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Alpine Wins Red Flag-Affected 1000 Miles of Sebring

Lapierre, Negrao, Vaxiviere win opening round of 2022 WEC season at Sebring…

Photo: Alpine

Nicolas Lapierre, Andre Negrao and Matthieu Vaxiviere claimed Alpine’s first overall FIA World Endurance Championship victory in a 1000 Miles of Sebring season-opener that fell a few minutes short of its planned eight-hour duration due to a red flag.

The drivers of the No. 48 Alpine A480 Gibson LMP1 beat the Hypercar competition from LMH manufacturers Toyota and Glickenhaus to gain an early points lead.

Lapierre was behind the wheel of the Alpine when the race was terminally red-flagged in the final hour due to lightning in the area.

A first lightning-induced red flag came with one hour and eight minutes to go. The field was then briefly released under the safety car, prompting some cars to make fuel-only pit stops, only for the red flag signal to return as the weather warning came back.

An earlier red flag stoppage occurred three and a half hours into the race when Jose Maria Lopez rolled his No. 7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid at Turn 14, halving the Japanese manufacturer’s involvement.

It marked the first WEC race to feature three red flags.

Despite those interruptions, Alpine managed to take a dominant victory with its grandfathered LMP1 car.

Brendon Hartley, Sebastien Buemi and Hypercar debutant Ryo Hirakawa took second in the No. 8 Toyota while Glickenhaus earned its maiden outright WEC podium through Olivier Pla, Romain Dumas and Ryan Briscoe.

Vaxiviere started from pole and launched into a 15-second lead over Pla heading into the first round of pit stops, with the Toyotas close behind in third and fourth.

A slow first stop for Glickenhaus Racing enabled the Toyotas to reach second and third, but the GR010 Hybrids were unable to mount a challenge to the leading Alpine.

Lapierre stepped in for Alpine after a single stint from Vaxiviere and continued to build the French team’s advantage, with the gap reaching 30 seconds after two and a half hours.

Despite running slightly shorter stints compared with its Hypercar competition, the A480 Gibson’s outright pace negated any efficiency considerations.

The main drama of the race occurred after three and a half hours when Lopez crashed the No. 7 Toyota at Turn 14 after losing control due to damage from contact with a GTE-Am Porsche earlier in the lap.

At the time Lopez, who walked away from the accident, was in first position with Brendon Hartley running in second and Negrao, the net leader, in third.

Hartley immediately pitted his thirsty Toyota for fuel after the red flag ended just after halfway, and then needed to make a full service because his initial top-up came under safety car conditions.

That thrust Negrao back into the lead while Briscoe assumed second, only for the Glickenhaus driver to lose that place when he was called to serve a drive-through penalty for overtaking a car before the start line during the red flag.

That set the top three for the run to the finish, with Alpine’s deserved win sealed when the storms rolled in during the final hour.

In LMP2, United Autosports took top class honors as Josh Pierson became the WEC’s youngest race winner aged 16 years, one month and four days in the American teenager’s world championship debut.

Pierson, Oliver Jarvis and Paul di Resta – subbing for Alex Lynn – finished first ahead of Team WRT’s Robin Frijns, Sean Gelael and Rene Rast.

Several LMP2 teams pitted for fuel between the two red flag periods, shaking up the order.

The No. 41 WRT Oreca completed the podium in third, with AF Corse’s Francois Perrodo, Niklas Nielsen and Alessio Rovera picking up top honors in the Pro-Am subclass.

Porsche Beats Corvette to GTE-Pro Honors

Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen won the first GTE-Pro race of the season in the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR-19, beating Corvette Racing’s Nick Tandy and Tommy Milner.

Corvette gained the upper hand in the early portion of the race after both Porsches were dealt 15-second penalties for inappropriate action at the start.

But the German cars were able to reduce the gap to the sole Chevrolet Corvette C8.R, particularly when the first red flag bunched up the field.

The top two brands battled each other on-track multiple times but it was the 2018-19 world title-winning duo of Estre and Christensen that emerged on top.

Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz finished third in the No. 91 Porsche.

The AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evos were far off the Pro pace and never featured in the podium battle.

Defending champions Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado finished fourth while their teammates Antonio Fuoco and Miguel Molina dropped off the lead lap due to power steering problems.

NorthWest AMR dominated the GTE-Am class from the point when Paul Dalla Lana overtook TF Sport’s Ben Keating into Turn 1 just after 10 minutes in.

Dalla Lana, David Pittard and 2019-20 world champion Nicki Thiim went on to establish and controlled a significant lead through to the checkered flag.

Keating, Marco Sorensen and Florian Latorre were second for TF Sport, while Team Project 1 Porsche drivers Brendan Iribe, Ben Barnicoat and Ollie Millroy completed the podium with a 911 RSR chassis that was borrowed from GR Racing earlier in the week.

RESULTS: 1000 Miles of Sebring

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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