The 2022 IMSA 12 Hours of Sebring showed why the event is a highlight on the endurance racing calendar. A field of 53 cars spread across five classes provided the drama under the hot Florida sun, in front of a typically enthusiastic Sebring crowd.
Standout Moments from Sebring 2022
The critical sequence took place under cover of darkness. Earl Bamber in the #02 Ganassi Cadillac made a pair of recovery drives to take the win over the #5 JDC Miller Motorsports Cadillac. Bamber dueled against Richard Westbrook before the final pit stop, overcoming a penalty for contacting an LMP3 prototype and time lost in a spin after contact with a GTD class Ferrari.
Bamber and his Cadillac were on fire. He was the fastest car on the track, making up the lost time and recovering his track position.
Bamber shared his Ganassi Cadillac with Alex Lynn and Neel Jani. Jani was a late addition, brought in to replace Kevin Magnussen—who found himself returning to the Formula One grid for HAAS F1.
Westbrook, Vautier, and Loic Duval in the #5 Cadillac had to be content with second place. After the race, Westbrook said that cockpit cooling issues had made things so difficult on drivers that single-stinting was the only option towards the end.
The #31 Cadillac of Mike Conway, Tristian Nunez, and Pipo Derani took third overall for Whelen Engineering Racing. The #31 was a threat, setting the fastest lap time of the race and ensuring a Cadillac 1-2-3.
The Wayne Taylor Racing and Meyer Shank Acuras stayed close and made those ahead earn their laurels, but they took home the satisfaction of a lead lap finish rather than a trophy for a reward.
Derani tagged the Meyer Shank Acura with about two-and-a-half hours to go, which damaged the Acura and slowed it in the final stages. Wayne Taylor Racing incurred a penalty with five hours remaining for missing the timing pylons at the exit of pit lane.
The penalty put them at the tail end of the lead lap. The rest of the race was quick and clean, which allowed them to make up much of the deficit, but not enough to get back into contention.
While the #02 found victory lane, disaster struck the sister #01 Ganassi Cadillac at the start. Sebastian Bourdais qualified on the pole, but gearbox issues surfaced on the opening lap. The crew tried to solve the issue on pit lane but ultimately retreated to the paddock for a gearbox change. After its return, the car had pace, and the drivers pushed for pride, but it finished 44 laps off the lead.
The top IMSA class is the Daytona Prototype International (DPi). The purpose-built, closed cockpit prototypes have the most pace of the five classes by design. Who were the fastest individual DPi drivers? Earl Bamber, Kamui Kobayashi, Pipo Derani, Ricky Taylor, Mike Conway, and Sebastien Bourdais together logged 59 of the fastest 100 DPi lap times.
Race Conditions for Sebring 2022
Unlike the chilly temperatures for the 24 Hours of Daytona, Sebring ran at the other end of the thermometer. Hot temperatures tested driver endurance throughout the entire race—92˚F (33˚C) at the peak. Single car spins were common. Grip in the corners was elusive between the greasy rubber and the notorious Sebring bumps.
Every car had their own tale of close calls, contact, spins, mechanical gremlins, and tired drivers. Three prototype classes and two GT classes made traffic a persistent factor on track and in pit lane. Seven yellow flags slowed the pace, but the overall winners set a distance record for the DPi era—2 laps more than for the 2021 event.
Photo Courtesy: Porsche AG
Rain is always a threat on a Florida spring day, but it was fortunately not a factor on Saturday for the 12 Hours. If the race had run a day earlier, the story would have been different. The eight-hour World Endurance Championship sharing the weekend schedule on Friday saw two weather related red-flags and a premature end.
The 2022 12 Hours of Sebring was the second IMSA event to feature new GT regulations. Here’s how it works: two different classes with the same equipment run at the same time. GTD Pro teams utilize purely professional drivers, and GTD teams mix professionals and amateurs.
While the equipment might have been the same this year, the full-time professionals consistently found a few tenths of a second per lap over others. In the end, the GTD Pro winners covered 323 laps, which was just two more than the GTD winners.
The GTD Pro Race at Sebring 2022
The lone factory-backed Corvette stayed at or near the head of the GTD Pro class for the entire race, helped by a balanced performance adjustment a day before the race that gave it a 20 horsepower bump. Antonio Garcia in the #3 Corvette crossed the finish line four seconds ahead of Mirko Bortolotti and his #63 Lamborghini.
