Toyota Gazoo Racing was in control of the 1000 Miles of Sebring with half of the race completed, while United Autosports saw its victory hopes in LMP2 dashed due to a freak electrical issue.
Kamui Kobayashi led the race aboard the No. 7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid, holding a 1.6-second advantage over the sister car piloted by Brendon Hartley.
The Japanese ace captured first place shortly before the halfway point, moving ahead of Hartley in a strategic switch.
The two Toyotas have run largely unimpeded at the head of the field since the opening hour when they clinched the race lead as the No. 50 Ferrari 499P of Antonio Fuoco made an off-sequence pitstop.
The No. 8 car appeared briefly to be in danger of losing the race lead earlier in the race when Hartley pitted just after race control announced a Full Course Yellow due to a stoppage for United Autosports’ Josh Pierson.
Per the FIA World Endurance Championship sporting regulations, the pits are closed as soon as the race director declares to teams that an FCY is due to be implemented.
This meant that Hartley could only take on five seconds of fuel and came back in for a full pit stop when the green flag returned, although he was initially able to retain the lead over teammate Kobayashi before the two cars switched positions later on.
While the pair of Toyotas hold a lead of over a minute back to the rest of the Hypercar class, the battle for third place has evolved into an entertaining scrap involving Ferrari, Porsche and Cadillac.
At the halfway mark, Earl Bamber held the final podium spot aboard the No. 2 Cadillac V-Series.R, moving ahead when both the No. 6 Porsche 963 of Kevin Estre and the No. 50 Ferrari 499P of Miguel Molina came in for scheduled stops.
Shortly before, Estre had gained third by wrestling his car past Molina’s Ferrari at Turn 16. Once both cars had pitted, Nicklas Nielsen returned the favor by passing Andre Lotterer at Turn 3 with the Ferrari running fourth and Porsche fifth.
Cadillac had found itself in third place earlier in the race, but dropped back after Alex Lynn was forced to serve a drive-through penalty for an earlier FCY infringement.
The penalty occurred not long after Lynn had himself come out on top in a lengthy battle for third place with the No. 6 Porsche in the hands of Laurens Vanthoor, passing the Belgian down the inside into Turn 3.
The LMP2 class is led by the No. 48 Hertz Team JOTA Oreca 07 Gibson of David Beckmann after drama befell the leading United Autosports entry.
The Anglo-American squad’s No. 23 car, which had started from pole position and led for most of the way, ground to a halt on track with Josh Pierson at the wheel.
Pierson reportedly lost all power when an onboard TV camera came loose on the car.
As a result, Beckmann led from the No. 36 Alpine Elf Team Oreca 07 Gibson of Matthieu Vaxiviere, with Sean Gelael rounding out the top three for Team WRT.
In GTE-Am, Nico Varrone sat at the head of the class aboard the No. 33 Corvette C8.R, leading the No. 77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR-19 of Julien Andlauer.
Casper Stevenson was third for D’Station Racing, with AF Corse’s Simon Mann and Kessel Racing’s Scott Huffaker completing the top five.
Corvette saw one of its main rivals, the pole-sitting No. 85 Iron Dames Porsche, suffer a significant setback when Rahel Frey damaged the car’s rear bodywork running wide out of Turn 1.
The Iron Lynx squad is now running at the edge of the top ten in class, several laps down on Varrone’s leading Corvette.