SEBRING, Florida (March 16, 2019) – Scuderia Corsa and the No. 63 WeatherTech Ferrari 488 finished third at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Advanced Auto Parts thanks to strategy and speed which kept the team at the front of the field for the majority of the race.
Serving as the second round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and North American Endurance Cup, the team would take its fifth consecutive GTD class podium in Sebring, following a third-place in 2018, second-place in 2017 and win in 2016. Qualifying seventh, the 12-hour classic would fail to disappoint in its trademark excitement, with the tight confines of the bumpy circuit producing wheel-to-wheel battles. Consistent rain early in the race added extra excitement as pressure mounted with cars losing grip due to deep puddles collecting on the track surface.
Nearing the final four hours of the race the No. 63 Ferrari solidified its dominate presence out front. Veteran Scuderia Corsa driver Jeff Westphal took over for WeatherTech Racing Driver Cooper MacNeil in the top five and drove the car to the lead. After Westphal it was Ferrari Factory Driver Toni Vilander that skillfully navigated the competition. However, the true excitement occurred at the 15-minute mark, when a late caution would turn the 12-hour event into a drag race. When the field went green with seven minutes remaining Vilander fought off a compacted field while taking contact defending his third-place position. He dropped back to fourth but regained composure and won back the third-place position. Vilander finished 1.623 seconds ahead of fourth place.
For MacNeil the podium finish overrode the rainy, conservative yellow start.
“It’s a shame the race started under yellow, but I believe it was the right call,” MacNeil said. “The track was really treacherous even once we went green so with eleven hours to go it was less about pace and more about survival. A lot of people were driving like it was the last lap but I knew a nice steady race would be key. Anytime you finish on the podium here is impressive, especially in the GTD class. This is the fifth consecutive podium for Scuderia Corsa so it’s great to be a part of it. The guys and gals of Scuderia Corsa have worked overtime to make this happen, so they deserve as much credit as the drivers.”
For Westphal Sebring was about taking the right chances while running a clean race for the desired finish.
“The 12 Hours of Sebring is one of the more grueling events, so you start with the mindset of trying to conserve the car,” Westphal said. “The aggression you use and the risks you take in the first six hours are very different than the what you will do in the second six hours. You start pushing harder and taking more chances. You try not to be too risky but make moves that you know will land you on the podium like today. I can’t say enough about all the drivers and crew. Cooper and Toni did a great job. It means so much to be on the podium here, I can’t say enough about how great this is and how great Scuderia Corsa is.”
For Vilander it was a true group effort that landed the team on podium for the fifth consecutive year.
“Again, [we had] the famous seven minutes to go and a full course yellow,” Vilander said of the race’s final restart. “It got nuts. People were spinning all over the place. The contact and the aggression levels were so high. I got hit at the restart in Turn 17. I collected all the marbles, so it was difficult to keep the rhythm. I dropped down to fourth. I was surprised. Sometimes, I’m a bit hotheaded. But I kept calm. Somehow, I knew it was going to happen [the final pass for third] and it did happen. I managed to come back to third and finish the race.
“I wanted to do well after the difficult conditions we had at Daytona. We had a chance to score a good result [at Daytona], but it didn’t happen. So, [at Sebring] I really wanted finish the race, finish on the podium, and build the foundation from there.
“Cooper did a fantastic job at the start of the race with the amount of water and everything. And Jeff, what a drive. He was fast – no mistakes – and pushed it to the front. It was a good trio, good combination. We’ll keep working and hopefully we’ll find more speed.”
Finally, for Team Owner Giacomo Mattioli, the depth of Scuderia Corsa would once again shine through all circumstances.
“To take our fifth consecutive podium at Sebring felt great and is a testament to the talent of our team,” stated Mattioli. “I am very pleased with the performance of everyone, from the drivers to the crew who gave this race their all. Our car was strong when it mattered the most, at the end of the race. I’m really happy for Cooper and Jeff, and Toni handled a very high-pressure end to the race but delivered the car clean and on podium.”
With half of the Michelin Endurance Championship complete all efforts will turn to the sprint-racing season, beginning in May for the GTD class at the famed Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The two hour and 40-minute race is set to take place from May 4-6 with all four IMSA classes present. Follow all the action on Scuderia Corsa social media channels: Twitter @Scuderia_Corsa, Facebook at Scuderia Corsa, Instagram at @Scuderia.Corsa.