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Scandia Ferrari claims Sebring win

You could tell almost from the beginning that the 45th annual 12 Hours of Sebring was going to be a tight race.

And if you looked closely enough, you could figure out which cars were going to make it that way.

It was on the end of the first circuit around the 17-turn, 3.6-mile track that James Weaver, driving the No. 16 Team Dyson Riley & Scott Ford, made contact with the pole-sitting No. 3 Team Scandia Ferrari.

The Ferrari, driven by three-time LeMans winner Yannick Dalmas, immediately dove into the pits to fix a flat rear left tire and returned in 16th.

Less than an hour later, Dalmas had his car back in front of Weaver and the rest of the field, setting up one of the closest finishes in Sebring history. And when the checkered flag fell, it was Dalmas and Fermin Velez, Andy Evans and Stefan Johansson exacting revenge over Weaver, Butch Leitzinger, Andy Wallace and John Paul Jr. by 47.465 seconds.

That margin, which goes in the books as the third closest in the 12 Hours, was as close as 16 seconds with four laps to go but the Dyson Ford was forced to pit to top off with gas to finish the race.

"At Daytona I didn't feel like a loser; I was very happy to have lost to a team like Dyson," said Evans, noting that Scandia and Dyson reversed the order of their finish at the 24 Hours of Daytona in February. "This was one of the closest finishes I've ever seen. It's like the '60s, Ford and Ferrari. It feels great."

Once Dalmas, who earned his first Sebring win, got his car back up front about 11:30, it began a battle with the Dyson Ford that would not end until that final pit stop.

One of the two World Sports Cars led every hour from the sixth hour on _ which is to be expected between two teams with six Sebring victories between them. Experience, indeed, made a difference.

"Very important. Especially on a night like tonight where there is so much traffic," Team Dyson driver Wallace said. "It's very easy to get hit, as a couple of cars have found out already tonight."

The race was slowed by nine caution flags totaling three hours, including a red flag that halted the event due to an accident involving the Porsche Turbo driven by Bill Adam. He was not injured.

In the GTS-1 class, Jack Baldwin, George Robinson and Irv Hoerr drove their Oldsmobile Aurora to the win after a second-hour mishap. Martin Snow, Peter Kitchak and Phillip Collin drove their Porsche 911 to Victory Lane in GTS-2.

The No. 10 BMW M3 driven by Bill Auberlen, Tom Hessert, Javier Quiros and Boris Said won when the No. 50 Porsche 911 encountered mechanical problems that dropped it to sixth in the class.

CRAFTSMAN TRUCK SERIES: Joe Ruttman, who hadn't won a pole since 1995, raced his Ford to the No. 1 starting position for today's Florida Dodge Dealers 400 at Homestead.

BUSCH GRAND NATIONAL: Joe Bessey led second-round qualifying for the Las Vegas 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Bessey, driving a Chevrolet, averaged 156.191 mph to earn the 26th starting spot.

_ Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.