Thursday 14 March 2019

FIA WEC: First practice reports for the 1000 Miles of Sebring

As expected with the new EOT for Sebring, the Toyota’s gained a bigger advantage over the non-hybrids again. Both Toyota’s dominated the LMP1 class in both sessions, over a second clear of the non-hybrid privateer LMP1’s.  LMP2 and GTE however were very close so far, with almost all cars setting laptimes within a second, promising us some good racing into the night tomorrow. 

Kazuki Nakajima was the fastest man in Florida yesterday afternoon’s first practice session with a 1.41.957, just over half a second ahead of Jose Maria Lopez in the sister car.  The Rebellions were the quickest non-hybrids, 1.5 seconds behind the Toyota’s. Mathias Beche in the #1 Rebellion R13 (1.43.552) beating Gustavo Menezes in the #3 with just over tenth of a second. Both SMP Racing BR1’s followed the Rebellions, with Dragonspeed closing the LMP1 line-up. 

Nyck de Vries put the #29 Racing Team Nederland on top of the LMP2 sheets with a 1.47.835.  De Vries was also the quickest LMP2 driver over the test weekend ahead of race week in Sebring. Andre Negrao in the #36 Signatech Alpine was second fastest, just under half a second behind the Dutchman. Matthieu Vaxiviere in the #28 TDS Racing Oreca with both Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca’s behind him. 

LMGTE Pro was tight with all cars within one second except for the #71 AF Corse. Maxime Martin set the benchmark in his #97 Aston Martin Vantage with a laptime of 1.58.044. The #67 Ford GT of  came in second fastest after setting the quickest time early in the session, just ahead of Richard Lietz in the #91 Porsche 911 RSR. 

No Project 1 Porsche in the first session yet, having received a new car after a hefty fire on Sunday’s test session destroying the back of their 911. Pedro Lamy got round the track in just over 2 minutes (2.00.043), and pipped Matteo Cairoli with 9 thousands of a second in the #88 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche. Matt Campbell put the second Proton Porsche on third place, 36 thousands behind Cairoli.  The first five cars in the class were separated by only 0.045 seconds, it doesn’t get any closer than that !  

Times dropped during the second practice session in the evening which almost immediately went into Full Course Yellow when Anthony Davidson lost a wheel of his Dragonspeed LMP2.  It was the other way round now for the Toyota’s when Jose Maria Lopez put the #7 TS050 Hybrid on top (1.41.730), ahead of Kazuki Nakajima in the #8.  SMP Racing emerged in the non-hybrid class with Stéphane Sarrazin (1.43.009) and Brendon Hartley - who celebrates his return to LMP1 this weekend, replacing Jenson Button - in third and fourth place. 

Stéphane Richelmi was fastest in the dark in LMP2, setting a 1.47.716 in the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca.  Despite a suspension failure, the #29 Racing Team Nederland Dallara claimed the second fastest time again, Nick de Vries just 0.119 seconds behind Richelmi.  The car suffered a suspension failure though,  and despite Frits Van Eerd making it back into pitlane, it didn’t come out anymore for the rest of the session, only managing 10 laps.  Nico Lapierre in the #36 Signatech Alpine was third fastest, the first six cars finishing within one second. 

If you thought LMP2 was close, all cars in the GTE Pro class managed to finish within a one second margin, except for the Corvette being 1.003 seconds off the pace of the Alexander Lynn’s Aston Martin.  Lynn set a fastest time of 1.57.792, 0.033 seconds ahead of Harry Tincknell in the #67 Ford GT. The second Ford of Stefan Mücke was third quickest. 

A similar story in the GTE Am class, with all cars bar one (TF Sport) also within a second. Ben Barker in the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche got under the 2 minute mark in 1.59.327.  Giancarlo Fisichella in the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari was second fastest (1.59.407), just ahead of Matteo Cairoli in the #88 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche. 

The third and final practice session and night qualifying will be run later today.