After an intense late-race restart Era Motorsport landed on the podium for the LMP2 class at the 2023 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, despite spending the majority of the race attempting to recover from the back of the field.
With less than 10 minutes left on the clock, Christian Rasmussen, in his third ever LMP2 start, passed two cars to take the team from a successful comeback to the lead lap even further into an unexpected, and much-welcomed podium finish shared with team mates Ryan Dalziel and Dwight Merriman.
The race week started off strong for Era Motorsport with three practice sessions, two of which were led by the team, with the third putting the team second fastest in class. While the No. 18 qualified at the back of the field, the pace was very close and the outlook was promising that the team would continue the trend of podium-after-podium at the historic 12 hour race.
Unfortunately, on one of the opening laps of the race, a spin put the No. 18 further on the back foot, and various drive-through penalties brought their deficit to the leading car to over two laps.
With memories of a similar situation at the Rolex 24 at Daytona just months earlier starting to come back, the team went into action and started pushing as hard as they could to make sure Sebring would still bring redemption over the tragic retirement that started the season.
While hard work and determination payed off by finally getting back onto the lead lap and taking fifth place by the closing hours of the race, the final restart would see Christian Rasmussen finishing a triple stint by overtaking two more cars in the space of about one lap with under ten minutes left in the race, taking a class podium, and fifth overall.
Dalziel, who watched the final portion of the race intently from the team pit box said, “Oh man, what a crazy last hour. Nine hours of trying to get ourselves out of a hole, and then it just suddenly started to make sense.
“The car was fast, the team did a great job, and then Christian just brought it home for us there in the last couple laps, and we got some good points for the championship!.”
Rasmussen said of the race, “I mean, we spent the whole race basically in last place trying to get those laps back that we lost, and then it literally came down to the last hour.
“On the last restart I found myself in a good position, and ready to send it. I had good tires, I had good fuel, and I was ready to go. I just took all the opportunities that came my way, and then we ended up in third.
“It’s my first time finishing an endurance race, and I finished on the podium! So hopefully there'll be many more of these to come in the future.
“I’d like to thank everyone at Era Motorsports and Kyle Tilley, Sarah Tilly, and everyone involved for giving me this opportunity, and without them I wouldn't be here.”
Team mate Dwight Merriman was also impressed by the late-race success, not only because of Rasmussen’s abilities, but because of the strength of field.
“It was a tough race,” said Merriman, “and I think the team did a great job finishing where we did. I was kind of impressed that there were five LMP2 cars on the lead lap after 12 hours, and just seconds apart.”
“It was one of the best races of the day as far as the classes go. So I think it's really cool that the LMP2 class was that competitive in terms of the race.”
Team-owner Kyle Tilley who has podiumed four times at the Twelve Hours of Sebring is equally as impressed with, and proud of the race the team put together.
“Honestly, I think we were all super proud of our efforts when we reached fifth place on the lead lap,” he said.
“For Christian to take a triple stint to finish the race, and then put us on the podium after trying to claw back time all day was unbelievable, especially in his third race in the car!
“At Daytona we had probably the fastest car, but weren’t able to make our comeback due to motor issues, here we were able to make good on that effort. If this race doesn’t show the threat we are in LMP2 this year, I don’t know what will.”