Sebring 12H battle with Bourdais for win “tough but fair”

A run of multiple cautions in the final hour and 20 minutes threw fuel saving out the window and set up a memorable fight for glory in the endurance classic, which played into the hands of Deletraz.

The 26-year-old Swiss driver sported a set of slightly fresher tires on the No. 40 Acura ARX-06 for Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti, than Bourdais, who didn’t take on a new set of rubber after their respective final pit stops.

Lining up third, Deletraz made quick work of the Felipe Nasr in the No. 7 Penske Porsche 963 and began to stalk the No. 01 Cadillac V-Series.R of Bourdais. Through multiple restarts after two brief caution periods, the final 15 minutes saw Deletraz inching closer with a clear advantage under braking on corner entry.

With less than six minutes remaining, Deletraz went ‘full send’ into Turn 7 and the two remained tangled as they used up every inch of ground on the track – and each other – in an effort to take control of the race. After making contact on multiple occasions as they went wheel-to-wheel through the narrow section of the 17-turn, 3.74-mile circuit, but it was Deletraz that was able to pull ahead.

Bourdais tried to claw back, but it wasn’t enough as Deletraz surged to victory by 0.891s after 12 hours and 333 laps.

“Every time I got close, there was a yellow pretty much, which is not helping me,” said Deletraz.

“I saw I was strong on braking, especially the low speed, T7, T10. He was close, defending well on the inside. I was on the outside, he squeezed me off. I realized quickly I was never going to make it on the outside, which fair enough. It’s IMSA racing, it’s tough.

#01 Cadillac Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac V-Series.R: Renger van der Zande, Sebastien Bourdais, Scott Dixon

#01 Cadillac Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac V-Series.R: Renger van der Zande, Sebastien Bourdais, Scott Dixon

Photo by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images

“I thought about it, saw a gap in (Turn) 7. I went for it. Bleed off the brake, try to avoid him crossing back. I think we had more contact on the straight. Again, hard racing, but I think fair. We both made it to the flag. I couldn’t have done it by myself. If he didn’t respect me, we’d both be in the wall. Really thankful for that.”

This was only the second time Deletraz was tasked with closing a race, with the first being the Daytona 24 Hours in January. Ultimately, he delivered the first win for Acura, which also stood as the second for Honda Racing Corporation (formerly Honda Performance Development).

Alongside co-drivers Colton Herta and Jordan Taylor, it also marked the first time since 2017 that a Wayne Taylor Racing machine went to Victory Lane.

“It meant a lot,” Deletraz said. “First I want to say a big thank you to the team, Acura, HRC, the two guys right here [Colton and Jordan]. Obviously without them it was not possible.

“The car was really strong in the end. I knew we were in a position to win, which to be fair was a lot of pressure. I’ve never really done that. Daytona was my first time. That’s my second time finishing a race.

“I just obviously wanted to win and bring points for the championship. I saw I had the opportunity. Seb was tough, but fair, so thanks to him. Yeah, in the end I saw the gap. I went for it, I had more pace and we won. That’s fantastic. I think I’ll remember this one for a long time.”

Read Also:

Watch: BrrrakeF1 — Under the Skin of Endurance Racing’s Advanced Tech

Source link