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Sebring WEC Post-Race Notebook

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

Photo: MPS Agency

***Toyota claimed its 40th overall FIA World Endurance Championship victory in Friday’s 1000 Miles of Sebring. Mike Conway, a member of the triumphant No. 7 crew, chalked up his 18th win to become the third most successful driver in WEC history.

***Conway dedicated the victory to his father, who passed away last year.

***Buemi set the fastest race lap of 1:47.885 in the No. 8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid. The Swiss driver lost time to Kobayashi during his turn at the wheel when the gap between the Toyotas increased to more than 10 seconds, but Toyota had an explanation for this.

***Technical director Pascal Vasselon said: “Seb has been very unlucky with traffic. His pace was similar to Kamui, but he has had three dreadful laps. It was very dense traffic and was really blocking him. This has created a gap.”

***The No. 8 Toyota lost 11 seconds compared to the No. 7 car at its final pit stop when a mechanic fell over as they moved around the front-left corner. Vasselon confirmed that the mechanic was OK.

***Even though Brendon Hartley closed Mike Conway’s lead down to less than two seconds at the checkered flag, Toyota followed its rule of freezing positions at the final round of stops. “It’s just that Mike was taking it easy,” Vasselon said of the gap coming down. “Brendon was still pushing to keep the rhythm, but the positions were frozen.”

***Both Peugeot 9X8s encountered the same actuator issue, on a gear-shifting system that the French squad plans to change for the next race at Portimao. “We know we have this issue and it’s something we worked on already,” said technical director Olivier Jansonnie. “We made some solutions for that but couldn’t make it available for that race. We did not expect to have it so early in the race.”

***In addition to its formation lap gear shifting problems, the No. 94 Peugeot also picked up a hybrid system issue that the manufacturer hadn’t seen before.

***Ferrari “definitely” needs to work on the 499P’s tire degradation according to the manufacturer’s head of GT and sports race cars Ferdinando Cannizzo. “It was evident that we were struggling in the last part of the second stint, so for sure something that we’ll take more care [of] in the next race.”

***ByKolles head of operations Boris Bermes described the debut of the Vanwall Vandervell 680 Gibson as a “good start” for Floyd Vanwall Racing Team.  “The first part of the race was really nice,” said Bermes. “Tom [Dillmann] was following close to the Peugeot, doing similar lap times. Our target was trying to be consistent and not making mistakes.”

***One of the main incidents that dropped Vanwall down the overall order was contact from Mikkel Jensen’s Peugeot 9X8 as Esteban Guerrieri slowed for a Full Course Yellow period. When asked if the right-rear damage from that contact contributed to a later spin for Jacques Villeneuve, Bermes said: “Maybe. It’s difficult to know, but it can be a failure due to that.”

***Glickenhaus had an issue with the ignition switch, according to team principal Luca Ciancetti. “There was no way to restart the engine,” he told Sportscar365. “The car came back, but unfortunately they towed us into the tent so we were not allowed to restart. Otherwise, in five minutes, we would have been able to join the race again.”

***Sebring was a tough event for Glickenhaus as the Podium Advanced Technologies and Joest-operated factory team ran its Glickenhaus 007 Pipo for the first time in eight months. “Portimao will not be easy, but Spa and Le Mans will be more aligned with the strengths of our car,” Ciancetti said.

***Chip Ganassi Racing team manager Stephen Mitas described the Cadillac V-Series.R’s race pace as “better than expected”. “We took advantage at the end of one of the Ferrari’s misfortune, but we’re racing for the podium and we gave it all we got,” he said. “We’ll keep giving it the same effort we’ve given it so far and try to build on this good result.”

***The No. 35 Alpine Elf Team Oreca 07 Gibson encountered an electronic control unit failure, according to driver Olli Caldwell who brought the car to a halt at the side of the track. It was the second LMP2 car to retire after the No. 23 United Autosports Oreca which had a freak incident while leading.

***ECU troubles also befell Vector Sport’s No. 10 Oreca, which stopped and couldn’t re-fire midway through the second hour. After an ECU change to their car Aubry, Matthias Kaiser and Ryan Cullen finished tenth.

***Isotta Fraschini motorsport managing director Claudio Berro was at Sebring with Vector, the team with which his company has partnered to run its in-development LMH car.

***Vector is hoping to keep running its Oreca somewhere next year alongside the planned full-season Hypercar entry with Isotta. “We want to run the car and broaden our horizons, but it’s definitely not at the detriment to this program,” said team principal Gary Holland. “IMSA is not out of the question at all. Lots of things could happen. We’re quite an agile team.”

***United Autosports drivers Filipe Albuquerque, Phil Hanson and Frederick Lubin left Sebring as the LMP2 points leaders despite finishing second. This is because the winning No. 48 Hertz Team JOTA entry is not a full-season contender in the category. Click Here to view the LMP2 standings.

***LMP2 winner Will Stevens recalled how the fuel strategy battle played out between Hertz Team JOTA and Prema: “We knew they were very close to not having to fuel at the end, so we had to try and pull a gap, which we pushed hard in the last two, three stints of the race to do. We needed to get 40 seconds and  we just about got there and we weren’t sure if they were going to pit or not, so we boxed early.”

***Prema’s late splash for fuel prevented the Italian team from claiming its first WEC victory. “We can be happy with the result at the end of the day,” said driver Mirko Bortolotti. “We knew that we had to splash so no surprise.”

***Fabio Scherer described Inter Europol Competition’s fourth place in LMP2 as “mega” considering the Polish outfit had a single-car entry in a field that includes three two-car teams that will graduate to Hypercar next year. “Every top-five result we take is like a win, when you think about racing the ‘factory’ teams,” Scherer told Sportscar365.

***Daniel Serra set the fastest race lap in GTE-Am as part of Kessel Racing’s run to a maiden WEC podium. The Brazilian posted a time of 1:59.143 on lap 204.

***Project 1–AO ran with a ‘Rexy’ sticker on the back of its Porsche 911 RSR-19, in reference to the nickname of AO Racing’s dinosaur-liveried Porsche 911 GT3 R that runs in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

***Friday’s race marked the first one in 13 that the GTE-Am podium consisted of entries from three different manufacturers. The last time it happened was at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2020 when TF Sport (Aston Martin) was flanked by Team Project 1 (Porsche) and AF Corse (Ferrari).

***Four Hypercar entries received drive-through penalties during the race. Three were for speeding into a Full Course Yellow period for the No. 2 Cadillac, No. 5 Porsche and No. 94 Peugeot. Additionally, Ferrari AF Corse’s No. 50 car was sanctioned for overtaking the D’station Racing Aston Martin before the line at the end of the safety car procedure.

***The WEC is planning to announce its 2024 schedule at Le Mans in June according to championship CEO Frederic Lequien. Sportscar365 understands that the WEC is considering alternative options to Sebring, but Lequien stated that he “cannot say anything” about the U.S. round until the calendar comes out.

***When asked if the WEC will continue to share a weekend with the WeatherTech Championship, Lequien said: “We will see. IMSA is a very strong partner, a loyal partner. But there are so many parameters that we have to take into consideration to do the best for the WEC.”

***IMSA President John Doonan presented the trophies at the WEC post-race podium ceremony. Doonan told IMSA Radio commentator John Hindhaugh on Saturday that the WEC’s future presence at Sebring is “their announcement to make.”

***Approaching the end of the race, a Falcon 9 rocket was seen taking off from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The rocket launched two television broadcast satellites into orbit.

***The second round of the WEC season is the 6 Hours of Portimao on April 16.

Davey Euwema 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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