Ford maintains GTLM points lead after tough Sebring

March 23, 2018

Ford maintains GTLM points lead after tough Sebring

March 23, 2018

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing didn’t achieved the results it desired out of the second leg of IMSA’s “36 Hours of Florida” doubleheader to kick off the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, but it didn’t lose ground either in the overall GT Le Mans championship picture.

The Ford GTs led all but nine laps in an authoritative 1-2 romp to win the Rolex 24 at Daytona. The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, however, proved a tougher event.

For the Daytona-winning No. 67 Ford GT, a marathon stint by Richard Westbrook saw the car run more than 30 laps and an hour, 10 minutes on one fuel run into the ninth hour, which again revealed the EcoBoost fuel economy in the Roush Yates twin-turbo V6 that Ford has showcased over the last few years.

When a full-course caution flew shortly after Westbrook made it into the pits, it vaulted Westbrook’s car into the lead. The track position payoff was huge as Westbrook, Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon looked to win back-to-back races.

The strategy looked to be in Ford’s favor but an off-sequence stop later on cost them the track position they’d gained. A short in the car’s headlights took them back off-sequence and cost the potential win. Ultimately, the trio finished fourth.

Westbrook, who was in the car at the time, said, “We had a great car and were in the final hours within striking distance. It was just an odd thing really. The headlights started shorting out, there was smoke in the cockpit and I heard something in the engine. I thought immediately something was wrong with the power, but it ended up being an electrical issue we were able to resolve on the following stop. It’s a shame we lost that time dealing with the issue when we were in such good shape.”

“I thought we were really competitive at the end, unfortunately that issue with the headlights at the end of Rick’s stint lost us our track position. I think that really threw it for us. We just couldn’t get back to the front from there,” Briscoe added.

Despite this, they still hold the GTLM points lead with 63 points, and are up five on Sebring winners Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy and Fred Makowiecki.

The No. 66 Ford’s race was compromised when the No. 24 BMW hit its rear end, which sent the Ford to the paddock for repairs. Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais finished ninth, and in Bourdais’ case, he wasn’t able to complete the St. Petersburg IndyCar and Sebring IMSA back-to-back sweep. They now sit fourth in points with 54.

Ford leads Porsche, 65-63, in the Manufacturer’s Championship.

Ford is yet to win on the streets of Long Beach. IMSA heads there for Round 3 of the championship, on April 14.

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