Friday 15 March 2019

FIA WEC: Lap record and pole for Toyota, Perez Companc crashes out of qualifying

A new lap record and pole position for Toyota yesterday evening as Fernando Alonso put in a staggering 1.40.124 at the end of the session.  Alonso even claimed being able to go faster and a 1.39 could have been possible. The previous qualifying record at Sebring was held by Marco Werner in the Audi R10 back in 2007 in 1.44.974. The quickest race lap so far has been set by Sebastien Bourdais in a Peugeot 908 in 2009.  The Toyota TS050 Hybrid literally trashed both records, shaving off almost 4 seconds from the previous qualifying record.

The #3 Rebellion R13 of Thomas Laurent and Gustavo Menezes was “best of the rest”, claiming third place on the grid ahead of the #17 SMP Racing  of Egor Orudzhev and Stéphane Sarrazin. Orudzhev was the quickest of the non-hybrid drivers, his best time of 1.41919 also remarkable faster than the previous record of the Audi’s.

In LMP2 Jackie Chan DC Racing swept out the front row, putting the competition almost a second behind them. Stephane Richelmi continued his strong performance and clinched pole position with Ho Pin Tung in an average time of 1.47.558.  The #37 Oreca of Will Stevens and David Heinemeier Hansson was 0.650 seconds behind. Nico Lapierre and Andre Negrao secured third spot on the grid with the #36 Signatech Alpine.

The GTE session was red flagged with 7 minutes and 40 seconds to go when Luis Perez-Companc went hard into the barriers at the braking zone of Turn 7.  His #61 Clearw ater Ferrari suddenly broke out to the left under braking, going hard into the barriers and sliding down the track.  Perez Companc got out of the car by himself, but the damage to the car seems severe so it’s unclear whether the Ferrari will be repairable to appear on the grid tomorrow morning.

With 2 minutes to go, the #63 Corvette of Andy Garcia and Jan Magnussen appeared on top of the timetable, but it eventually fell back to fifth place.  Garcia however set the quickest time of all GTE drivers.  Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen secured pole in the #92 Porsche, beating both Ford GT’s.  The #67 of Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell will start from seconds position (+ 0.115s), followed by the #66 of Stefan Mücke and Olivier Pla.

Matt Campbell and Christian Ried secured pole position in the Am class with their #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche in a combined time of 1.59.790. Egidio Perfetti and Jorg Bergmeister made it a front row lockout for Porsche, a great result for Team Project 1 after their misfortune last Sunday. Another great recovery from the #98 Aston Martin which got fixed by the mechanics after Dalla Lana’s hefty crash at turn 17 and took third place in qualifying.

The final 1 hour practice session yesterday afternoon was run in (very) hot conditions, which are also expected for tomorrow during the 1000 miles of Sebring. Although temperatures drop a little at night, it tends to get very humid after sunset, not really improving driving conditions.

The 1 hour session saw quite some incidents with the Toyota #8 and #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari have a short excursion into the grass and the #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca spinning round at the exit of turn 5 halfway the session.  Paul Dalla Lana had a big accident in his #98 Aston Martin, when he was caught by surprise by one of the Ford GT’s and crashed into the barriers in turn 17. Dalla Lana stepped out unharmed but the car’s left side was heavily damaged.  The Aston Martin mechanics however managed to get the car back in order for the evening qualifying session. 

Jose Maria Lopez went quickest in the #7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid in 1.41.448, with Kazuki Nakajima on second place in the #8 sister car.  The gap with the non-hybrid cars was just over 1.5 seconds, Stéphane Sarrazin setting the third fastest time in his #17 SMP Racing BR1. In LMP2 it was Stéphane Richelmi who put the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca back on top again with a time of 1.47.716    Despite their problems in last nights session, Nick de Vries was very quick again in the #29 Racing Team Nederland Dallara, putting it on second place, just 0.119 seconds behind Richelmi. No change in the top 3 compared to yesterday’s night session with Nico Lapierre back in third place on the Signatech Alpine Matmut.

The LMGTE Pro class was very competitive again, all cars setting a fastest time within 0.635 seconds.  Andy Priaulx got quickest in the #67 Ford GT with a fastest time of 1.57.730. Alex Lynn followed closely in the #97 Aston Martin (+ 0.062), with Harry Tincknell in the second Ford GT right on his heels.  Dempsey-Proton Racing dominated the LMGTE Am class with both Porsches; Matt Campbell going quickest in the #77 (1.58.554) with Matteo Cairoli 0.706 seconds behind him in the #88 in second place.  Rounding out the top 3 was Ben Barker in the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche.  

The start of the 1000 Miles of Sebring (or maximum 8 hours) will be given this afternoon at 16h local time here in Florida, which is 20h UK time and 21h in Central Europe. You will find coverage on Radio Le Mans globally and the WEC has done a great job in getting race coverage scheduled in most geographies (check local listings) as well as removing geo-blocking to its app in the United States.