Earl Bamber has won the Sebring 12 Hour inthe GT Le Mans class with Porsche bowing out to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship series with a 1-2 finish.
Bamber had stints in both the No.911 and No.912 machine, though both found themselves languishing at the back of the pack at three-quarter distance after a separate incidents cost the team valuable time and position.
Thus, the No.35 BMW M8 GTE driven by Connor de Phillippi, Bruno Spengler and Colton Herta seemed certain to claim victory in GTLM. However, contact between the two leading GT Daytona cars saw an unfortunate De Philippi tagged on the way through, picking up damage which coerced him into pitting for repairs.
With the No.4 Corvettes suffering suspension damage in the final leg of the race and the sister No.3 car losing 10 laps after contact, the No.911 of Nick Tandy, Fred Makowiecki and Bamber eased home 9s up the road of the No.912 which, ironically, was being driven by Bamber at the time.
It is the Kiwi’s first win in the Florida classic, and his second on the bounce in the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech Championship. Bamber’s win also comes just hours after he confirmed he will be returning to the IMSA series full-time next year in the GTD class with Hardpoint EBM.
The other Kiwi in the field was six-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon who managed to salvage seventh overall after an inauspicious start.
Firstly, co-driver Renger van der Zande was dealt a drive-through penalty for failing to tuck in behind the pole sitting Acura Penske at the start. Dixon was then sentenced the team’s second drive-through for passing under caution.
It capped off a disastrous day for Dixon who moments earlier was tipped into a spin while running in race-winning contention. An overly eager Oliver Jarvis launched himself up the inside passage of Dixon just as he was committing to the corner. The two clashed and the Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac ambled back to the pitlane with a disgruntled Kiwi at the helm.
“That was two stints of hell for me,” Dixon said on the NBC broadcast.
“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.”
Van der Zande and teammate Ryan Briscoe were also unable to deliver a title-winning performance as Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor went on to clinch the championship crown.
Harry Tincknell, Jonathan Bomarito and Ryan Hunter-Reay delivered the overall and Daytona prototype victory for Mazda after a heated exchange between Juan Pablo Montoya in the Acura Penske and Pipo Derani in the Cadillac which resulted in the two driving each other off the road.
Suddenly heading a Mazda 1-2, Jarvis was balancing a healthy 25-second lead over Ticknell before an unexpected tyre blowout with 30-minutes on the clock.
A subsequent safety car to clear the circuit of the debris left Ticknell in the lead, a position he wouldn’t relinquish, while Jarvis was able to muscle himself back to third, just behind Dane Cameron in the Acura Penske.
“We’ve had three great years together,” said Tincknell. “We’ve had our ups and downs this year and the last few years but what a way to cap off this chapter of Mazda Motorsports.”
“This is the overall win I’ve been looking for and to do it with these boys, such great teammates and did such an awesome job” added Hunter-Reay.
“We had two Mazdas up front, and we put together a great race. This team did a great job, it’s just awesome to finish off 2020 like this.”