One day after Jeff Segal demonstrated the potential of Scuderia Corsa’s No. 63 Ferrari 488 GT3 by capturing the TOTAL Pole Award, Alessandro Balzan backed it up. He took the lead with nine minutes remaining and went on to capture the GT Daytona (GTD) class victory in its maiden voyage.
Balzan took the checkered flag 2.280 seconds ahead of Jens Klingmann in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3, joining Christina Nielsen and Segal in giving Ferrari its first class triumph at Sebring since 2011. It was Nielsen’s first victory in WeatherTech Championship competition.
“The last five minutes were almost like the 12 hours,” Balzan said. “We decided not to change the tires, so it was the advantage not to lose a lot of time with cold tires. We had a nice race with the BMWs. We had a bit of contact, but that is to be expected because you are fighting for the win. Then I took advantage of the traffic and was able to pull away.”
Nielsen became the first female class winner at Sebring since 2006, when Liz Halliday won the LMP2 class.
“I’m just as thrilled as I can be,” Nielsen said. “Sebring is a unique event, probably my favorite beside Petit Le Mans. Getting my first win here feels amazing – it’s something we worked super hard for. Now I guess we’re in a good path for the championship.”
Nielsen and Ashley Freiberg made it two women on the GTD podium, as Freiberg joined Klingmann and Bret Curtis in the runner-up BMW. They were followed by Rolex 24 class winners John Potter, Andy Lally and Marco Seefried in the Magnus Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3.
Alex Job Racing finished fourth in its bid to repeat as Sebring winners in GTD with Mario Farnbacher, Ian James and Alex Riberas sharing the No. 23 Team Seattle/Heart of Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“Mario did the best he could to go for the win,” said team owner Alex Job, a 10-time winner at Sebring. “I told him in one lap, ‘Go get those Audis,’ and he got them both on the same lap. Unfortunately, one of them got him back on the last corner of the last lap. But, Mario, Ian and Alex all did an awesome job. The No. 23 car was in the hunt for the win all day long. We’ll have to come back here next year and go for number 11.”
·The next race for the GTD competitors will be the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix powered by Mazda at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on Sunday, May 1.