Seemingly cruising to a dominant victory, an incident on a restart with 17 minutes remaining took the GTD class-leading Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020 out of contention in Saturday’s Twelve Hours of Sebring, the final race of the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.
Jeff Westphal enjoyed an 11-second lead in the No. 63 WeatherTech Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo co-driven by Cooper MacNeil and Alessandro Balzan when a caution for debris waved with 27 minutes remaining. That allowed the second-place car to close in. On the restart, that car rammed the GTLM-leading BMW, sending that car into the Ferrari, and robbing both cars of dominant victories.
Westphal held on to finish fourth, a disappointing end to a day that saw all three drivers lead on multiple occasions. The Ferrari led 10 times for 125 laps. MacNeil led 17 circuits, Balzan 60 and Westphal 48.
“We had some challenges, and the car was a little tough on the front tires halfway through the stint at the beginning,” Westphal said. “But as it got cooler, the car came to us, which we know about the Ferrari. Frankly, we had an absolute rocket. I loved it. The Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020 had so much grip as it got cold, and it was really rolling well, up until that caution for debris. Unfortunately, at the restart, a car that had run into the back of me twice earlier in the race hit the GTLM car next to me and shoved off the road and took me with him. I kept it straight and got back on the track, but we had more damage to the front left. We just struggled from that point.”
Balzan passed for the lead at the 10-hour mark. From that point, Balzan and Westphal led all but three circuits (at their final pit stop) up until the late-race restart.
MacNeil started fifth and cycled to the lead by the end of the opening hour. However, an untimely caution put the Ferrari off-sequence and MacNeil last in the 13-car class after pitting under the yellow. Racing through the heat of the Florida afternoon, MacNeil patiently worked his way back to second place when he pitted just over two hours into the race, turning the car over to Westphal.
Westphal went ahead shortly after the three-hour mark when a multi-car incident shuffled the GTD field. From that point, the white Ferrari was in contention for the lead up until the closing minutes.
This was the second race of the year at Sebring, with the team placing second in a non-points race in July. In October, MacNeil, Balzan and Westphal captured the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.
The delayed running of the traditional March event at Sebring means a short off-season for the IMSA competitors. The 2021 season begins with the Roar Before the 24 on Jan. 22-24, one week before the 59th running of the endurance classic at Daytona International Speedway.