• 12 Hours of Sebring GTLM title remains elusive after Ford Chip Ganassi Racing finishes p4, p9
• No. 67 team mounted incredible comeback effort to place just off podium
• On-track incident and electrical issue put both teams laps down in the race after running near the front early in the race
SEBRING, Fla., March 17, 2018–It seemed as if the GTLM title at the 12 Hours of Sebring was finally within Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s grasp, but that win will remain a goal for yet another year. It wasn’t for lack of trying.
After the team led three of the four practice sessions early in the week, the No. 67 was leading the category when, with three hours, 45 minutes left to go, a short in the Ford GT’s headlights caused the team to pit off-cycle to check it out. The team, led by drivers Richard Westbrook, Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon, refused to give up and fought back into podium position by the end of the race with a hard-charging Briscoe behind the wheel. The No. 67 ultimately finished fourth, earning crucial points toward the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings.
“It was a long, hard race,” Briscoe said. “I thought our car just got better and better as the race went on which was good, since it was tough at the beginning. I thought we were really competitive at the end, unfortunately that issue with the headlights at the end of Rick’s stint lost us our track position. I think that really threw it for us. We just couldn’t get back to the front from there. We clawed back past a few cars at the end. I think we’ll take a fourth place after that and keep moving forward.”
Westbrook started the No. 67 at p4.
“We had a great car and were in the final hours within striking distance. It was just an odd thing really,” Westbrook said. “The headlights started shorting out, there was smoke in the cockpit and I heard something in the engine. I thought immediately something was wrong with the power, but it ended up being an electrical issue we were able to resolve on the following stop. It’s a shame we lost that time dealing with the issue when we were in such good shape.”
The No. 66 faced a different challenge entirely, at least at first.
Four-and-a-half hours into the race, the No. 66 was damaged on the restart after the race’s second full-course yellow. A car stalled in front of driver Dirk Müller, causing a chain reaction that sandwiched the Ford GT he shares with Joey Hand and Sébastien Bourdais. While the team was forced to send the No. 66 behind the wall to fix the damage done, the car rejoined the race 10 laps down. It eventually retired with under an hour to go.
“We had started the race and things were going well,” Müller said. “The car felt good and I felt good on the restart, but a lot of cars had to check up all at once and what happened next ends up happening a lot in these situations. We got hit from behind and our race got destroyed. We got punted from behind and had a ton of damage which sent us behind the wall. I know it wasn’t on purpose but that put us down over 10 laps and you can’t recover from that.”
Hand started the race from p5.
Round three of the championship takes place April 14, when the series heads to the Long Beach Grand Prix in California.