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Lopez Leads Rain-Affected Opening Prologue Session

Updated Toyota on top in first Prologue session cut short due to torrential rain…

Photo: Jamey Price/Toyota

Toyota driver Jose Maria Lopez led the opening session of the FIA World Endurance Championship Prologue at Sebring but running was limited due to heavy rain.

After a dry start in windy and overcast conditions, a band of storms moving southeast across Florida reached Sebring International Raceway about 10 minutes after halfway in the three-hour morning segment.

A burst of intense rainfall produced adverse track conditions that resulted in a red flag at the top of the third hour, and led to a premature end to the session.

Lopez set the pace with a time of 1:51.223 in the No. 7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid that he shares with fellow defending world champions Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi, both of whom also turned laps on Saturday morning.

The Argentinean topped the 36-car leaderboard by 0.417 seconds from the No. 41 Realteam by WRT Oreca 07 Gibson driven by LMP2 pacesetter Ferdinand Habsburg.

LMP2 cars ranked highly in the first official session of the WEC season, as the top three in Hypercar finished first, third and 11th in the overall order.

Nicolas Lapierre put the Hypercar-class Alpine A480 Gibson in third with a time of 1:51.703, eight-hundredths ahead of Robin Frijns in the No. 31 WRT Oreca from LMP2.

The No. 8 Toyota posted the 11th-best lap of 1:52.566 and reportedly had a brief off-track moment when the rain arrived. The Glickenhaus 007 Pipo was 18th on a 1:57.462.

European Le Mans Series champion Robert Kubica completed the overall top-five for Prema, ahead of United Autosports’ Filipe Albuquerque and Paul di Resta who initially ran first and second outright with their best times that came in the early stages.

Porsche placed first and second in the GTE-Pro category as Michael Christensen marked his full-time WEC return by leading the first test session of the new campaign.

The Dane banked a 1:58.543 to jump ahead of Richard Lietz in the sister No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR-19, with Nick Tandy third on a 1.59.122 for Corvette Racing.

However, Christensen’s car was also the cause of the first of two red flags, when it stopped on track after 90 minutes of running. According to Porsche, the problem was sensor-related.

A Porsche 911 RSR-19 also led GTE-Am courtesy of Matteo Cairoli producing a 1:59.573 effort in the No. 46 Team Project 1 entry.

The Italian, who lapped quicker than both GTE-Pro Ferraris, was the only GTE-Am driver to break the two-minute barrier as Nicki Thiim took second on a 2:00.445 for Aston Martin squad NorthWest AMR.

The second three-hour Prologue session is due to start at 2:25 p.m. ET.

RESULTS: Session 1

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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