Vasser Sullivan Racing took the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Cadillac pole position and victory in GTD PRO, but it wasn’t quite that straightforward. On the final restart, and in less than a lap, Jack Hawksworth battled from third to the lead in the No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3 he shared with Ben Barnicoat and Kyle Kirkwood, a nice recovery from a disastrous Rolex 24 that saw them out of the race early.

The defending champion had to get by Daniel Juncadella in the No. 3 Corvette Racing by Pratt Miller Motorsports Z06 GT3.R and then Daniel Serra in the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 296 GT3 within several corners — a run to a 0.121s margin of victory that had Barnicoat and Kirkwood both averting their eyes and screaming with delight.

“We knew it was going to be a battle,” said Hawksworth. “These long races, you have to do everything perfectly. Everyone has to do their job absolutely perfectly just to be there to even have a chance at the end. Then you just hope that the cards fall your way. We had a tough day. But the team, we made good steps over the off-season. We wanted to come and show what we could do, right? This has been a proper bounceback.

“Today everyone was perfect. We had the one drive-through early in the race, a wobble there . Other than that it was rock solid all day. The guys on pit lane were unbelievable all day. Ben and Kyle were absolutely monsters out there. Yeah, we ended up in the fight there at the end. Come out on top. I couldn’t be prouder of everybody.”

The victory was the first for the team since Watkins Glen last July, and the second endurance racing victory for Lexus. And the final half-hour had the pit box on the edge of their seats.

“It was insane,” said Kirkwood. “I’ve never screamed so much in my life over any instance in racing, other than probably today. It’s a different feeling being a part of a car when you’re not in it and you’re relying on someone else to go do it. For us, we’re screaming like, ‘C’mon, Jack!’ Yeah, that was a cool moment for the team, right? Of course, the win was great. Everyone was hooting and hollering then. During that last bit, we knew that he needed to get it done right there to hang on to the lead. That was probably the moment that would have won us or lost us the race.”

Serra, Davide Rigon and James Calado finished second. A late-race battle between Juncadella and Laurin Heinrich in the No. 77 AO Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R sent Juncadella off track and out of the race, while Heinrich received a drive-through penalty, handing third to the Iron Lynx Lamborghini squad of Mirko Bortolotti, Jordan Pepper and Frank Perera.

Winward Racing ran a near-flawless race to come from the back of the grid to the lead, controlling most of the race to take its second consecutive win in GTD, and its third in four races going back to Indianapolis Motor Speedway last season.

Philip Ellis had qualified the No. 57 Mercedes AMG on pole, but the car was moved to the back due to unapproved sensors on the car. Nevertheless, the team was at the front by the end of the second hour, and Ellis, Russell Ward and Indy Dontje controlled the race from there.

“We knew we had the car for it,” said Ward. “We just wanted to keep our heads clean. We started off the season in such a great form winning Daytona. Our goal really was just to get the maximum amount of points that we could out of this race. This track really suits this race car well. The Mercedes-AMG gives you a ton of confidence here. You need it at Sebring — a dangerous racetrack. A lot of chances to make a mistake. The crew performed flawlessly. No mistakes on their part. Few mistakes on the drivers’ part. Came out on the top.”

Winward is on quite a role after a rough start to last season, and full-timers Ward and Ellis are eager to keep it going.

“I think all of us have the speed to go to where we want to be,” declared Ellis. “We just have to have clean races, not take too much risk like sometimes we did last year, unfortunately. I think we all learned from the mistakes, not only as drivers, but the team as well. It just matured into a more successful team. I think as long as everybody pulls in the same direction, we’ll be up there again.”

The No. 47 Cetilar Racing Ferrari 296 GT3 of Roberto Lacorte, Antonio Fuoco and Giorgio Sernagiotto languished in the middle of the race, but it came to them after sunset. In the closing stages, Fuoco had to get past Elliot Skeer in the No. 120 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R to claim second and pursue Ellis, but came 0.646s short of following up Cetilar’s 2022 victory in the race.

After starting 13th in GTD, Skeer, Adam Adelson and Jan Heylen had the Wright Motorsports Porsche in contention for most of the race, bouncing in and out of the front as the team’s off-sequence pit stops moved them to the middle of the field and back. In the end a third place was a solid reward for the day’s work.