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Sebring WEC Post-Race Notebook

Sportscar365’s post-race notebook from weather-shortened 1000 Miles of Sebring…

Photo: Tim Hearn/

***Alpine Elf Team became the fifth team to win an FIA World Endurance Championship race outright, joining Rebellion Racing, Toyota Gazoo Racing, Porsche Team and Audi Sport Team Joest.

***Additionally, it was the first French manufacturer to win overall in the championship. “It was great to hear the French anthem on the podium,” said Nico Lapierre, who scored his first outright WEC win since Spa 2014 back when he was driving with Toyota.

***The Signatech-run team broke Toyota’s nine-race consecutive win streak in WEC competition and also ran the first LMP1 car to win in the Hypercar class. It came in the last professional outing for an LMP1 car at Sebring International Raceway.

***Jose Maria Lopez’s massive accident marked the first retirement for the No. 7 Toyota entry since the 2017 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

***As was the case in 2019, the second edition of the 1000 Miles of Sebring did not reach the 1000-mile distance. Three years ago the race hit the eight-hour cut-off at approximately 946 miles, while this year’s race was called slightly early due to consecutive red flags for lightning in the local area.

***The results were taken from lap 194, two laps prior to the second red flag and before some LMP2 cars pitted for a splash of fuel under the safety car. This explained why the two WRT Orecas did not drop off the LMP2 podium despite diving into the pits.

“We were expecting the race to restart,” said WRT’s sporting director Thierry Tassin. “Because No. 31 was last in the queue, we had nothing to lose. There was no risk, it was a free stop. We were all like this with fuel. It was touch and go.”

***The minimum drive time for Bronze and Silver-rated drivers in LMP2 and GTE-Am was adjusted following the first red flag period after that accident, to 1 hour and 32 minutes and 53 seconds and 2 hours 10 minutes and 2 seconds, respectively.

***Four drivers – Harry Tincknell, Marco Sorensen, Jakub Smiechowski and Ben Barnicoat – were unable to fulfill their minimum driving time due to the red flags, but they will receive championship points due to a force majeure ruling from the FIA stewards.

***Friday’s race was the first to feature three red flags in WEC history. The last red flag in a WEC race came in Shanghai 2018 due to rain.

***Michael Christensen notched his eighth career class win, coming at eight different circuits in GTE-Pro, while Paul Dalla Lana broke a 21-race winless streak to return to the top step of the podium in GTE-Am for the first win under the NorthWest AMR banner.

***Dalla Lana’s last WEC victory came 1,413 days ago. The Canadian’s co-driver Nicki Thiim earned his first GTE-Am win since 2014; he was later involved in Aston Martin’s factory GTE-Pro effort for several years. David Pittard became a first-time WEC winner.

***Other notable landmarks for class-winning drivers included Oliver Jarvis’ first triumph in any category since the Nürburgring 2017, Kevin Estre’s first WEC victory in the Americas and a second consecutive trip to the top step of a podium for AF Corse’s No. 83 crew in different categories, with its LMP2 Pro-Am success building on its GTE-Am win at Bahrain last November.  

***Vector Sport retired from its LMP2 debut due to handling issues. Team principal Gary Holland said: “Feedback from the drivers has been that the car didn’t feel as it should right from early on in the race and we felt it was very difficult for us to continue running at the pace we were, going backwards. Given the driver lineup we have, this wasn’t doing justice to them or us as a team.”

***Inter Europol Competition encountered separate ECU and clutch issues on its Oreca. The Polish squad endured a tough season-opener, starting with Alex Brundle being ruled out due to a positive COVID-19 test and his replacement Fabio Scherer crashing the No. 34 car in qualifying. It is unclear if the race issues were related to the accident.

***Esteban Gutierrez described his difficulties in trying to get the Inter Europol car moving: “I had a problem straight after getting in,” he told Sportscar365. “I had to reset the throttle. It was not a very straightforward race. A lot of improvement needed.”

***A WeatherTech Racing left-side door was attached to the No. 88 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche to replace a faulty original. Proton ran WeatherTech Racing’s GTE-spec Porsche in IMSA last season and utilized some of its parts from that program as spares.

***Sebastien Ogier had an eventful WEC debut that included two extra pit stops for his Richard Mille Racing Oreca. One was the result of a shredded front-right tire, while the Frenchman also experienced a brake fire. Ogier described the race as a “challenging one” for the Signatech-run team.

***Describing the tire issue, Ogier told Sportscar365:” “In T7 on the bumps, I had a tendency to push the brakes. I was a bit too aggressive in that way. At least it’s some good experience. I now have to learn from this mistake.”

***Toyota Gazoo Racing WEC technical director Pascal Vasselon was satisfied with Ryo Hirakawa’s first race outing with the team: “Ryo did a very good double stint,” Vasselon told Sportscar365. “He took a few laps to get up to speed at the beginning, which is very good because he took it safely. His second stint was extremely good: very little tire deg. He did a very good first step.”

***Vasselon confirmed that Toyota switched its cars around during the fourth hour, allowing Lopez to pass Brendon Hartley at Turn 10 due to the No. 7 car being quicker than the No. 8. It came only a few minutes before the No. 7 car’s race ended. 

***While Glickenhaus claimed a Hypercar class podium at Monza last year, its third place in the 1000 Miles of Sebring marked the American constructor’s first outright top three in WEC competition.

***Ferrari has not commented on the pace of its GTE-Pro cars at Sebring since the end of the race. The Italian manufacturer ran far behind Corvette Racing and Porsche GT Team. It is believed that Ferrari might have experienced issues with the new TotalEnergies renewable fuel used by all teams.

***Despite finishing behind Corvette Racing, Ferrari came away from Sebring ahead of Chevrolet in the FIA World Manufacturers’ Championship courtesy of there only being a single Corvette on the grid.

***The No. 71 Spirit of Race Ferrari retired with a steering assist issue similar to the gremlins that befell the No. 52 GTE-Pro car from AF Corse, according to driver Gabriel Aubry. Earlier in the race, the Frenchman was behind the wheel for a 31-minute crawling lap when the car stopped abruptly just after the first safety car restart. Aubry said the team suspects something went wrong with the fuel pump but further research is needed.

***IMSA President John Doonan was among the dignitaries to present trophies to drivers during the podium ceremony held in the middle of the WEC paddock.

***Both Roger Penske and Team Penske president Tim Cindric were on hand for the team’s WEC debut, with the No. 5 Oreca of Felipe Nasr, Dane Cameron and Emmanuel Collard finishing eighth in class.

***Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann was spotted on the grid for the race, fueling additional speculation that the Italian manufacturer is close to securing a LMDh program for 2024. An announcement was initially believed to have been earmarked for this weekend.

***While Porsche has revealed that a 2022 debut with its LMDh car is an “interesting option”, GM sports car racing program manager Laura Wontrop Klauser told Sportscar365 that it’s “too early in the program” to comment on future plans amid the FIA’s announcement on Saturday that it will make LMDh cars eligible to compete in the Hypercar class on a race-by-race basis this year.

***Porsche and Cadillac are so far the only confirmed LMDh entrants that are set to compete in the WEC full-time in 2023. Acura and BMW are due to focus on IMSA.

***TF Sport shared two photos on social media showing GTE-Am driver Charlie Fagg with Kamui Kobayashi at the 6 Hours of Silverstone in 2013 and on the grid for the 1000 Miles of Sebring. GT4 European Series champion Fagg made his WEC debut on Friday.

John Dagys contributed to this report

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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