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Sebring WEC Post-Race Notebook

Daniel Lloyd’s post-race notebook from WEC 1000 Miles of Sebring…

Photo: MPS Agency

***Kazuki Nakajima said the track conditions in the final 30 minutes, when the rain arrived, were extremely treacherous. Both Toyota TS050 Hybrids returned to the pits for full wet weather tires as the rain intensified. “The grip was really amazingly low,” he said. “It was like driving on ice. I couldn’t even go flat through the pit straight. I’m just happy to be here.”

***The LMP2 class-winning No. 37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07 Gibson had switched to intermediate tires, while the pair of GTE Pro and Am class-winning Porsches were on wets prior to the race-ending safety car.

***The victory for Will Stevens, Jordan King and David Heinemeier Hansson, in their first race for Jackie Chan DC Racing, means the Jota Sport-run operation has claimed five LMP2 wins in six races, remarkably coming with three different driver lineups.

***Aston Martin Racing’s factory GTE-Pro cars finished two laps behind the class winner in ninth and tenth after separate issues. The No. 95 Vantage GTE was spun around by the No. 92 Porsche which resulted in a penalty for Porsche driver Kevin Estre, while the No. 97 lost time through an issue with the lit-number panel.

***No. 97 driver Alex Lynn said: “The car’s pace advanced a long way through the weeks, so to then not be able to deliver on that potential is really frustrating. But on the positive side, the car was genuinely competitive through the stint in the dry and this bodes well for the big races coming up next.”

***Kamui Kobayashi set a new fastest-ever race lap of Sebring with the Toyota driver’s time of 1:41.800 on lap two shaving one and a half seconds off the previous record set by Sebastien Bourdais in a Peugeot 908 HDi FAP from ten years ago.

***The fastest LMP1 non-hybrid lap in the race was a 1:43.705 from Rebellion Racing’s Mathias Beche, just half a second off Bourdais’ old marker. As the WEC leaves Sebring, the new outright lap record for the 3.74-mile circuit is 1:40.124, set by Fernando Alonso in qualifying.

***Alonso became the sixth Formula 1 world champion to win a major endurance race at Sebring. The Spaniard adds to an esteemed list of Mike Hawthorn, Juan Manuel Fangio, John Surtees, Phil Hill and Mario Andretti, however he and Fangio are the only drivers to have won Sebring after earning their F1 crowns.

***Corvette ran the second half of the race with a door panel from one of its IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship cars. A fault with the original door’s leader light system forced the team to replace it with a panel from the team’s No. 4 GTLM car. This action picked up a $1,000 fine from the stewards.

***The No. 63 Corvette C7.R, which finished eighth in the GTE-Pro class, also ran with No. 64 technical stickers from the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

***Gianmaria Bruni scored his long-awaited first victory as a Porsche factory driver. The Italian’s first start with the German manufacturer came at the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen in 2017. It also also marked his co-driver Lietz’s first WEC win since the Six Hours of Shanghai in the Austrian’s 2015 GTE-Pro title-winning season.

***Egor Orudzhev attributed his crash in the No. 17 SMP Racing BR Engineering BR1 AER to checking up behind the DragonSpeed BR1 Gibson into Turn 1. “I did not expect that car to slow down so much and in the middle of the turn 1 was right behind it,” said the Russian. “I tried to change the trajectory, and in one moment my car lost downforce and the back blew away.”

***Toyota’s No. 8 crew turned its five-point lead over the sister No. 7 crew into a 15-point advantage with a perfect pole and race win result. Rebellion Racing’s Gustavo Menezes and Thomas Laurent are now a more distant third, 54 points off the lead.

***Signatech Alpine is now the only team to have maintained a 100% podium record through the first six races of the 2018-19 ‘Super Season. Nicolas Lapierre, Pierre Thiriet and Andre Negrao moved to the top of the LMP2 standings with a second-place finish, displacing the Jackie Chan DC Racing crew of Gabriel Aubry, Stephane Richelmi and Ho-Pin Tung.

***The No. 38 Jackie Chan DCR Oreca finished a season-low sixth in class after early electrical issues pegged it back. The gap between the top-two in the LMP2 standings is only two points.

***Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen’s untouched podium streak came to and as the No. 92 Porsche GTE-Pro pairing finished fifth.

***Meanwhile, a victory worth 1.5x regular WEC points for their teammates Bruni and Lietz means the gap between the first and second Porsche crews is now down to 25 points, after Estre and Christensen arrived at Sebring with a 43-point lead and a shot at clinching the GTE world title.

***In the GTE-Am standings, the No. 98 Aston Martin Racing crew jumped ahead of the No. 54 Spirit of Race Ferrari squad for second. Team Project 1 continues to lead after Joerg Bergmeister, Patrick Lindsey and Egidio Perfetti scored their fourth straight podium after coming back from a testing fire earlier in the week.

***Perfetti said that Project 1 learnt lessons about how to strategize the new eight-hour race format: “All the other cars had the Bronze in for the minimum time only and made an extra pit stop,” he told Sportscar365. “We were surprised, but we saw fewer safety cars so it seemed to have paid off. We will need to analyze that. Next year we will have more eight hour races so we will have to adjust the strategy.”

***FIA Steward Tim Mayer waved the American flag to get Friday’s 1000-mile race underway. It marked the first American-style start for the WEC since the championship’s inaugural event at Sebring in 2012.

***BMW Motorsport director Jens Marquardt said the manufacturer is still yet to finalize its driver lineup for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with BMW “having a look” to feature the “best possible lineup” in the race.

***So far, only Nicky Catsburg and Augusto Farfus are confirmed in the two-car BMW Team MTEK operation, with Marquardt telling Sportscar365 that the remaining four seats could be filled by “anybody” on the BMW roster.

John Dagys contributed to this report.

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365 and e-racing365, with a focus on the FIA World Endurance Championship and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

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