Toyota dominates, Ferrari wins podium on debut

The Toyota GR010 Hybrid #7 driven by Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez defeated the sister #8 of Sebastian Buemi, Brendan Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa in the WEC opener at Sebring International Raceway.

The #8 car led for the first half of the race, but the #7 took command after a particularly quick lap by Lopez in the fifth hour as Hirakawa took longer to get up to speed. Earlier, Hartley could barely hold on to his lead even when he had to make two pit stops in quick succession in the fourth hour, including one to refuel under a full yellow.

The cars were just half a second apart with 90 minutes remaining when Kobayashi and Buemi took over. But Buemi reported his car had become unmanageable in traffic and had dropped more than 10 seconds as the race entered its final hour, more than doubled after a slow final pit stop, meaning their battle is over and they have gone to a crushing 1-2.

Behind them – two laps back – it was a fierce battle for the final step of the podium. The No. 50 Ferrari 499P, which Antonio Fuoco had qualified on pole, took the early lead, but a strategic decision to field under an early safety car backfired.

He was hit with a puncture on the restart and an additional 5-second penalty for not following proper procedure, while the sister car #51 suffered an additional delay that relegated both to the middle of the Hypercar group.

With two hours remaining, Alessandro Pier Guidi in the #51 car clipped the #54 GTE Am Ferrari 488 of Francesco Castellacci at Turn 15, near the pit entrance, and spun into the #56 Project 1 Porsche, smashing its left rear corner – which Pier Guidi further damage by having to tow the car on three wheels, sending it to the garage for 20 minutes.

#50 Ferrari AF Corse Ferrari 499P: Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina, Niklas Nielsen

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

The Ferraris had previously enjoyed some entertaining on-track battles with the pair of Porsche Penske Motorsport 963s and the single Cadillac V-Series.R, with the latter delayed when Alex Lynn was penalized for not following FCY procedure at the end of Hour 2.

The Cadillac – driven by Lynn, Earl Bamber and Richard Westbrook – just missed out on the podium and chased home the #50 Ferrari of Fuoco, Miguel Molina and Niklas Nielsen, giving the Ferrari a podium finish in the car’s first start.

The Porsche 963s finished fifth and sixth, two laps further back, with the No. 6 of Kevin Estre, André Lotterer and Laurens Vanthor helped in the battle between the teams when the No. 5 of Dane Cameron, Michael Christensen and Frederik Makowiecki earned a penalty for driving in violation of FCY. But an electrical system reset with an hour remaining swapped their places back, so No. 5 prevailed.

Peugeot suffered a disastrous race, with a number of technical problems leaving the two 9X8 LMH cars behind the wall for extended periods. The No. 94 suffered a gearshift problem at the very start of the race, with further problems with the high-voltage energy tank later when the car shared by Loic Duval, Gustavo Menezes and Nico Muller was in the garage for several hours.

The sister #93 car also had problems, with an incident between Mikel Jensen and Esteban Guerrieri’s Vanwall Vandervell 680 compounding the French marque’s misfortune. Jensen was caught when Guerrieri slowed down in response to an FCY period at the end of Hour 3, spinning as a result.

The Vanwall sole cracked in the process and had to pit immediately, but his previously smooth run was spoiled when Jacques Villeneuve suffered a wild spin at Sunset Corner due to suspension failure and the former F1 world champion was forced to tackle back in boxing. But after a refit, the Vanwall bounced back to beat the factory Peugeots.

The lone Glickenhaus retired from the race after Romain Dumas stopped on track at Turn 17 in the second hour with an electrical problem.

#48 Hertz Team Jota Oreca 07 - Gibson: David Beckmann, Yifei Ye, William Stevens

#48 Hertz Team Jota Oreca 07 – Gibson: David Beckmann, Yifei Ye, William Stevens

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Strange United Autosports TV camera issue hands Jota the LMP2 win

Oliver Jarvis led the early part of the race after qualifying the #23 United Autosports car on pole, with Joshua Pearson continuing his team-mate’s good work after being put in the driver’s seat at the end of the second hour.

But Pierson’s ORECA-Gibson 07 came to an abrupt halt in the fourth hour, ending the #23 crew’s hopes of repeating their Sebring victory of 12 months ago. United said the electrical fault was “caused by an in-car television camera”.

This gave the class lead to the #48 Jota of David Beckmann, Will Stevens and Yifei Ye, which is the car the team is running while it waits for its customer Porsche 963 LMDh to be delivered – and is duly not registered for LMP2 points.

But the #48 was out of strategy against the #63 Prema car of Dorian Pin, Mirko Bortolotti and Daniil Kvyat and looked set to miss out on victory with just over 10 minutes remaining as he had to pit for fuel. But Prema’s car also had to stop a few laps later, so Jota regained the position and the win with just three minutes to go.

#33 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C8.R: Ben Keating, Nicolas Varon, Nicky Catsburg

#33 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C8.R: Ben Keating, Nicolas Varon, Nicky Catsburg

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Corvette wins GTE Am after drama with Iron Dames

Corvette claimed victory on home turf in GTE Am, with Ben Keating, Nicky Catsburg and Nicolas Varon enjoying a flawless race in their #33 C8.R.

The Corvette was handed the lead when Rahel Frey’s #85 Iron Dames Porsche 911 went wide through the curbs on the exit of Turn 1, the impact shattering the car’s entire rear body, which needed replacement. This negated all the great work done by Sarah Bowie in the opening periods, which included a brilliantly timed pit stop before FCY which gave the car a significant lead.

Dempsey-Proton’s Porsche completed a lap in second place, ahead of the #57 Ferrari of Kessel Racing, which needed a late stop for fuel that relinquished second place.

There was a major crash for Richard Mille driver Luis Perez Companc in the first hour of the race, with the Argentine’s #83 Ferrari flipping upside down after going wide at Turn 1 and crashing into the barriers.

WEC Sebring 1000 Miles – Race Results

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