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Acura stars seeking first wins in Sebring 12 Hours

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Ricky Taylor of Wayne Taylor Racing-Andretti Autosport has one win and two podiums at the event, but his full-time teammate Filipe Albuquerque has a second and two third places, and his endurance teammate Louis Deletraz will be making only his second start in the event and only his fifth start in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

“Sebring is always an epic battle, but the track and the race itself stand out on the schedule as the most grueling and toughest to win,” said Taylor. “Our #10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-06 proved to be up to the challenge in Daytona, and Sebring will put us to an even tougher test. But everyone at WTRAndretti have prepped for it and feel we have a great shot to win.”

Added Albuquerque, “We have been testing at Sebring since the beginning of the Acura ARX-06. We have covered a lot to make sure we have a very competitive car, especially coming from the DPi era where we would struggle at Sebring.

“In my CV, I don’t have a win at Sebring, so a win would come at the right time with the LMDh. I’m looking forward to it. We were the quickest at the official test which shows the level of competitiveness of the car and we will give it our all as always.”

“Sebring is a totally different track to Daytona,” said Louis Deletraz, “and [we have] a lot of new challenges ahead of us. I’m looking forward to being reunited with my team and teammates in the Acura ARX-06. We are leading the championship and the goal is to extend that!”

Despite being beaten by fellow Acura team Meyer Shank Racing in the Rolex 24 in January, WTRAndretti leads the points race due to IMSA punishing MSR for a tire pressure infraction .

“Everybody from WTRAndretti is excited about the 12 Hours of Sebring,” said team owner Wayne Taylor. “It’s one of the races that we haven’t won since 2017 and now that we are leading the championship, it would make it that much sweeter to win here as well.

“We have also been awarded with pit-out which is always a good advantage as the first car on the grid. This usually indicates that you won the last race or are leading the championship. Louis [Deletraz] shook the car down in south Florida this weekend and he said the car is good. HPD have come up with a new engine and software, there has been new BoP , but until we get to the track we don’t know how it’ll affect us.

“We’re pretty positive going in and we have the three best drivers in the paddock. Filipe [LMP2 United Autosports] and Louis [LMP2 WRT] are also doing the WEC race on Friday, so they will have plenty of time to get acclimated the track and Ricky will do the bulk of the practice to prepare for qualifying.

“As for the weather, it’s so weird that we have had no rain in Florida, yet on race day it looks like there is a 99 percent chance of rain. But we’re all in the same boat and it’s really the drivers’ problem. It’s been a tough long break since the Rolex 24, so I’m very excited for the weekend and I can’t wait to see all our sponsors at the track.”

Tom Blomqvist, Colin Braun and four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves will all return to Meyer Shank’s #60 AutoNation / SiriusXM Acura after their win, along with Simon Pagenaud, at the Rolex 24. Braun twice won the Prototype Challenge class in this event, and in 2021 won in LMP3.

He said: “We had a great test at the track a few weeks back where we were able to run through some different setup packages. That helped us understand more about the capabilities of the powerful tools in the Acura LMDh car. Sebring has been a fantastic track for me, so I can’t wait to get to work.”

Blomqvist finished seventh in GTLM class at Sebring in 2019, and fifth last year for MSR in the DPi Acura. Like Albuquerque and Deletraz, he will compete in Friday’s WEC race, for United in LMP2, but said of his IMSA duties, “Sebring is one of, if not the toughest races on the calendar. The track is demanding on the car, the drivers and the team.

“No stone can be left unturned to get a result here. The team has been doing a ton of work behind the scenes to get us ready for this weekend, so let’s see what we can do.”

Remarkably, Castroneves has only run five times at Sebring, the first time so far being the best, when he finished third in LMP2 in Penske’s Porsche RS Spyder in 2007. The last four events at Sebring for Castroneves were onboard an Acura DPi machine, with a best finish of fourth in 2019 when Penske ran the Acura brand.

“Sebring is one of those places that I have not had the privilege to win at yet,” he said. “I have known this track my entire racing life and I am hoping we can change that this year.

“We had some good tests here with the team, so now we will see where that puts us this weekend.”

Rolex 24-winning #60 Meyer Shank Racing w/ Curb Agajanian Acura ARX-06: Tom Blomqvist, Colin Braun, Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud

Photo by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images

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