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Sebring WEC Pre-Race Notebook

Pre-race news and notes for the WEC’s inaugural standalone race at Sebring…

Photo: MPS Agency

***Clearwater Racing’s Ferrari 488 GTE has been withdrawn from the 1000 Miles of Sebring after it sustained heavy front-end damage in a qualifying crash. Sportscar365 understands that the team has access to a spare chassis in Europe that it will likely use for the Total Six Hours of Spa in May.

***The No. 17 SMP Racing BR Engineering BR1 AER was demoted from third to fourth on the grid after Stephane Sarrazin had his best lap deleted for disobeying a blue flag command. The Frenchman’s reserve flyer was still enough to place the SMP machine on the second row of the grid, a spot behind the No. 3 Rebellion Racing R13 Gibson.

***Racing Team Nederland’s LMP2-class Dallara will start from the back of the grid after having all its qualifying times deleted for speeding in the pit lane. Frits van Eerd and Nyck de Vries were both caught going 6.2 km/h (3.8 mph) over the 60 km/h (37 mph) limit and were each fined for their actions.

***Penalties were also applied to the GTE-Am entries from Spirit of Race, MR Racing and Gulf Racing for speeding under the red flag caused by the Clearwater Ferrari crash. Thomas Flohr, Motoaki Ishakawa and Mike Wainwright each had their best times taken away, meaning their cars were classified sixth, seventh and ninth in the nine-car field, respectively.

***Click Here the final starting grid for the 268-lap race.

***After breaking the outright Sebring lap record, Fernando Alonso revealed that he was “on the table” to race a Cadillac DPi in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring but was unable to contest double-duty this weekend because of Toyota’s wishes to keep its drivers rested for WEC.

***Alonso and Kazuki Nakajima’s LMP1 pole position eked out the No. 8 Toyota crew’s gap over the sister No. 7 squad in the drivers’ world championship to six points. The nearest non-hybrid entry is the No. 3 Rebellion, which is 30 points adrift.

***The fastest LMP2 qualifying lap for WEC was 2.8 seconds quicker than the formula’s corresponding lead qualifier for the IMSA Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. Stephane Richelmi’s time of 1:46.923 in the No. 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07 Gibson paced the WEC session, while Matt McMurry led in IMSA with a 1:49.728 in the Oreca entered by PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports.

***Both of this weekend’s LMP2 pole-sitting cars feature Gabriel Aubry in their driver lineups.

***Between the WEC GTE-Pro and IMSA GTLM classes, the latter had the quickest qualifying lap with Patrick Pilet’s time of 1:55.899 in the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR some 1.3 seconds faster than the 1:57.257 effort produced by Antonio Garcia in the No. 63 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R.

***Garcia was the only driver who took part in qualifying for both the 1000-miles and the Twelve Hours. 

***Gulf Racing is unlikely to enter two cars at Spa after it became clear the team would not have an entry for its second Porsche 911 RSR chassis in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. “I spoke to a gent who was interested, but he was more interested in doing Le Mans,” said team manager Owen Daley. We don’t want to compromise ourselves either, with what we’re doing in WEC.”

***Daley added that the British squad  is now eyeing select European Le Mans Series appearances again this year, depending on the plans of team owner Mike Wainwright. Gulf also “pushed” for a second car at Sebring, but the tight confines of the paddock prevented it from coming to fruition.

***Toyota will release more details of its confirmed 2019-20 LMP1 program, including driver lineups, before the 24 Hours of Le Mans, according to director of business operations Rob Leupen.

***Four previous winners of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring are competing in today’s race. Two-time winner Nicolas Lapierre (No. 36 Signatech Alpine), 2017 winner Alex Lynn (No. 97 Aston Martin), 2011 winner Loic Duval (No. 28 TDS Racing Oreca) and 2010 winner Anthony Davidson (No. 31 DragonSpeed Oreca) are all taking part.

***A Delta IV WGS-10 rocket is expected to be seen blasting off over Sebring during the race. The United Launch Alliance has confirmed a launch scheduled for 6:56 p.m. EDT, with the rocket coming into view to the northeast around a minute after the takeoff time. For full visibility estimations, click here.

***American audiences can watch the full race live on MotorTrend, beginning at 3:30 p.m. EDT, while European coverage is being carried by Eurosport and with action getting underway at 7:45 p.m. GMT/8:45 p.m. CET.

***The official FIA WEC app will also broadcast the full race, without any geo-blocking restrictions, including for North American fans for the first time this season.

Jake Kilshaw contributed to this report.

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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