The pair were the only GTD Pro runners on the class lead lap. Jordan Taylor and Nicky Catsburg joined Garcia in the Corvette. Marco Mapelli and Andrea Caldarelli joined Bortolotti in the Lamborghini.
The Corvette fended off an earlier challenge from BMW, while heartbreak ensued for the #14 Lexus after it ran out of fuel in the final laps and promoted the #97 Mercedes AMG to third in class. The #97 Mercedes AMG showed potential throughout the event but didn’t seem to be able to consistently mix with the leaders.
Who were the fastest GTD Pro Drivers? Mirko Bortolotti, Philipp Eng, Augusto Farfus, Daniel Serra, Davide Rigon, and Nicky Catsburg accounted for 64 of the fastest 100 GTD Pro lap times.
The GTD Race at Sebring 2022
GTD was a toss up for the entire race. Paul Miller Racing’s brand-new BMW M4 led the class after the start. The car showed great promise until damage incurred amidst a jumble of LMP2 and LMP3 cars in turn 1 bent the left rear suspension.
The crew took their charge to the paddock for repairs and rejoined many laps down. The BMW M4 debut for Paul Miller was unsatisfying, but the team will be worth watching as the season progresses.
The Turner BMW M4 had a credible claim to class honors, until a late drive time issue required an extra stop to switch drivers. The Alegra Motorsports Mercedes AMG had its eyes on a strong finish, until a power steering problem with less than 90 minutes remaining required a brief paddock visit to repair.
The #47 Cetilar Racing Ferrari 488 survived several incidents during the race and led the final 30 laps to the GTD checkered flag. It finished with visible battle scars, such as a spare red door installed to replace a broken mirror that contrasted with the car’s otherwise blue livery.
But Antonio Fuoco, Giorgio Sernagiotto, and Roberto Lacorte scored the Sebring win—their first IMSA win of any kind. Fuoco made up for a mistake with five hours to go, when contact under breaking with the #96 Turner BMW earned a drive-through penalty. A prior pit lane speeding penalty had already hampered the Ferrari’s day.
A win for the prancing horse was no anomaly, shown by a third place finish for the #21 AF Corse Ferrari. Polesitter Toni Vilander shared the wheel with Luis Perez Companc and Simon Mann.
Fuoco was the clear ace in the GTD class. He recorded 37 of the fastest 100 GTD laps—four times the fast laps of Marvin Dienst in the #57 Mercedes AMG (who had the next highest count). Fuoco may not be well known in the United States, but he is one to watch. He is part of the Ferrari Formula One simulator team and has extensive single-seater and sports-car racing experience.
Cetilar Racing plans a full season 2023 IMSA schedule with a new Ferrari 296 GT3 car. Their next 2022 appearance will be the six hours at Watkins Glen.
The LMP2 Race at Sebring 2022
LMP2 was a race of what might have been. PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports ran a flawless race, defending their 2021 Sebring win with the same driving squad of Mikkel Jensen, Ben Keating, and Scott Huffaker. They won with a one-lap margin over Racing Team Nederland that had pace but no track position luck with the yellow flags. Veteran driver Giedo van der Garde set 36 of the fastest 100 LMP2 laps of the race.
The storyline in the early hours was the speed of Sebastian Montoya in the DragonSpeed Oreca. Montoya teamed with his famous father, Juan Pablo, who worked to walk the line between teammate and proud parent.
Unfortunately, Juan Pablo came upon a mess of spinning and slowing cars in turn one and crunched both front wheels. The same mess that damaged the promising Paul Miller BMW ended DragonSpeed’s day after less than three hours of racing.
The LMP3 Race at Sebring 2022
The LMP3 class is oriented towards entrants rather than spectators. The cost-effective formula for skilled amateur racers typically doesn’t get headlines unless involved in an incident.
Sebring is particularly brutal for the LMP3 class between incidents and mechanical issues. Eight of the ten cars in class either did not finish or finished eight laps or more off the class lead. Sean Creech Motorsport survived to take the class win with Malthe Jakobsen, Joao Barbosa, and Lance Willsey at the controls.
Photo Courtesy: Porsche AG
The End of Sebring 2022 & Beyond
The 2022 IMSA 12 Hours of Sebring had several standout moments: Earl Bamber’s late charge to take his Ganassi Cadillac to victory lane, a heavy crash that took out GTD and LMP2 favorites, and two Ferraris that emerged to stand on the GTD podium. The IMSA schedule heads next to Long Beach, Laguna Seca, Mid-Ohio, and Detroit for sprint races before the six hour enduro at Watkins Glen.