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Era Motorsport does it Again at Sebring 12 Hour

SEBRING, FLORIDA (MARCH, 17 2024) — After a 12 hour roller coaster of track position and emotion, Era Motorsport has managed to tick off a second win in the 2024 IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship at Sebring International Raceway.

The trio of racing prodigy Connor Zilisch, sportscar legend Ryan Dalziel, and LMP2 stalwart Dwight Merriman drove the No. 18 Era Motorsport Oreca 07 LMP2 car 330 laps and 1234.5 miles to take the checkered flag in their class.

The car started tenth on the grid out of a class of thirteen, but in the first few hours of the race Merriman and Dalziel snaked their way through the field, quickly finding their way to second place by the end of Dalziel’s first stint.

The team hit a rough patch not long after the third hour of the race when a spin and a poorly timed caution from a separate incident landed the team back in their starting position of 10th. Despite this, the Era crew persevered and found themselves back in the lead by hour nine with Zilisch at the helm.

With three hours left to go, Zilisch swapped out for Dalziel, only for a GTP to go off track in front of the No. 18, causing debris to block off the radiators.

With a quickly overheating motor, the team had no choice but to pit early, clear out the blockage, and drop once again back to tenth place.

The comeback of a lifetime came two hours later when in just two laps, the team moved from eighth to first in the space of just two laps thanks to an incredible pit strategy on the final refuel from engineers Scott Besst and Nico Brisseau.

With the lead in-hand, the final hour was a mix of Zilisch cruising under caution, and maintaining a gap of a few seconds over the rest of the field as he made his way to his second career IWSC win in as many starts.

“It's an honor for the team to trust me, give me the chance to go out there and show them what I have at the end,” Zilisch said after the race Saturday night. “Scott and Nico were on it with the strategy calls all day. It was really tough to pass out there. It was kind of just whoever could get track position, get to the lead, was going to end up winning.”

“At about an hour to go, we were all running in a train. I think I was seventh. I knew I wasn't going to pass them, so I just started saving fuel, was going to wait for the last pit stop. I saved enough to get back. I took the lead when I came back out. It takes a team effort. Ryan and Dwight did a great job. We kept the car clean all day.”

“Pretty unreal to get two wins in my first two WeatherTech starts. It's been a dream come true. I've definitely had worse days in my life.”

While the win would be the first at Sebring for Zilisch, Dalziel was finally able to nail down his second win at his hometown track.

“It’s just an incredible start to the season,” Dalziel said of sweeping the Florida events. 

“We kept getting to the back and getting to the front, then getting to the back and getting to the front. 

We were forced to go off-sequence with the debris in the radiators, and didn’t realize at the time that it was going to be setting us up for this.”

“It was just a mega job from Era, and a great call from Scott Besst and Nico Brisseau, our strategists, to get it out front, and the kid just drove his best and we did the double. It’s pretty cool, I don’t remember the last time anybody did this, I certainly have never done it.”

“This is the race that has haunted us for four seasons, so I’m glad we could get the top step!” 

And of course, equally as impressive would be Merriman scratching off the second event of the Endurance Triple Crown.

“I'm super happy because every time I've been here before, we podiumed but never won.” Merriman explained, “First time I was really excited. The third time it was like, am I ever going to win this race or not?”

“It's definitely so much a team sport. I drive first, so I'm trying to hand it to them without damage. If there's a hole in the floor, it's not as fast in the last hour. You're in trouble.”

“The team did a great job, engineering, mechanics, the whole crew. All of our pit stops seemed flawless. Mistakes were not made. The prep on the car was phenomenal. The development of the car was the same. 

Matching Merriman’s excitement for finally getting a win at Sebring was team-owner Kyle Tilley, who has been chasing this win for years.

“So for me, first off, this is the one win that I wanted so badly coming into this season,” he said. “We’ve never ever not been on the podium here.”

“36 Hours of Florida winners! That sounds pretty good! We might need to get a sticker made for the truck or something like that!

“I’ve been on the podium here every time I’ve raced here as a driver, but always second, or always third. So to finally get the win for the team with Dwight, Ryan, and Connor, the crew, and also myself feels like a massive monkey off our back. 

“The strategy from Scott and Nico was faultless. It was such cool fun to be part of that strategy call, to watch it come to life.”

“But in all seriousness, this is Dwight’s last year for the LMP2 car, at least in the US, so this looks great for us to any prospective bronzes want to go racing to have rocked up and shown that Era Motorsport is one of the best teams in the world for LMP2 means a lot. I can’t thank everybody enough.”

Joining the drivers on the podium was one more vital team member, team Manager Jonathan Broadwell, who has been working behind the scenes for a year to make big wins like this possible.

“Honestly, it's pretty surreal,” he said. “I never thought we would be here.” 

“To win Daytona was always a goal of mine, to win Sebring as a follow up just reinforces everything we worked hard for.”

“It’s all the countless hours, there’s just so much that goes into it that it’s hard to describe, but it’s a great feeling to know that we’ve come this far. I really want to keep up the momentum, and bring home the championship!”

Speaking of the championship, Era Motorsport lead the points coming into Sebring after their Daytona win in January, but have now extended their lead with a total of 741 points to second place’s 614 points.

The next LMP2 race in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship is the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen on June 25, 2024, where the team will be looking to take a third race in a row as they fight for the 2024 IWSC.

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