Scott Dixon has once again fallen victim to the curse of Sebring, colliding with a GTE BMW while in the lead with 70-minutes left in this year’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
IndyCar rival Sebastian Bourdais, Loic Duval and Tristan Vautier rallied from two laps down to claim a surprise race win. The French trio crossed the line 1.4s ahead of Harry Ticknell in the lone Mazda Daytona Prototype.
Dixon had never won the Florida endurance classic before. Yet, he looked set to write another chapter into his illustrious CV, having dominated most of the race.
Muscling himself ahead of Filipe Albuquerque on a late restart following a massive crash in the LMP2 class, the Kiwi stretched out to a 14-second lead with two-and-a-half hours to run.
The race was then neutralised for a seventh time with under two hours left on the clock when the pole-sitting and pre-race favourite No.31 Cadillac came to a halt. Dixon remained in the driver’s seat and would take the restart at the head of the field, albeit with a diminished advantage.
With Dixon maintaining the lead at the green flag and comfortably controlling the pace of the race, Chip Ganassi Racing made a late call to bring their driver in for a stop with a little over an hour to go.
Diving for the lane, Dixon was clipped by Connor De Phillippi in the second place GTLM BMW M8 GTE. Damage to the steering and a necessary nose change cost the team three laps, and their shot at victory fizzled within seconds.
Co-drivers Renger van der Zande and Kevin Magnussen would help take the car to sixth overall.
Dixon described the incident as frustrating, admitting he had nowhere to go once the team had made the call.
“It was very frustrating,” Dixon said. “It was a very late call from the pits, so I was scrambling to get everything undone. On my way into pit road there was another car there and I had nowhere to go. I feel bad for the team because everybody at Chip Ganassi Racing did a fantastic job.”
That put Bourdais, who had spent most of the race over a lap down, into the lead. Holding his own in a late restart, Bourdais then lost the top element of his rear-wing with eight minutes left that threatened to derail his efforts.
However, the now two-time Sebring winner had enough margin in hand to reach the chequered flag first.
“Honestly, I have no idea how it worked out, but I am so happy for my teammates and the whole organisation,” Bourdais said. “It’s one of the biggest events of the season – one everybody wants to win.”
For Dixon, it means that the first two races of this year’s Michelin Endurance Cup have seen him come close to victory, only to be cruelly denied with the finish in sight.
In January, the trio was robbed of a win in the Rolex Daytona 24 Hour after picking up a puncture with seven minutes on the clock.
Earl Bamber endured a challenging race to finish 30th overall and tenth in the GT Daytona class.