SEBRING, Fla. (AP) - Marino Franchitti, Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas teamed to give Chip Ganassi Racing its first victory in the Twelve Hours of Sebring, the oldest endurance sports car race in the country.
Franchitti made a pit stop in the No. 01 Ford/Riley DP just before a caution period Saturday night, allowing him to take the lead under a full-course caution when others pitted with 34 minutes remaining.
The race was the second in the new IMSA-sanctioned TUDOR United SportsCar Championship following the merger of the Grand-Am Rolex Series and American Le Mans series.
“It was incredible,” Franchitti said. “We couldn’t believe we were in position to win. I’ve won here in the (old ALMS) P2 class, but to win overall here … it’s certainly the biggest day in my career.”
Franchitti finished 4.682 seconds ahead of the No. 1 HPD ARX-O3b driven by Ryan Dalziel, Scott Sharp and David Brabham. The pole-sitting No. 5 Corvette DP co-driven by Sebastien Bourdais, Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa finished third after winning the opener in Daytona.
A record nine cars finished on the lead laps, smashing the previous mar of three.
It was Ford’s first overall win at Sebring since 1969, and it came after a troubling season debut at Daytona. Ford cars lagged behind in speed and only the two Ganassi entries could compete with the Chevrolets. But both were felled by mechanical problems as Ford was shut out of the season opener.
“We’ve come from a lot of hard work with the new rules, with the new engine and all of the development behind that,” Franchitti said. “We’ve been working so hard, especially the team in Indianapolis. I was gutted not to get to the podium (in Daytona).”
Chip Ganassi Racing became the first organization to win the Twelve Hours of Sebring, the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500.
In the Prototype Challenge class, Colin Braun, James Gue and Jon Bennett teamed to win in the No. 54 CORE Autosport entry. They finished 10th overall.
The No. 912 Porsche 911 driven by Patrick Long, Michael Christensen and Jorg Bergmeister won the GT Le Mans classs and finished 12th overall. Andy Lally, John Potter and Marco Seefried won the GT Daytona competition in the No. 44 Porsche 911 and were 23rd overall.
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