Toyota GAZOO Racing’s Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez led roughly the entire second half of the race Friday (March 17) to win the 1000 Miles of Sebring, the season opener for the FIA World Endurance Championship. The race was run to a distance of either 1000 miles, or eight hours, whatever came first. In this race, the eight-hour mark was reached 29 laps, or 108.46 miles, short of the scheduled distance.
Ferrari AF Corse’s Antonio Fuoco started his new Ferrari 499P from the overall pole and lead early. Much of the race weekend leading up to the event had been rather crash-strewn and the start of the WEC event was no exception. On lap 5, Richard Mille AF Corse’s Luis Perez Companc spun in turn 1, hit the tires and rolled his Ferrari 488 GTE.
The crash put the No. 83 Ferrari out and brought out the safety car. Perez Companc was ok and walked away without injury. However, as you see above, it took a little time for Perez Companc to get out due to how the car came to rest.
A split pit strategy developed here that held up for most of the rest of the race. Fuoco pitted here from the lead to top off his fuel. Meanwhile, Toyota GAZOO Racing’s Sebastien Buemi chose to stay out.
Normally, this would result in the lead swapping once Buemi stopped. That didn’t happen due to Fuoco getting a drive-through penalty for passing a slower car on the restart prior to the start-finish line. As a result, Buemi’s No. 8 Toyota was able to maintain the lead and pulled away from the competition.
The No. 8 team continued to lead until a full course yellow came down to debris on the track. Brendon Hartley was low on fuel and took emergency service in a closed pit to put a minimum amount of fuel in his Toyota GR010. Once the green came back out, he stopped for a relatively slow full tank of fuel and tire change.
That stop allowed Kobayashi in the No. 7 Toyota to take the overall lead. Aside from pit sequences, they did not give it up for the remainder of the race.
An 11-car Hypercar class grid was seemingly supposed to provide for a more competitive race at the front. That wasn’t really the case as the Toyotas ran nearly flawless while everyone else ran into issues. The Peugeots both ran into electrical issues pertaining to the transmission. The Ferraris and Porsches got penalized and the others didn’t have the pace.
Conway, Kobayashi and Lopez’s margin of victory was 2.168 seconds over Buemi, Hartley and Ryo…
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