After securing a record-setting pole position in qualifying on Friday, Spirit of Daytona Racing kept the No. 90 Cadillac DPi-V.R at the sharp end of the field for much of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on Saturday, hoping for a podium finish in their home state.
Unfortunately, the team had to suffer disappointment with only 105 minutes remaining as a hard crash into the Turn 17 wall ended their bid for victory in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s endurance classic.
Drivers Tristan Vautier, Matt McMurry and Eddie Cheever lll fought hard for over 10 hours, making the most of the Spirit of Daytona Racing-prepared Cadillac DPi-V.R with consistently quick lap times through the ever-changing track conditions.
Over the span of 16 pit stops, the crew performed flawlessly and the drivers kept the car in contention, with lap times that consistently shadowed the race leaders.
After earning the pole, Vautier started the race and held strong at the start to lead the opening 14 laps, setting the third quickest lap of the race, with a lap time of 1:49.108-seconds.
The team fought back from every setback the race had to offer, including a drive-through penalty after making contact with another Prototype while fighting for position.
The crew had just performed their final driver change just before 9:00 p.m. from McMurry to Vautier, when Vautier, on cold tires and on his out lap from pit lane, got into the marbles in Turn 17 and made hard contact with the tire wall on lap 294.
“It started from the beginning of the out lap,” said Vautier of the incident. “I flat spotted a tire because I was too impatient trying to change a switch on the car. When I got to Turn 17, I locked up a bit. I didn’t feel as though I was as wide as I was, but when I realized my left side tires were in the marbles, I tried to get on the gas. But once you’re in the marbles, it’s like ice, and the wall came to me pretty quickly. I’m very sorry for the guys, because it was a big crash and it will take a lot of work to repair. But my hat is off to the entire team, they gave us an amazing car today. Our pace was good and the car was good throughout the entire race. I’m just sorry it ended like that.”
McMurry saw the team’s pace as a promising sign that a solid finish was on offer, and is proud of what the team had to offer this weekend.
“It was looking as though it would be a good race,” said McMurry. “We thought we could get a podium. The team did a great job getting the car ready despite mechanical issues early in the weekend. We held our pace throughout the race and kept the car in the top five, just getting ready for the final push. The car ran flawlessly the entire race, which makes it that much more disappointing. We’ll get them at Long Beach.”
To get so close to the end of the race only to have it end early was a disappointment, but luckily the team knows there’s a podium result that is right around the corner.
“It was a looking to be a good finish,” said Cheever III. “Everyone was performing so well – the team, the drivers, everything was good. But when you have just over an hour to go and you are pushing to the maximum, that can happen. It’s a bummer for the team because we really wanted to fight for a podium until the end.”
Despite the way the race ended for Spirit of Daytona racing, the team is leaning on the effort put in my both the crew and drivers to have a result good enough for a podium.
“It’s a heartbreaker,” said team owner Troy Flis. “We had a great car all weekend and our car ran great the entire day, so thanks to everyone at Cadillac. And thanks to TireRack.com, who came in to help out here at Sebring. Hopefully we can get the chance to bring them on with us full-time.”
The team had managed the conditions and the pit strategy with a keen eye towards a late-race shootout.
“We’d just made our last driver change and had it scheduled to make two more stops and we could make it to the end,” said Flis. “I feel badly for Tristan (Vautier), because he knew he had a good car. All the drivers did a great job – Tristan was great in qualifying, Matt (McMurray) did great saving fuel even though we all know how hard it is to tell drivers to slow down, and Eddie (Cheever III) put in some great laps mid-race. It was a huge, deep effort from the entire team. I feel badly for the crew as well, because they did such a great job of putting their heads down, going out there and making it happen. We’ve had a tough start to the year, but I know that’s racing, where there are super highs and super lows. This team is strong and we’ll be back to fight another day.”
The Spirit of Daytona Racing team will return to the home base in Daytona Beach to prepare for the next round of IMSA WeatherTech competition.
Source. Sunday Group