A wiring issue put the defending race winners down in the field but the team kept on fighting, earning valuable points
SEBRING, Fla. (18 March 2023) – Sean Creech Motorsport (SCM) came into the 71st Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring with high hopes, looking to repeat its race winning effort from last season. Unfortunately, a lap one incident and an electrical issue ended the chance for a repeat victory.
Race two of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship got off to a rough start for the SCM team, which came into the weekend as the Michelin Endurance Cup leaders (the race-within-a-race that awards points in the four endurance classics). In the inevitable chaos in turn one, Willsey had to get hard on the brakes which caused the back end of the car to come around. Clipped by another car, Willsey headed for pit lane for a new nose, but then a penalty for getting service in a closed pit forced him to do another trip down pit lane, which put the team two laps down.
During the first yellow flag, Willsey got that lap back and headed to pit lane for service and a change to Barbosa.
Setting lap times among the leaders, Barbosa slugged his way forward. When another yellow came out, he stayed out until the leaders pitted, putting himself back on the lead lap. It was only for a moment, however, as a loss of telemetry in the cockpit necessitated a master-switch recycle in the pit box and a push to engage the clutch.
Barbosa was a man on a mission. Putting down laps that were over three seconds faster than the leaders, he got the team back on the lead lap.
When Barbosa handed the car back to Willsey, he was not able to engage first gear. Taking the car back to the garage, the mechanics began their search for the issue and found that a short in the wiring loom was the cause. The team quickly put the No. 33 back together and Willsey headed back on track – albeit having lost 55 minutes in the race.
Completing his drive time with a double stint, Willsey handed off to Pino who was racing at Sebring for the first time. The 18-year-old Chilean managed traffic perfectly, making solid passes and delivering a strong race pace. Pino, Barbosa, then Willsey took the car into the night, trying to make headway on the field. Willsey clocked his drive time just as darkness fell, disappointed with what might have been.
“I’m not sure exactly what happened on that first lap, but when I got on the brakes, the rear just came around on me,” said Willsey. “It’s on me – things stacked up, I saw a gap and I had to take it. The team did a great job getting the nose on and we got back up to P4, then out of the blue we had an electrical issue. I feel bad for the team and our supporters – we had a good car and we would have been in the hunt. It’s always great to be at Sebring: sometimes it works with you, sometimes it works against you.”
Sebring is a tricky 17-turn, 3.74-mile circuit. The mixture of asphalt and concrete, along with cool morning and evening temperatures combined with humid heat in the afternoon makes it one of the toughest tracks in the world on the team engineers. The SCM team kept the car in contention, pace-wise, as the drivers worked to secure as many points as possible.
Pino and Barbosa split the final hours, with Barbosa bringing the car home – and making the pass on the last lap of the race of a car that had retired to finish in seventh position. Barbosa set the team’s fast lap of 1:57.531 on lap 201.
“My first stint, I had an alarm on my steering and everything froze,” said Barbosa. “I had no telemetry at all, I was driving by ear. But the car was good, I was making up time. Then with the electrical problem, it took a while to figure out what it was. But I’m super proud of the team – it would have been easy to just quit, but they kept pushing to get the car back on track, and it was worth it. They kept working through the rest of the race as if we were in the lead, and that’s a testament to them. We didn’t get the result, but the direction we’re going in is good.”
“It was an unfortunate race for us, between the lap one crash and the electrical problem,” said Pinot. “But the team did a great job to keep at it, getting that position on the last lap to get more points. The car was quick, one of the fastest cars on track. So overall, I’m happy with the way we performed, thought the results weren’t there.”
“Tough day all around,” said team principal Sean Creech. “We were able to recover from the lap one incident well, but then had the electrical issue. We’ve had it before, so we tried what worked before, and it didn’t work. When you plug into the car, there’s a list of items to check and it turned out to be something not even on that list – just a bad wiring harness. After that, it was about getting as many points as possible. I thought Billy (Glavin, Jr lll team owner) and the 30 car was going to win but they got taken out and we got past them on that last lap, the hard way. But this crew, they’re the best. They work tirelessly, every one of them.”
SCM thanks partners Exelixis and Focal One for their continued support.