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Toyota Beats Hypercar Newcomers to Take Sebring 1-2

1-2 for Toyota Gazoo Racing as reigning champion beats Hypercar newcomers…

Photo: Jamey Price/Toyota

Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez won the 1000 Miles of Sebring as Toyota Gazoo Racing beat the Hypercar newcomers to take a dominant 1-2 finish.

The Japanese manufacturer opened its FIA World Endurance Championship title defense by seeing off pole-sitter Ferrari AF Corse and the LMDh machinery from Porsche and Cadillac.

Conway finished 2.168 seconds clear of Brendon Hartley who shared the No. 8 Toyota with Sebastien Buemi and Ryo Hirakawa.

AF Corse achieved an outright podium on the debut of the Ferrari 499P, although the Italian factory team’s No. 50 car driven by Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina and Nicklas Nielsen ended up two laps behind the winner.

Chip Ganassi Racing took fourth with the sole Cadillac V-Series.R in the field ahead of the two Penske-run Porsche 963s.

Toyota took control of the season-opener in the first hour when Fuoco pitted under a safety car period that was caused by a huge roll at Turn 1 for Luis Perez Companc.

Both Ferraris came in from first and fourth, releasing Toyota into a commanding one-two position that it held until the end.

The No. 8 led until shortly before the five-hour mark when Kobayashi was instructed past Hartley.

The gap between the Toyotas expanded and contracted during a pair of stints between Lopez and Hirakwa, before Kobayashi increased the gap over Buemi to more than ten seconds.

Conway and Hartley then took the reins for the final stint and the No. 8 car ate into the gap, however the No. 7 held on to win for an early drivers’ championship lead.

Instead of benefiting from its alternate pit strategy, Ferrari moved into a battle for the final podium spot against Porsche Penske Motorsport and Chip Ganassi Racing.

The three manufacturers battled each other directly at times until the Ferrari gained the upper hand when Molina overtook the No. 6 Porsche 963 of Andre Lotterer at the halfway mark

Both Porsches lost time with lengthy pit stops in the second half, which contributed to the Ferrari getting away and the Cadillac reaching fourth. Earl Bamber ended up ten seconds behind Fuoco in the Cadillac that he shared with Alex Lynn and Richard Westbrook.

The No. 5 Porsche completed the top five, with Frederic Makowiecki crossing the line two laps behind Bamber and 23 seconds ahead of his No. 6 teammate Kevin Estre.

The No. 51 Ferrari was also in podium contention for a while, but it dropped out of the mix when Alessandro Pier Guidi made contact with a pair of GTE-Am cars after six hours.

The reigning GTE-Pro world champion had a side-on touch with Francesco Castellacci at Turn 15, which caused Pier Guidi to lose control and hit the rear of the Project 1-AO Porsche 911 RSR-19.

While Ferrari saw one of its LMH cars hit trouble, fellow LMH manufacturer Peugeot had a disastrous race as both of its hybrid-powered 9X8s encountered significant delays.

The No. 94 Peugeot got stuck in first gear on the formation lap before a problem with the hybrid system took hold later on.

Paul Di Resta kept the sister Peugeot with the other Hypercars in the opening hour, but the No. 93 car dropped out of contention in the second hour with an unspecified issue.

Floyd Vanwall Racing Team had a reliable run behind the main Hypercar pack for large portions of the race, although an incident with one of the Peugeots at Turn 17 caused rear-end damage.

Glickenhaus, meanwhile, encountered a problem with the ignition early on and retired after stopping on track.

JOTA, Corvette Take Category Honors

Hertz Team JOTA prevailed in the LMP2 class with its No. 48 Oreca 07 Gibson driven by Will Stevens, Yifei Ye and David Beckmann, while Corvette Racing won in its GTE-Am debut.

JOTA beat Prema Racing in a fuel mileage battle, as Stevens profited from a late fuel splash for Mirko Bortolotti with three minutes to go.

Bortolotti, Daniil Kvyat and Doriane Pin dropped to third behind the No. 22 United Autosports Oreca of Filipe Albuquerque, Phil Hanson and Frederick Lubin.

United controlled the first few stints of the race with its pole-sitting No. 23 car until Josh Pierson retired with a loss of drive that was reportedly caused by a loose onboard camera.

In GTE-Am, Corvette Racing made a successful start to its first GTE-Am campaign as Nicky Catsburg, Nico Varrone and Ben Keating won by a lap.

The American team, which raced in the discontinued GTE-Pro class last year, controlled the second half of the race after its main rival Iron Dames encountered damage in the third hour.

Rahel Frey bounced over the grass at the exit of Turn 1, causing parts of the rear bodywork to detach from her class pole-sitting Porsche 911 RSR-19.

A different Porsche – the No. 77 Dempsey-Proton Racing example – finished second in class, 15 seconds ahead of the No. 57 Kessel Racing Ferrari 488 GTE Evo in third.

RESULTS: 1000 Miles of Sebring

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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