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  • Writer's pictureRACERS

Early end to promising 12H of Sebring for Ashton Harrison

"We really had a strong car and had a lot of potential and the chance at the podium." - After a pole position, Ashton Harrison's promising 12 Hours of Sebring ended with four hours and a half to go, having been caught up in a car stack-up with no fault of her own.

Photo credits: Acura Motorsport

Coming off a very positive Rolex 24H at Daytona, the Racers Edge Motorsports with WTRAndretti trio of Ashton Harrison, Danny Formal and Kyle Marcelli came into the second round of the IMSA season full of excitement and ready to put on a fight in the GTD class.

At the season opener, the drivers of the #93 Harrison Contracting Company Acura NSX GT3 Evo22 - joined by former Indycar racer Ryan Briscoe for the occasion - were in contention for a class podium until the very final laps of the race, when a power steering issue dropped them to sixth. Yet, the speed shown at Daytona was a promising sign for Harrison's first IMSA campaign - and momentum was carried onto Sebring since free practice.

In the first practice, Harrison, Formal and Marcelli were second fastest in class, less than a tenth adrift the leading Wright Motorsports Porsche. A fourth and fifth place in the following sessions again hinted that the #93 Acura will be a strong contender for the GTD front-running positions in the race.

On Friday, Kyle Marcelli took the helm of the red NSX for qualifying and the Canadian sealed a spectacular pole position in GTD, ahead of Philip Ellis (Winward Racing #57/Mercedes) and Mikael Grenier (Team Korthoff Motorsports #32 /Mercedes).

"We knew we had a strong team, strong car, and strong driver lineup coming into Sebring", said Marcelli, after a red flag in the closing minutes of qualifying sealed the deal for his class pole position. "The weekend started off great. We were quick in all of the practices, top five every time. And then we snagged the pole and everything was looking good."

The Canadian driver took the start in the #93 Acura and successfully held the top spot in the first laps - soon interrupted by the first Safety Car only 2 minutes into the 12 hour race.

Marcelli mingled with the GTD Pro entries and moved into third among all the GT3 cars, pulling away from second-placed Telitz.

Around the one hour mark, Marcelli stayed out when the first round of pit stops for the GTD class started - and was forced to go off sequence when a caution was deployed just before he could pit. Ashton Harrison was then in the driving seat when the pit lane opened, but the #93 Acura was at that point sixth in class following the FCY.

Photo credits: Wayne Taylor Racing

Harrison managed to climb back to fourth at the restart and, after a battle with the GTD pro Pfaff Porsche of Klaus Bachler, she lapped on par with the top-2 cars in class. After a one hour stint, Harrison handed over to Danny Formal following another safety car, Seventh at the start of his stint, Formal would make it back into the top five and then, after passing the #16 Wright Motorsports Porsche, regained fourth place. The #93 Harrison Contracting Acura cycled into the lead during the pit stop stages, with several cars off sequence. Ashton Harrison climbed back behind the wheel, as the red NSX swung between second and seventh place in between pit stops. Danny Formal was back in the car on lap 118 - despite a brief off at Turn 1, the Costa Rican rejoined without damage and continued to log good laps. The #32 Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes led most of the first part of the race in GTD, ahead of the #57 Winward Mercedes. Formal, Marcelli and Harrison kept their nose clean throughout the extreme heat of the day, waiting for temperatures to drop at sunset. The warmest weather also influenced strategies, as most drivers alternated every one-hour stint. The sixth and seventh hour of racing were highly disrupted by Full Course Yellows and Harrison got back behind the wheel on lap 182, from eighth place. Unfortunately, an accident during yet another restart, caused a stack up of cars at Turn 3 and Harrison had nowhere to go to avoid a contact just in front of her. The hood of the #93 Acura NSX GT3 EVO22 flew off and, with significant damage to the front end of the car, the team was forced to call the early retirement. "This is just such a super unfortunate way to end the weekend having such strong results in practice and qualifying, with Kyle laying down a monster lap to get the pole in GTD in our Harrison Contracting Acura NSX GT3 Evo" - Harrison commented. "I feel like we were in a really good spot up to that point in the race. We really had a strong car and had a lot of potential and the chance at the podium", she continued, as the #93 Acura had shown great speed once the temperatures dropped. "There are a lot of things that can happen in a 12-hour race and to that point, we were part of the mix." "But then contact from an incident that we just couldn’t avoid took us out of the race altogether." - she recalled. There was nothing Harrison could have done to avoid the pile up at the restart with four and a half hours to go. "I know the Racers Edge Motorsports with WTRAndretti crew will have us ready for our next event", Ashton added. "I’m super thankful for all of their hard work this weekend, all of the crew over the wall, our engineers gave us some great strategy, and we really had the opportunity. I’m disappointed we really couldn’t showcase all of that here at Sebring. We’ll be ready to push for the podium at Watkins Glen.” A IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup entry, the #93 Harrison Contracting Company Acura will in fact return to the track at the Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen on June 25th.

Photo credits: Acura Motorsport



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