The #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050-Hybrid, piloted by Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Fernando Alonso, won the 1000 Miles of Sebring, taking the chequered flag one lap ahead of the sister #7 Toyota driven by Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez.
The #11 SMP Racing BR Engineering BR1 – AER, with the driver line-up of Mikhail Aleshin, Vitaly Petrov and Brendon Hartley completed the overall top three, finishing ten laps behind the #7 Toyota.
The #8 entry led for the whole race but was able to secure a comfortable gap over the sister #7 car after Lopez made contact with the #90 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage in the fourth hour. After losing a lap for repairs, the #8 had a clear run to the chequered flag.
The eight-hour race threw further challenges at the field when, with 25 minutes remaining, heavy rain fell, causing decisions to be made about switching to rain tyres. A crash by Löic Duval, behind the wheel of the #28 TDS Racing ORECA in the final ten minutes brought out the Safety Car, allowing a sprint to finish.
Kazuki Nakajima was grateful that the #8 car even finished the race.
“I think from the outside it was easy to say it looked quite stable but actually it was a very tricky car,” said Nakajima. In my first stint I had a lot of traffic, so it was tough but then I jumped in the car at the end and I knew what I had to do. I was quite happy in the dry conditions but I was not happy at all in the end with the rainy conditions. It was amazingly low grip and it was like sliding on ice, and I couldn’t even go flat on the start/finish straight and to be honest I am just thankful we could finish, so victory is a bonus.”
Jackie Chan DC Racing took the victory in the LMP2 class, with the #37 ORECA 07 driven by David Heinemeier Hansson, Jordan King and Will Stevens finishing 27.421 seconds ahead of the #36 Signatech Alpine Matmut Alpine A470 of Nicolas Lapierre, André Negrão and Pierre Thiriet. Completing the podium positions in the LMP2 category was the #31 DragonSpeed ORECA with the driver line-up of Roberto Gonzalez, Pastor Maldonado and Anthony Davidson.
The #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing entry led from the second lap and the victory means that the team has now won five out of six class wins in the 2018/19 FIA World Endurance Super Season.
Will Stevens was pleased at how the new driver line-up for the #7 car had worked together.
“It was great for us as it is our first weekend together,” said Will Stevens. It wasn’t a plain sailing week for us but to come away with a win is great for us and the team also. We couldn’t have wished for a better start and as we were strong in the race it is very satisfying. We knew that if we could get into the lead at the start we could pull away and control the race. The end of the race was pretty tricky, especially on inters which was very difficult but we managed it so it was a great race.”
Three manufacturers claimed podium positions in the LMGTE Pro category with the #91 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR driven by Ricard Lietz and Gianmaria Bruni taking the class victory .816 seconds ahead of the #81 BMW team MTEK BMW M8 GTE of Martin Tomczyk, Nicky Catsburg and Alexander Sims. The #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Team UK Ford GT of Andy Priaulx, Harry Tincknell and Jonathan Bomarito completed the top three in the LMGTE Pro class.
The Stuttgart manufacturer had double cause to celebrate after the #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR took the victory in the LMGTE Am category after the driver line-up of Christian Ried, Julien Andlauer and Matt Campbell brought the #77 car home to victory just over 12.5 seconds ahead of the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari F488 GTE of Thomas Flohr, Francesco Castellacci and Giancarlo Fisichella.
Taking the final podium position in the LMGTE Am category was the #56 Team Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR of Jörg Bergmeister, Patrick Lindsey and Egidio Perfetti, a poignant result for the team from Lohne, Germany after they had to urgently source a new car after their original entry was destroyed by fire.
Following the 1000 Miles of Sebring, Toyota Gazoo Racing extend their lead to 53 points over Rebellion acing while the #8 crew of Buemi, Nakajima and Alonso have a 15-point lead over the #8 line-up of Lopez, Kobayashi and Conway.
In LMGTE Pro the #92 Porsche GT Team crew of Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen now have a 25-point lead over the sister #91 crew of Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz while Perfetti, Bergmeister and Lindsey head the standing in the LMGTE Am drivers category on 103 points, 25 ahead of the #54 Spirit of race crew of Flohr, Castellacci and Fisichella.
The FIA World Endurance Championship grid next assembles at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on May 4.