After shining in the rain and taking over first place during the wet opening laps, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing was almost able to never look back until a late race incident dropped the No. 67 Ford GT out of contention for the win with just five minutes remaining in IMSA’s 12 Hours of Sebring.
Richard Westbrook started the No. 67 Ford GT in fourth place, and wasted no time moving up to first in the race’s opening laps. He, along with teammates Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon, maintained a consistent lead through 11 of the race’s 12 hours. The No. 66 Ford GT entry of Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais also challenged for the win until the race was complete, working their way back from an eighth-place start to a second-place finish, just seconds behind the class winner.
The No. 66 Ford GT’s podium was the second of the weekend for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, after the team’s FIA World Endurance Championship No. 67 Ford GT scored a third-place finish in the 1000 Miles of Sebring Friday night at the historic track.
“That’s a tough finish for the IMSA team after being strong all day, but we have to be pleased at how well the Ford GTs ran today in tough conditions,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director, Ford Performance Motorsports. “The 67 GT car ran a fantastic race for most of the day leading most of the laps, and the 66 GT car battled from behind to get a podium. Clearly, we had the speed to win, but maybe not the racing fortune we needed today.
“Overall, we took podiums in both the WEC and IMSA races this weekend, and we’re proud our teams battled strong in some very tough weather and track conditions.”
“I think at the start we really didn’t know what to expect with the track conditions as bad as they were,” said Hand. “We were back there just single file waiting for the track to dry out enough to go green. After that we got settled in and the car was pretty good. We were able to move up the first few hours and were running one-two behind the No. 67. I think when we made the move to the harder tire, we seemed to struggle and lost a few spots.
“The No. 67 guys were just a bit faster and had it figured out. It’s always a total team effort here at Ford Chip Ganassi Racing. Our car was just taking a few laps to get going in the end, especially on restarts, and we were losing time and just couldn’t get it made back up. We battled back to P2 and it just goes to show no one in this group quits.”
A late-race caution saw Briscoe restarting second in class, with a GTD contender separating him from the GTLM leader. While fighting to break through traffic with just minutes remaining, he caught a kerb and spun off course, allowing the GTLM leader to pull out of reach.
“I was happy with the start and how we handled the challenging conditions,” said Westbrook. “We had great pace in the car and both Ford GTs just really came to life in the first half of the race. We just got into a really good rhythm and just continued to build the gap and build the gap. It also helped there was a very limited amount of yellows up to that point. We lost the big gap we had, but that’s the GTLM class.
“You always end up having a fight on your hands until the very end. Ryan and Scott did an amazing job. It looked like it was going to come down to fuel mileage at the end until about 15 minutes to go. Ryan was trying to hang on and get around lapped traffic, fighting all the way to the end. I’m proud of the team and the effort overall and look forward to Long Beach.”
Next up on IMSA’s schedule is the Long Beach Grand Prix in southern California on Saturday, April 13.