Updated: May 3
SEBRING, Fla. - After a disastrous crash involving three GTP contenders fighting for the overall lead in the closing minutes of the 2023 12 Hours of Sebring, the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac V-Series.R of Jack Aitken, Pipo Derani and Alexander Sims maneuvered around the carnage to victory at Sebring International Raceway.
The pileup - which occurred with less than 20 minutes remaining in the race - began when the No. 6 Porsche 963, driven by Mathieu Jaminet, suddenly swerved to avoid traffic, knocking the No. 10 Acura ARX-06 of Filipe Albuquerque, Ricky Taylor and Louis Deletraz off the track into the grass inside of Turn 3.
Speeding through the grass and returning to the track, the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura smashed back into Jaminet’s Porsche, with his teammate Felipe Nasr’s No. 7 Porsche 963 getting caught up in the wreck. While all drivers were unhurt in the crash, their chance at victory was swiftly and immediately lost, opening up an opportunity for the No. 31 Cadillac to move in for the lead and ultimately secure the top step on the podium.
Albuquerque, who was driving the No. 10 Acura at the time of the crash, gave his perspective on the crash and some context on what happened.
“I think we had a little bit of an edge on them, but staying behind it was super hard to follow, so it needed to be done in traffic,” Albuquerque said. “The traffic came and I saw a hole, tight, but I saw it. I think he (Jaminet) moved, but I need to see the replay again because I don’t want to place blame on anybody.
"I think I was there and then there was contact with the two of us, and the second touch threw me completely in the grass and I couldn’t stop the car. Then I was a bowling ball, just knocking cars down.”
Jaminet’s co-driver, Dane Cameron, also shared his view on the crash that wiped out both GTP entries from Porsche Penske Motorsport.
“It’s kind of standard Sebring at the end of the race,” Cameron said. “It gets pretty rowdy in the night, the restarts in the dark and you come up on GTs. Obviously, it’s disappointing to end this way, but I must say I’m very, very proud of Mathieu (Jaminet). He was flying and doing a fantastic job and put us in position to win.
“It’s unfortunate it ended the way that it did but I’m very proud of all the boys and girls on the team. It’s been very difficult and many, many, many hours preparing. It's a shame but I understand what Mathieu was doing there and it’s just unfortunate.”
It was truly an unfortunate ending of the race for the top-three contenders involved, but it just goes to show that anything could happen at any time, and nothing is ever truly over until the checkered flag.
Between numerous breakdowns and the crash toward the end, the GTP class had so much attrition that third, fourth and fifth-place overall saw LMP2 cars claim those positions.
When the dust cleared, the top-five finishers overall looked like this:
1. No. 31 Action Express/Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac V-Series.R: Jack Aitken, Pipo Derani and Alexander Sims (GTP)
2. No. 25 BMW M Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8: Connor De Phillippi, Nick Yelloly and Sheldon van der Linde (GTP)
3. No. 8 Tower Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07: John Farano, Scott McLaughlin and Kyffin Simpson (LMP2)
4. No. 11 TDS Racing ORECA LMP2 07: Steven Thomas, Mikkel Jensen and Scott Huffaker (LMP2)
5. No. 18 Era Motorsport ORECA LMP2 07: Ryan Dalziel, Dwight Merriman and Christian Rasmussen (LMP2)
This victory puts the No. 31 Cadillac into the GTP championship lead by 10 points over the No. 10 Acura and 70 points ahead of the No. 01 Cadillac.
Derani took his fourth career overall win in the 12 Hours of Sebring, moving him into a tie for third on the all-time list with Audi sports car racing legends, Frank Biela and Allan McNish.
Other Class Winners:
LMP3: No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ligier JS P320: Felipe Fraga, Gar Robinson and Josh Burdon
GTD Pro: No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R (992): Klaus Bachler, Patrick Pilet and Laurens Vanthoor
GTD: No. 1 Paul Miller Racing BMW M4 GT3: Corey Lewis, Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship resumes April 14-15 at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.