Wright drivers celebrate Sebring win despite failed shock

Wright Motorsports’ Pat Long, Ryan Hardwick and Jan Heylen were left stunned by a Sebring 12 Hour GTD-class win that came despite the handicap of shock absorber failure at quarter distance.

Wright drivers celebrate Sebring win despite failed shock

The team’s endurance race third driver Heylen took pole by a stunning 0.7sec, and in his opening race stint in the Porsche 911 GT3R was able to pull 20sec clear of the opposition, although this was reduced to virtually nothing during a caution period.

However, after taking the wheel for the first time, Bronze-rated Wright Motorsports full-timer Ryan Hardwick would eventually find himself struggling to get the car to turn through right-handers due to excess vibration at the left-rear of the rear-engined car. Subsequently, he fell down the order, even before becoming the victim of the #4 Corvette spewing water on the track on the run down to Turn 17, a situation that also caused the two Lexus RC Fs to crash and the Hardpoint Racing Audi R8 to skid straight on.

Hardwick recovered from the spin but still suffered through the car’s inherent mechanical issue at the rear end.

“I drove the car for three hours and I was like 'Guys, it’s really bad'. I'm not the best at diagnosing the problems… like – “It goes left really good but I can't get through [Turn] 17 to save my life! And Pat gets in it finally after I struggle, and in 10 minutes he's like, 'Fellas, we have a shock going down'.”

Asked when the shock absorber failed, Long replied: “Just after Ryan did a tremendous triple stint, I jumped in, assessed it, thought I knew what it was. On the next yellow [the team] pulled the left rear wheel off and inspected it and understood what the implications would be for a shock change and decided we had enough pace even with that so we went for it.

“It wasn't easy. The car would start to porpoisem especially in the high speed right hand corners and you never really knew where it was going to end, especially at the end of Turn 17. So Jan and I basically tag teamed. There were a lot of different strategies out there, a lot of pace from all different cars, just difficult to fight because you really didn't know where the car was going to land and we didn't want to take anybody out. So it was a tricky day for sure.

“Basically the car was very difficult in left to rights, there was a lot of cross weight, locking of front wheels, and just tremendous migraine headache from bouncing my head off the roll bar! It’s a testament to the car because literally everything on the left rear was compressed and shaken to bits. These cars are built tough. I love the Porsche people who said, 'Oh yeah, you'll be fine!'

 

Photo by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images

“The axles were taking a beating, there was a lot of wheel spin because the car would start bouncing and the rear wheels would lose contact with the road.”

After a brave pass around the outside of Mario Farnbacher in the Acura NSX of GTD champions Meyer Shank Racing, Long was running third at the final restart when Lawson Aschenbach in the Riley Motorsports Mercedes-Benz AMG GT3 made a rare mistake that saw him run into the GTLM class-leading BMW M8 of Connor de Phillippi that sent the BMW onto the grass and collecting the GTD-leading Ferrari 488 of Scuderia Corsa. The impact also damaged the Mercedes’ front end, allowing the Wright Porsche to duck through into the lead, although Long then had to fight off a challenge from Roman de Angelis in the Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage.

“He had actually passed me on the back straightaway through a kind

of a check up after that incident on that restart lap,” said Long, for whom this was a fourth Sebring win. “I was able to cut underneath him in Turn 17. Once I got into clean air, I just set sail and put absolute qualifying laps in. The way that all these cars make their pace is different and for us it’s about being in clean air and making the braking zones count. We don't really have the straight line speed, so in the end it was just about digging in.”

The result lifted Long and Hardwick from fourth to second in the GTD championship, just two points behind Farnbacher and Matt McMurry, having scored three other podium finishes, three more top fives and never having finished lower than ninth.

Former Champ Car racer Heylen commented: "Sebring's never easy. It sure was a tough race for us tonight. We had good pace despite the shock issue we had, which set up for a tough race for all of us.

“Every stint was a battle, which Sebring always is, and that's why we all come here and love it.

“Great win for the team, for these guys next to me and I'm just happy to be a part of it.”

 

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

shares
comments
Mazda’s Sebring win “a huge result” says Tincknell

Previous article

Mazda’s Sebring win “a huge result” says Tincknell

Next article

Ganassi returning to IMSA with Cadillac in 2021

Ganassi returning to IMSA with Cadillac in 2021
Load comments
The significance of the next step in WEC/IMSA convergence Prime

The significance of the next step in WEC/IMSA convergence

Following the latest convergence connection permitting Le Mans Hypercars from the FIA World Endurance Championship to compete against LMDh entries in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship from 2023, it could open up enticing options not only to manufacturers but also for the calendar and race formats

WEC
Jul 13, 2021
Why a Mazda IMSA Prototype title would bring bitter joy Prime

Why a Mazda IMSA Prototype title would bring bitter joy

Can Mazda win this year’s IMSA Prototype championship? Undoubtedly. But it will be the culmination of an achingly hard struggle, after which the brand has decided to quit. David Malsher-Lopez tells the story of a bizarre blend of heartache and positivity.

IMSA
Apr 6, 2021
The GTE dilemma that IMSA has created for the WEC Prime

The GTE dilemma that IMSA has created for the WEC

The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s decision to scrap its GT Le Mans class for 2022 raises the question of whether the FIA World Endurance Championship should phase out GTE cars. But it's a much harder decision than it appears on the surface.

WEC
Feb 3, 2021
Nine things to watch at the 2021 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona Prime

Nine things to watch at the 2021 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona

After a 100-minute sprint race to whet the appetite, the 2021 IMSA SportsCar Championship gets underway properly this weekend. With plenty of significant changes during the winter, here are the key points you need to keep an eye on

IMSA
Jan 29, 2021
Why Magnussen is relishing a fresh start in sportscars Prime

Why Magnussen is relishing a fresh start in sportscars

Having gone over seven years without a race win through spells with McLaren, Renault and Haas, Kevin Magnussen's departure from Formula 1 for IMSA with big-hitters Chip Ganassi Racing could give him what he craves most - a chance of success

IMSA
Jan 29, 2021
Oliver Gavin's Corvette Racing highlights Prime

Oliver Gavin's Corvette Racing highlights

Oliver Gavin has stepped down from the full-time Corvette Racing line-up after a stellar career with the team spanning nearly 20 years. He looks back on a stint that encompassed, among other successes, five Le Mans 24 Hours victories.

Le Mans
Jan 28, 2021
How Tandy joined an exclusive club of endurance legends Prime

How Tandy joined an exclusive club of endurance legends

Victory at last year's Spa 24 Hours meant Nick Tandy had completed the unofficial sextuple crown of the world's six biggest endurance races, becoming the first Briton to do so. Ahead of his fresh start with Corvette Racing, he explains how he did it…

Le Mans
Jan 24, 2021
The 12 greatest Sebring 12 Hours ranked Prime

The 12 greatest Sebring 12 Hours ranked

The 2020 edition of the Florida sportscar classic is finally taking place this weekend, eight months after its traditional date in March. That meant there was plenty of time for Motorsport.com to pour over its previous 67 races and select the best.

IMSA
Nov 11, 2020