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Drivers Voice Concerns at New Sebring Pit Entry Layout

DHH says current pit entry layout at Sebring “does not seem sensible” after big accident…

Photo: MPS Agency

Multiple FIA World Endurance Championship prototype drivers have voiced concern about a new pit entry layout at Sebring where an LMP2 car crashed during the Prologue.

One described this year’s arrangement, where the pit entry starts between Turns 14 and 15, as “ten times more dangerous” than the previous configuration.

The WEC operates on a temporary pit lane along the Ullman Straight for space reasons because the IMSA Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring utilizes the traditional pit straight.

In the past, WEC cars pitted after exiting the Turn 15 right-hander, but now they come in just after the preceding left-hand kink. At that point, a pitting driver observes a white line and moves to the right before entering a twisty concrete barrier-lined channel that takes them into the speed-limited pit lane.

Drivers have highlighted the potential risk of a collision when trying to overtake a car that suddenly moves to the right-hand side at the kink when it needs to pit.

Towards the end of the final Prologue session, JOTA LMP2 driver David Heinemeier Hansson crashed heavily after contact at the kink with Thomas Flohr’s AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo.

Heinemeier Hansson was attempting to pass Flohr around the outside when the Ferrari driver moved right to enter the pits, in accordance with where the white line was placed.

“What my brain was telling me was that you go around that kink and if you’re an LMP car, that’s where you pass the GTs,” Heinemeier Hansson told Sportscar365.

“No LMP driver is going to stay behind from [Turns] 14 to 16.

“The GT traffic was going at full pace, he was taking the kink at full pace, then pulls into the racing line, then goes on full brake, and then pits.

“That’s what I then learned. I was like, OK, ‘How would I know [he was pitting]?’

“I’m behind [so] it’s my fault, but it doesn’t seem like a sensible [situation]. We were going sixth gear, 250 km/h. Trying to find out at 250 whether someone is going to go into the pits or what they’re going to do, it does not seem sensible to me.”

Several others expressed concern about the pit entry procedure, including Peugeot’s Gustavo Menezes who said he would personally take the previous layout “a million times” over the new one.

“Last year [pit entry] was later on and their concern was cars decelerating at the apex to enter,” Menezes told Sportscar365.

“Now, you come through the kink flat-out. They put a white line through it, so you apex and brake in front of everyone. Then you shoot out wide. At that angle, it’s easy to end up on the marbles and in the wall at over 200 km/h.

“And then you have a right-left S on old concrete that’s never been driven on, which is at full racing speed before the line. If a car hits it at speed, it could well fly over the wall.”

United Autosports driver Phil Hanson added: “The problem is you’re trying to overtake a GT around the outside and the GT turns into the pits.

“To avoid that from happening, which would end up in a massive high-speed shunt, they’ve brought in a line that’s very close to the kink. As you’re going flat and then committing to pit entry, you end up very close to the tarmac where it drops to concrete.

“Around this track, there are lots of areas where we drop onto the concrete to open up the corner. That’s a corner where no one does it. The track is full of bumps, but that’s full of holes.

“And then you still have this confusion about if a GT is going to the pits or not – do you go up the inside or around the outside?”

Multiple drivers indicated that a tangle between cars at pit entry on the new layout would occur at a much higher speed than on the old configuration.

“I think it would be better on the other one, even if it’s not ideal,” said Filipe Albuquerque.

“At least, if there is any crash whatsoever, it happens at third gear. It’s just a spin. Now, it’s a massive shunt like what just happened now.”

The No. 28 JOTA Oreca was returned to the paddock after its trip into the barriers, while Flohr’s Ferrari also went back to its garage for extensive repairs after being damaged in the initial contact with Heinemeier Hansson, according to an AF Corse representative.

Sportscar365 has contacted the WEC for a response to driver concerns about the new pit entry layout.

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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