Nissan-powered ESM team wins the 12 Hours of Sebring
This marks the fifth time Nissan has won the grueling 12-hour enduro
SEBRING, Florida – With its convincing win at Saturday's 12 Hours of Sebring, the No. 22 ESM machine of Pipo Derani, Johannes Van Overbeek and Nicolas Lapierre gave Nissan its fifth victory in this historically challenging Florida sports car race.
Starting the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race in fourth position, the Nissan-powered No. 22 prototype withstood the rigors of the bumpy circuit and raced into the night, eventually finishing more than 12 seconds ahead of the nearest competitor.
En route to scoring Nissan's first win at Sebring since 1994, the No. 22 prototype led 158 of the 344 laps. The victory for ESM and Nissan follows other big IMSA wins last year at Road America and Road Atlanta.
The ESM entry took the lead on lap 76 and held the top spot on 11 occasions during the 12-hour enduro, including the final 22 laps before the checkered flag.
For the record, Nissan took its first win at Sebring in 1989, with the Nissan GTP ZX-Turbo. The GTP-ZX Turbo racked up another win there in 1990, and the Nissan NPT-90 made it three in a row with a victory at the Florida track in 1991. Then, in 1994, a 300ZX driven by Johnny O' Connell, Steve Millen and John Morton took the overall win.
This year's win capped off an up-and-down day for the team. The No. 2 car of Scott Sharp, Ryan Dalziel and Oliver Pla started on the front row, but retired from the race following contact on the first turn of the first lap.
Nevertheless, team owner Scott Sharp was happy. “Just wow. What a great day," said Sharp. "We needed this so badly”
Added Sharp: “We were heartbroken after Daytona. To win a major endurance race is amazing. These guys just did a great job and with flawless moves. The pit stops were great, the car performed, and Nissan did a fabulous job. We needed this.”
For driver Pipo Derani, who took the car to the checkered flag, the race took on a personal meaning with the Brazilian dedicating the win to his ill father at home.
"Just unbelievable," Derani said. "This victory goes to my dad who is watching us back in Brazil and is fighting for his health. I'm just so happy to be able to win and know that he's watching my race. I just have to thank the entire team for giving me this opportunity to win again and win in front of him."
The Nissan-powered ESM team will be back in action April 13-14 at the Bubba Burger Sports Car Grand Prix of Long Beach.
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