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Buemi Leads for Toyota in Sebring Opening Stages

Buemi ekes clear of Lopez in opening hour at Sebring as reliability hits cars early…

Photo: MPS Agency

Sebastien Buemi held a 10-second lead over his teammate Jose Maria Lopez as the two Toyota TS050 Hybrids spent the opening hour of the 1000 Miles of Sebring in front.

Buemi led away from pole and gradually pulled out a gap ahead of Lopez when the Toyota drivers started carving their way through traffic, and the Swiss driver maintained his advantage through the first round of fuel-only pit stops.

The Toyotas cleared off ahead of the non-hybrid LMP1 pack which was led by Stephane Sarrazin in the No. 17 BR Engineering BR1 AER. The Frenchman is currently being closed down by Gustavo Menezes in the fourth-placed No. 3 Rebellion R-13 Gibson.

Rebellion’s sister car spent over 10 minutes in the pits with a mechanical problem and is now recovering in 28th overall, six laps behind the LMP1 leaders.

In GTE-Pro, Ford took the net lead in the first round of pit stops virtually on the hour with Andy Priaulx stepping into the front spot in the No. 67 Ganassi-run car ahead of Bruno Spengler in the best of the BMW M8 GTEs.

Kevin Estre led away from pole in the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR but was reeled in during the latter part of the opening stint by Spengler’s co-driver Augusto Farfus, who overtook the championship leader shortly before the pit window.

Estre has now handed over to Michael Christensen with the Porsche in third.

The first hour of the LMP2 contest was led by the No. 37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07 Gibson which Will Stevens put into the lead in the opening exchanges ahead of the teammate No. 38 car.

Ho-Pin Tung later brought the latter Jackie Chan machine into the pits and behind the wall with a problem, leaving Nicolas Lapierre to take second in the Signatech Alpine A470 Gibson.

GTE-Am was marked by an hour-long lead duel between Egidio Perfetti in the Team Project 1 Porsche and Mathias Lauda in the No. 98 works Aston Martin.

A total of 34 laps were completed in the opening hour, putting the 268-lap race on course for its expected eight-hour duration.

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

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