Action Express Racing scored a dominant victory in Saturday’s 63rd Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, leading a DP sweep of the top five overall positions following a fast-paced around-the-clock enduro.
Reigning TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Prototype champions Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi, along with IndyCar star Sebastien Bourdais, took the No. 5 Corvette DP to a commanding win, despite battling handling issues in the second half of the race.
Barbosa took over the lead from the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-Ford of Scott Dixon in the eighth hour and along with the help of co-driver Bourdais, extended their lead to more than one lap, prior to the sixth full-course caution of the race with two hours to go.
Despite the yellow, Action Express remained in control, with Barbosa crossing the line one lap ahead of the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP of Ricky Taylor in second.
It was a banner day for AXR, which achieved 10,000 consecutive miles of competition just prior to the race’s halfway point. They remain the only team to have completed every lap of TUDOR United SportsCar Championship competition to date.
Additionally, it marked only the second overall victory for Chevrolet in America’s oldest endurance race, coming 50 years since Jim Hall and Hap Sharp’s win in a Chaparral 2-Chevrolet.
The Taylor brothers and co-driver Max Angelelli made an impressive comeback to finish second after losing ground early due to brake issues, while a late move by Richard Westbrook on Scott Dixon ensured an all-Corvette overall podium.
Westbrook passed the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-Ford with less than ten minutes remaining, giving he and VisitFlorida.com Racing co-drivers Michael Valiante and Mike Rockenfeller back-to-back podium finishes.
Dixon, Scott Pruett and Joey Hand, meanwhile, were relegated to fourth at the end, with the No. 31 Action Express Corvette completing the top-five, after losing two laps early due to a loose wheel.
They finished four laps ahead of the pole-sitting Krohn Racing Ligier JS P2 Judd, which had contact on pit lane and battled exhaust issues early. Remarkably, it was the only P2 car to finish the race.
Tequila Patron ESM put up the strongest fight to the DPs but both of its HPD ARX-03b cars, brought out of retirement for this weekend’s race, dropped out with steering issues (No. 1) and loss of boost (No. 2), respectively.
The No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier-Honda crashed out in the second hour in the hands of Ozz Negri, while both of the SpeedSource Mazda SKYACTIV-D prototypes retired by mid-race with overheating (No. 07) and drive belt (No. 70) issues.
In Prototype Challenge, PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports enjoyed an equally commanding run to take top class honors, two months after their dramatic Rolex 24 win.
Tom Kimber-Smith brought the No. 52 Oreca FLM09 home 11.6 seconds ahead of defending class co-champion Colin Braun, following a late-race battle between the two prototype stars.
Braun put his CORE autosport machine back onto the lead lap thanks to a wave-by during the final yellow, which ended a three-hour and 47-minute stretch of green flag racing.
The two former teammates then fought tooth-and-nail for nearly an hour, although a quicker final stop for Kimber-Smith saw his gap expand to nearly 20 seconds.
Kimber-Smith shared the win with co-drivers Andrew Palmer and Mike Guasch, who claimed his third Sebring crown in the last five years, including the 2013 race with the same Bobby Oergel-led crew.
The CORE entry of Braun, Jon Bennett and James Gue was followed home by the No. 38 Performance Tech machine, which completed the class podium in third, thanks to a starring drive by open-wheel ace Conor Daly.