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No. 8 Toyota Dominates Sebring to Claim First Win Since Le Mans

Alonso, Nakajima, Buemi claim first win since Le Mans as Toyota scores 1-2 Sebring finish…

Photo: Jamey Price/Toyota

Fernando Alonso, Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi extended their FIA World Endurance Championship points lead with a dominant victory in the 1000 Miles of Sebring.

The No. 8 Toyota Gazoo Racing crew finished two laps ahead of the sister No. 7 team of Jose Maria Lopez, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi to claim their first win since the 24 Hours of Le Mans last June and go 15 points clear at the top of the LMP1 drivers’ standings.

Nakajima took the checkered flag under Safety Car conditions after a late rain shower drenched the 3.74-mile Sebring circuit which led to Loic Duval nosing the LMP2-class TDS Racing Oreca into the tire barriers.

The Toyotas took on rain tires for the final run to the flag and while Nakajima had a brief scare when he ran off-track in the greasy conditions, the Japanese manufacturer’s 1-2 results was never in doubt.

Toyota’s hybrid LMP1s commanded the WEC’s first standalone race at Sebring from the start and quickly piled the laps on their LMP1 non-hybrid competition.

By the halfway point the No. 8 had eked out a rough 10-second gap over its sister car, with the nearest privateer three laps behind, before the No. 7 reeled back some of the lead gap in the middle portion.

The race between the Toyotas was decided when Lopez clashed with the TF Sport GTE-Am Aston Martin with just over three hours to go which resulted in floor damage that necessitated three minutes of repairs.

This dropped the No. 7 off the lead lap and left Alonso, Nakajima and Buemi unattended to claim their third victory of the season, while Toyota scored its fifth 1-2 result in six races.

SMP Racing completed the podium with its No. 11 BR Engineering BR1 AER picking up third place from the No. 3 Rebellion Racing R-13 Gibson which encountered trouble late on.

The Russian-entered LMP1 finished 11 laps down on the lead Toyota as it picked up its second consecutive top-three finish.

Rebellion’s lead entry had been set free as the non-hybrid front-runner when the No. 17 SMP car crashed to bring out the first of two safety cars, but an electrical problem leading to an enforced ECU switch cost Gustavo Menezes, Nathanael Berthon and Thomas Laurent six extra laps.

This enabled the SMP car to move ahead and complete an impressive comeback drive from Mikhail Aleshin, Vitaly Petrov and team debutant Brendon Hartley who needed to recover from a tire failure early in the contest.

New Jackie Chan Trio Takes Debut Win

LMP2 honors went to the No. 37 Jackie Chan DC Racing squad which controlled the vast majority of the race.

Jordan King, David Heinemeier Hansson and Will Stevens seized control in the first couple of hours and put together a near-faultless run that saw them also pick up fourth place overall thanks to the LMP1 retirements.

It marked their first victory in their first race with the Jackie Chan DCR team after being nominated to carry the No. 37 entry in the final three races of the 2018-19 ‘Super Season.

Nicolas Lapierre, Pierre Thiriet and Andre Negrao took second in the No. 36 Signatech Alpine A470 Gibson, while DragonSpeed’s No. 31 Oreca driven by Anthony Davidson, Roberto Gonzalez and Pastor Maldonado rounded out the class podium.

RESULTS: 1000 Miles of Sebring

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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