Daniel Juncadella, left, Jules Gounon, and Maro Engel celebrate third at Sebring.
Sebring, Fla. (March 18, 2023) - WeatherTech Racing finished third in today’s running of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring at Sebring International Speedway.
The team started the once around the clock classic on the back foot after being sent to the back of the 53-car grid for a ride height violation after Daniel Juncadella (Spain) qualified the No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 with Mercedes-Benz of Billings, Montana third on Friday. It did not take long for the WeatherTech Racing/Proton team to strategize the Spaniard back to the front, taking the lead before handing over to Maro Engel (Germany) just after the 2-hour mark.
As the race unfolded throughout the day the drivers were battling with the Corvette for class honors, swapping the lead on pit stops and on the track. At 6:20 p.m. the Corvette pitted and changed a rear damper, putting it to the back of the field. The race was hampered by a dozen caution periods with two coming in the last hour.
Jules Gounon (France) took over from Engel with a full regular season race distance (2 hours 45 minutes) left and continued to keep the WeatherTech Mercedes-AMG GT3 up at the front. The team pitted for the final time with just 53 minutes remaining. With fresh tires and enough fuel to finish the race Juncadella took over and went after the four cars in front. Two late race cautions and GTD traffic halted his run to the top spot of the GTD Pro field and the team had to settle for third, duplicating its finish from last year.
“The whole race was going our way,” Juncadella said. “I had a good feeling that we would get a great result. The WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 was really good. I think we had a perfect strategy. The last hour, it was a roll of the dice, and we didn’t roll the right one. When you have a car that can win and you don’t, it is disappointing. I think tomorrow it will taste better. We got P3 and go away with a strong result.”
“Last year we were really happy to be on the podium, because it was unexpected,” Gounon said. “We all felt like the WeatherTech Mercedes-AMG GT3 was the car to beat today. We believed that if we didn’t get that last yellow it would have been a dog fight with the Lexus, but it didn’t happen. There are many GTD cars that are out of contention, and they were between us, and we could not fight. The car was good. Sometimes you feel like you deserved more.
“It is very important to score big points. This championship is crazy. Sometimes you are last, then you are back in P1 and you are fuel saving. You are never finished, that is the beauty of IMSA. Sometimes you have the car to win and sometimes you get beat. It is a very long Championship, everyone is strong.”
“It is great to be on the podium in this iconic race,” Engel said. “Today we had all the ingredients to win. The last hour strategy didn’t go our way for the win with all the yellows. Special thanks to David and Cooper MacNeil and Proton Competition for giving us all of the tools today. Dani and Jules drove a great race.
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will head west for the Long Beach Grand Prix to run April 14-15.