Cadillac podium sweep.
Eric Curran, No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R: “It is nice to get Cadillac a 1−2−3 here at Sebring,” Curran said. “Obviously the Cadillac has shown good pace and great reliability early in the season. I got tangled up with the 22 car at the beginning and unfortunately lost a bunch of laps. We fought back and got within a couple of laps at the end and to get on the podium. Our luck is going to get better on the Whelen side. We are looking to be really strong at Long Beach.”
Finishing fourth was the No. 85 JDC-Miller ORECA LM P2 entry, driven by Chris Miller, Stephen Simpson and Misha Goikhberg. That team moved up from the Prototype Challenge class this year, and while they finished four laps behind the winner, they are definitely contenders.
The No. 55 Mazda DPi rounded out the top five. It was a really disappointing race for the Mazda team – their second car, the No. 70, brought out the first of the six full-course caution flags early on as driver Joel Miller lost the car’s brakes and drove hard into the tire wall in turn 17. That car finished eighth.
The No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan DPi, driven by Scott Sharp, Ryan Dalziel and Pipo Derani, also ran into issues. The No. 2 team not only won Sebring last year, they won the 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona. But the car battled turbocharger problems even before race day, and ended up 11th.
Also wishing they had a do-over was the No. 13 Rebellion Racing ORECA LM P2 of Sebastien Buemi, Nick Heidfeld and Neel Jani. On Friday, Jani qualified on the pole, but they ended up ninth in the race after battling a variety of mechanical problems all day.