2019 1.000 Miles of Sebring WEC Preview

The World Endurance Championship (WEC) 2018/2019 is back on after the four-month break since the 6 Hours of Shanghai. The sixth round of the contest, the 1,000 Miles of Sebring, starts today and until the 15th at the Sebring International Raceway in Florida.

The popular American event will congregate 99 drivers from 28 different countries. Of the 34 cars, eight belong to the LMP1 category, seven to the LMP2, ten to the LMGTE-Pro and nine to the LMGTE-Am one. As for the brands that will come head to head against each other in this, the third to last race of the WEC Super Season, these are Toyota, Ford, Aston Martin, BMW, Ferrari, Porch and Chevrolet.

The Sunshine State’s Raceway sits on an old military airfield next to a regional airport and is well known its bumpy and irregular surface. This poses a great challenge for the calibration of the machines and the driving style of the competitors.

The participating teams have thus been preparing for the race by completing two whole days of testing at the circuit; tests, in which Toyota Gazoo Racing cars has been the fastest.

LMP1: Toyota after its fifth 1-2 in the top category

The Japanese team has no intention to let go of its triumphant strike in this WEC’s Super Season. After their four doubles (Spa, Le Mans, Fuji and Shanghai) of the five previous races, they want to seal the Constructors’ title as soon as possible. 

During both days of testing both the Toyota TS050 Hybrid, have asserted their superiority, particularly when one of them destroyed the fastest lap record of the American Raceway.Mike Conway completed the 6,049 meters of the track in 1: 41.152 seconds, down 2.7 seconds from Marcel Fässler’s  2013 record. Fernando Alonso (# 8) was the second fastest at 8,926 thousandths of a second of his British teammate.

But perhaps, more importantly, the red and white missiles have proven to be extremely reliable, not suffering a single fault during the 4,000 kilometres of testing.

Japanese squad dominates the Manufacturers’ classification with 118 points, 28 more than Rebellion. But the Drivers’ standings are a lot closer. Toyota’s #8 of Fernando Alonso, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima have 102 points against the 97 points of the Toyota #7 of ‘PechitoLopez, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi. Third in the standings at 29 points behind the leader, is the Rebellion #3.

The trio led by Alonso (# 8) arrives in Florida with the added motivation of turning the tables around after what happened in Shanghai, where a ‘wrong’ strategic decision deprived them of the victory. They are also thirsty for a win as they haven’t had a podium since the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June 2018!

Less power for Toyota’s LMP1 rivals 

The mechanical superiority of Toyota will further benefit from a last-minute technical decision. The organisers of the 1,000 miles of Sebring, have agreed to adjust the Equivalence of Technology (EoT) of the privateer LMP1s.

Thus, the turbocharged-powered LMP1s will lose 3.5% of their fuel allocation, about 3 Megajoules per lap, in relation to the 6 Hours of Shanghai. Meanwhile, the normally-aspirated LMP1s will see their fuel allocation cut by 2.5%, 2.3 Megajoules per lap, approximately.

LMP2s: Turmoil at DC Racing & Sirotkin signs with SMP

Seven cars will take the start within the LMP2 category. The Jackie Chang DC Racing’s #38 of Ho-Pin Tung, Gabriel Aubry and Stéphane Richelmi will aim to finish either in first or second place as they have in the last five races.  If they do, they could increase the distance with their pursuers in the standings (The A470-Gibson #36 of Signatech Alpine Matmut of Nicolas Lapierre, André Negrao and Pierre Thiriet) by 10 points

The other car of the Jackie Chan team, the #37 has undergone a complete driver overhaul after firing its three drivers; Jazeman Jaafar, Weiron Tan and Nabil Jeffri, despite them ranking third in the standings.

It seems the decision came after losing the financial backing of the Sepang International Circuit. In their place will run IndyCar’s Jordan King, ex-F1 driver Will Stevens and former contestant at the 24 hours of LeMans David Heinemeier Hansson.

Sergei Sirotkin, F1 driver for Williams in 2018, will replace Matevos Isaakyan in the BR Engineering BR1 of SMP. The Russian driver will sit in car #17 with Egor Orudzhev and Stephane Sarrazin.

A noticeable absence within the LMP2 category at Sebring will be that of Jenson Button since he will be taking part in the Japanese SuperGT where he defends the title.

LMGTE: The most populous and even category

As usual, the LMGTE Pro is one of the most populous and even categories. Six brands; BMW, Ferrari, Ford, Porsche, Aston Martin and Chevrolet compete with eleven cars. Current leaders, Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen (Porsche #92), aspire to increase their advantage in the standings.

For their part, the winners of the 6 Hours of Shanghai, Marco Sorensen and Nicki Thiim will be joining Darren Turner on the Aston Martin #95 to try and overthrow the Porsche from its provisional throne.

The Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK will count with two American drivers in its line-up. Billy Johnson, winner at Spa 2018, will join the Ford GT #66 with Olivier Pla and Stefan Mucke. Jonathan Bomarito will team up with Britons Andy Prialux and Harry Tincknell on board the #67. The BMW #82 of Augusto Farfus and Antonio Félix Dacosta will also be there.

Ferrari has signed Daniel Serra for the #51 of James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi, and the Spaniard Miguel Molina for #71 with Davide Rigon and Sam Bird.

LMGTE Am: An extremely close call

Nine vehicles will compete in the LMGTE Am class, with Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin leading the fight for glory. The 911 #56 of Team Project 1 of Jorg BergmeisterEdigio Perfetti and Patrick Lindsey, will be defending its 20-point advantage.

On the hunt to close that gap, however, will be the Aston Martin #98 of Paul Dalla Lana, Mathias Lauda and Pedro Lamy as well as the TFSport Vantage #90 of Salih Yoluc, Charlie Eastwood and Jonny Adam.

After the 1,000 miles of Sebring, the World Endurance Championship (WEC) will travel to Belgium on May the 4th for the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps

‘1,000 miles of Sebring’ Images: Toyota & Sebring International Raceway

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