There was no shortage of excitement this past weekend at Sebring International Raceway as Cadillac rolled into Florida three cars deep. Two of the new hybrid V-Series.R race cars ran in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship 12 Hours Of Sebring race in the GTP class, while a lone Cadillac V-Series.R ran in the FIA WEC 1,000 Miles Of Sebring in the Hypercar class.
The SuperSebring event combines the FIA WEC and IMSA races into a single weekend. In addition, this is the second event of the 2023 season for the all-new hybrid-powered Cadillac V-Series.R race cars. Powered by a hybrid system that uses a naturally aspirated 5.5-liter dual-overhead-cam engine combined with an electric motor unit from Bosch, the V-Series.R produces 680 horsepower. This combination is entirely new for the class, and January’s 24 Hours Of Daytona race gave the Cadillac teams a lot of data to help improve upon, and improve they did.
The action kicked off on Wednesday, March 15, with open practice for the FIA WEC categories. Thursday saw open practices begin for the IMSA categories, along with qualifying for the FIA WEC 1,000 Miles Of Sebring. Next, the IMSA teams took their shot at qualifying on Friday before the FIA WEC race began in the afternoon. Finally, Saturday showcased the IMSA classes doing battle for 12 hours on the 17-turn, 3.741-mile road course.
Looking to build upon its impressive racing debut in the 24 Hours Of Daytona back in January, Cadillac was optimistic for its three teams heading into the Super Sebring weekend. The #02 Cadillac was the lone entry in the FIA WEC race. Prepared by Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR) and driven by Earl Bamber, Richard Westbrook, and Alex Lynn, the team qualified its V-Series.R in the fifth starting position. Although not as high a starting position as the team was shooting for, the speed and reliability of the hybrid Cadillac definitely stood out.
We have a solid car, and we can’t wait to get to the rest of the WEC season and the IMSA season and show the world how great it is. – Laura Wontrop Klauser, GM sportscar racing program manager
Meanwhile, in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, all eyes were on the two Cadillac V-Series.R cars as they dominated the field in qualifying. The #31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac fielded by Action Express Racing (AXR), driven by Pipo Derani and co-drivers Jack Aitken and Alex Sims, managed to take the pole position by a very narrow margin of 0.087-seconds over the Chip Ganassi Racing-prepared #01 Cadillac, driven by Scott Dixon, Sebastien Bourdais, and Renger van der Zande.
On Friday, the #02 Cadillac took to the track along with ten other hybrid Hypercar entries to battle in the FIA WEC 1,000 Miles Of Sebring race. The competition was close, with the Cadillac running as high as third on several occasions. However, in the end, Bamber closed out the race’s final miles and finished just 10 seconds behind the final podium position to take fourth.
Saturday saw an all-Cadillac front row to start the IMSA 12 Hours Of Sebring. Unfortunately, the drama and excitement didn’t take long to begin in the GTP class, with Derani and his Whelen Cadillac involved in an early crash with an LMP3 class car. The incident required Dirani to pit to replace the front of the Cadillac’s carbon body and its tires before bouncing back through the field.
On multiple occasions, the two Cadillac teams took turns leading the race. However, at the nine-hour mark, the #01 Cadillac was forced to pit while leading due to a mechanical fire that ultimately resulted in the team finishing almost 80 laps off the pace. On the other end of the spectrum, the #31 Whelen Cadillac with Aitken at the wheel running in fourth was fortunate to avoid a pile-up that took out the three GTP class cars ahead of him. This allowed Aitken to run away in the final moments of the race and get the win for the AXR Whelen Engineering Cadillac team, making this the fourth time Pipo Derani has stood atop the podium at Sebring.
Cadillac is showing that it can run at the front of the GTP and Hypercar classes. It’s also showcasing the performance potential of hybrid electric race cars in motorsports. From here, the FIA WEC teams are headed overseas for the 6 Hours Of Portimão in Portugal on April 14, 2023. Meanwhile, the IMSA teams will be on the West coast that same weekend for the Acura Grand Prix Of Long Beach in Long Beach, California.