Conquest Racing showed great promise in the coveted 12 Hours of Sebring, as the team looked poised to compete for a second consecutive podium finish in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. However, a late pit speed violation penalty ultimately changed their final outcome, and the team finished in eleventh place in the GTD Class on board the #34 Corsa Horizon Ferrari 296 GT3.

The final classification stands in stark contrast to an otherwise satisfying and competitive event for the group, as teammates Manny Franco, Albert Costa Balboa, and Cédric Sbirrazzuoli  were consistently in the fight for a Top 3 finish for the majority of the endeavor.

A drive-through penalty was issued with just under two hours remaining in the race, dropping the team down the running order from third to eleventh. Albert Costa Balboa was behind the wheel to complete the final stints, and began making progress through the field, gaining back a few positions as the sprint to the finish approached. Another setback came when  the Spaniard had a contact with a competitor and hit heavily the wall in turn 17 in the final 15 minutes of the race, ultimately halting any further progress that could be made.

“This race was a learning experience for me,” said Manny Franco. “I feel like the race went pretty well considering we felt like we were lacking a little bit of pace but nevertheless we were in the fight. If it wasn’t for the late-stage penalty, we would have been able to walk away from Sebring with a really good outcome. However, finishing in eleventh is still a pretty decent result when all is said and done. I’m happy with the team, the pit crew did everything to near-perfection.”

“It was good until it wasn’t,” added Cédric Sbirrazzuoli. “There are still some question marks for us. My last stint was good, then at the end when I came down pit lane, I pressed the pit limiter button but it seemed that it didn’t engage. As a result, when I went back on the power, I exceeded the 60 Km/h speed limit, which resulted in a penalty for the team. It’s a shame because we were fighting for a place on the podium, but the penalty cost us dearly and dropped us out of the Top 10 in the end.”

“ It’s hard not to leave Sebring feeling a bit sad because we truly were in podium contention,” expressed Albert Costa Balboa. “The drive-through penalty dropped us down to eleventh place and the remaining couple of hours just became more difficult to manage. There were numerous cautions, and I had a few contacts with other competitors on the restarts, costing us positions. In the closing stages of the race I had another contact with another car coming out of turn 17 that sent me into the wall, and by that point there was no possibility of recovering up the field any further. This is not how we wanted to end our race, but we will learn from these errors and focus on the positive takeaways in order to work harder and come back stronger for the next one.”

Eric Bachelart concluded: We came to Sebring well prepared and we were in a position to achieve a top 5 result. The pit speed violation penalty and too many on track contacts with other competitors prevented to achieve our goal. We will take the time to debrief on this event, we will reset and focus on our next race coming up in Long Beach.