TUDOR United SportsCar

TUSCC: Action Express Crushes The Competition At Sebring


SEBRING, Fla.- After coming up just short two months ago in defending its victory at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Action Express Racing left no doubts on Saturday, piloting their Chevrolet Corvette DP to a convincing victory in the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida.

Despite getting overshadowed in Friday qualifying on the challenging 3.7 mile Sebring International Raceway circuit by the efforts of LMP2 regulars Krohn Racing, Extreme Speed Motorsports, and Michael Shank Racing, the Gary Nelson-led squad’s driving trio of Christian Fittipaldi, Joao Barbosa, and Sebastien Bourdais was the fastest of the Daytona Prototypes, putting them in prime position to take the glory in the race itself. Of course, that was assuming those starting ahead of them stumbled along the way. Although the Ligier JS P2 coupes and Honda ARX-03b would control the early going following the Saturday morning start, one by one they would quickly fall by the wayside.

Michael Shank Racing’s hopes were dashed in the second hour when Oswaldo Negri, Jr. crashed his Ligier-Honda into the tire barriers at turn 14, after catching the inside curb in a move to avoid hitting the Falken Tire Porsche in the GT Le Mans class. Negri escaped the shunt without suffering injuries. Krohn Racing won the pole on Friday and led the first hour of action on Saturday, but once team boss Tracy Krohn took the wheel their hopes for victory quickly vanished. Krohn spun twice in his first stint, the latter of which did damage to the rear muffler, ccsting the Texas-based runners extra time behind the wall to replace the part, relegating them to a sixth place overall finish, gained through a valiant comeback effort. A multitude of mechanical problems would eventually force both ESM Hondas to retire before the finish, far from the result that was hoped for by the Florida-based team, who parked their new for 2015 Honda ARX-04b coupes in favor of last year’s challenger, which claimed runner-up honors at Sebring last year.

With the faster cars out of contention, the Daytona Prototypes took over the proceedings at the front, with Action Express Racing tagging itself as the rabbit of the group around 3 p.m. eastern time, when Christian Fittipaldi moved the No. 5 Action Express Corvette DP past fellow GM driver Mike Rockenfeller of Visitflorida.com Racing for the overall lead. From that point to the finish, Fittipaldi, Bourdais, and Barbosa controlled the proceedings at the point, losing the lead only one more time to Chip Ganassi Racing at the halfway mark. It would take less than one hour for Barbosa to take back the lead for good, as despite a bit of rubbing between the Portuguese driver and Scott Dixon on the Ullman Straight, the Corvette pilot was able to pull clear of the New Zealander, building an ever increasing margin until Action Express Racing had put the rest of the field a full lap behind them. Even a full course caution would not allow their rivals a chance to get back on the lead lap, as Barbosa carefully drove the car to the victory, maintaining the one lap cushion at the finish.

The victory is the first overall win at Sebring for General Motors since 1996 when Doyle Racing’s Oldsmobile-powered Riley & Scott MkIII World Sports Car claimed the checkered flag, and the first win for Chevrolet at Sebring in 50 years when Jim Hall’s Chaparral 2 was the winner in 1965.

Behind Action Express Racing, the three other Chevrolet Corvette DPs entered in Saturday’s race were equally effective as Wayne Taylor Racing used a fast final pit stop to earn second place, while early race leaders Visitflorida.com Racing outdueled Chip Ganassi Racing to sweep the overall podium for Chevrolet with a third place finish.

After winning at Daytona, Chip Ganassi Racing was unable to show the same pace at Sebring and settled for fourth place, while Action Express Racing’s second entry rounded out the overall top five.

In Prototype Challenge, PR1-Mathiasen Motorsports produced an equally dominant performance to backup its victory in the season opener at Daytona. Tom Kimber-Smith, in his first race since being promoted to a full-time role with the Bobby Oergel-owned team, was solid throughout Saturday, including in a final duel with CORE autosport’s Colin Braun during the event’s final two hours. Andrew Palmer was equally effective for PR1-Mathiasen and along with Mike Guasch supported team leader Kimber-Smith in building a full lap lead in the PC division, until CORE received a wave around onto the lead lap during the final full course caution flag to set up the final duel.

CORE autosport settled for their second straight runner-up finish to open 2015, while Conor Daly’s first TUSCC appearance in 14 months netted a third place result for Performance Tech Motorsports.

The TUDOR United SportsCar Championship heads west to the streets of Long Beach, California for round three of the championship on Saturday, April 18th.


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About Matt Embury

Matt Embury is the Senior SportsCar Writer at Rubbings Racing and can be followed on Twitter (@MattEmbury) for the latest sports car news and opinions. A native of Mishawaka, Indiana, he has been following sports car racing for nearly 20 years.

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