SEBRING, Fla., March 20, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- In an endurance racing contest that saw everything from sunny skies to pouring rain; long green-flag runs as well as a two-hour race stoppage due to heavy rain and lightning; Honda and the Tequila Patron ESM team once again proved to be an unstoppable force in the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship, winning the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in a thrilling multi-car battle that featured more than 30 lead changes and raged right to the checkered flags.
Tonight's victory for Honda and the ESM team followed the triumph by the same combination in January's Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway, giving Honda and ESM a very rare sweep of the two classic North American endurance sports car races.
The star of the Daytona race, 22-year-old Pipo Derani, again delivered in the final hours Saturday night at Sebring. Emerging in fifth place following the final round of pit stops, and with just over 40 minutes of racing remaining, Derani took his Ligier JSP2 Honda past the similar Michael Shank Racing Ligier Honda of Olivier Pla, then moved into third ahead of the DragonSpeed racing machine of Nicolas Lapierre.
A final, brief caution period then set up a 12-minute dash to the checkers, with Derani getting a strong restart to pass first the Action Express car of Felipe Albuquerque, then Dane Cameron's race-leading Action Express machine. Derani then opened up a narrow, but solid 2.92-second lead to take the victory, which he shared with co-drivers Scott Sharp, Johannes van Overbeek and Ed Brown.
The win saw Honda and ESM go back-to-back in the opening two races of the 2016 WeatherTech SportsCar Championship – Daytona and Sebring – giving Honda its first overall race victories at both classic sports car endurance racing events.
As at Daytona, the Michael Shank Racing Ligier Honda of Ozz Negri, John Pew and Olivier Pla also challenged for the victory, with only a suspension failure just two laps from the finish dropping it from a potential podium finish.
On Friday, Honda started the Sebring race weekend off on a winning note with a 1-2 finish in the Street Tuner division of the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race. Owen Trinkler and Sarah Cattaneo drove their Honda Civic Si to victory in the two hour, 30-minute contest over the similar Honda Civic Si of Chad Gilsinger and Michael Valiante.
Video News Releases from this weekend's Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and companion Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race can be found on the "Honda Racing/HPD Trackside" YouTube channel. Produced by the Carolinas Production Group, the video packages can be found in the 2016 HPD Trackside Video Playlist at: https://www.youtube.com/HondaRacingHPDTV.
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship resumes April 16 with the first of two temporary street circuit events on the 2016 schedule, the Grand Prix of Long Beach in Southern California.
Pipo Derani (#2 Tequila Patron ESM Ligier Honda) Sebring race winner : "When I saw I was in fifth place [after the last round of pit stops], it was tough. I had to make some really big moves, in a very short period of time. But I thought to myself, 'You have to go for it. Who knows when you will be in this position [able to win the race] again?' In the end, it all worked out. The other guys fought hard, but with respect, and that was really nice. To have a race like that, at the end of a very long day and night, was very special."
Steve Eriksen (Vice President and COO, Honda Performance Development) on tonight's victory: "After an exciting victory like this, there are congratulations to be handed out all around. First, we congratulate Tequila Patron ESM, obviously, for their great victory tonight, and also at the 24 Hours of Daytona in January. But we also have to thank Mike Shank and his entire team, who fought incredibly hard today for the victory and never gave up, right to the finish. They showed true Honda Racing spirit. Then, there are all our HPD associates, who worked so hard to give our customer teams the equipment they needed to contend for the victory. HPD started prototype racing with an LMP2 class victory here at Sebring in 2007, and tonight closes out our 'P2 era' with overall wins at both Daytona and Sebring, one of the few times the same manufacturer has won both classic races in the same year. To win overall, at such a historic venue, after 10 years of sports prototype competition, is very, very rewarding, and makes us excited about the future of the category in North America."
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SOURCE Honda Racing