Alonso wins the 1.000 Miles of Sebring and consolidates his WEC lead 

Fernando Alonso, together with the Toyota Gazoo Racing team teammates Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima, has taken the victory in the 1,000 miles of Sebring on Friday at the Florida Circuit. Their sister car (#7), driven by Pechito‘ Lopez, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi, came in second place.

This is the fifth one-two for the Japanese team this WEC 2018/2019 Super Season. The SMP #11 of Mikhail Aleshin, ex Formula 1 racers Vitaly Petrov and Brendon Hartley completed the podium.

This is the third win of the year for the trio of the #8 Hybrid TS050, which has now increased its advantage at the WEC standings to 15 points. There are now just two races left in the Championship: the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Toyota has consolidated its dominance in the bumpy US layout and we have been given a new exhibition of the Spaniards’ driving prowess.

Fernando Alonso had made his intentions clear right from the qualifying session by smashing the fastest-lap record of the Florida Circuit by over three seconds! 

The battle begins

It was perfect Florida weather on the day of the race. The Toyota #8 of Buemi and #7 of Lopez maintained their positions from the start of the race, imposing a rhythm beyond the reach of the rest of rivals, and opening ground with the pack.

Buemi made his second pits stop on lap 44 to be replaced by Alonso when they were 10 seconds ahead of their sister car. Just one lap before, Lopez had done the same with Kobayashi. The Spaniard, however, increased the lead of his team over the #7 even further.

Meanwhile, Jackie Chang’s #38 was having some problems and the SMP’s #11 suffered a puncture. On lap 62, Fernando Alonso’s advantage fell to 7 seconds because of traffic, and to make things a bit more exciting, soon after it started to rain.

At that point, some of the teams considered the possibility of mounting wet tires but they ruled this out after the accident of the SMP #11 on lap 65.

The safety car and Alonso’s exhibition

The safety car ended wiping out all of Fernando Alonso advantage. Back to the beginning. Then after the safety car, the rain stopped and the race returned to normal.

The Spaniard used his magic again to open up another 13 second-advantage. In lap 93, Kazuki Nakajima took over from Alonso with that leverage over Conway.

Shortly after, Pastor Maldonado crashed on the last bend of Sebring. The debris on the asphalt caused a ‘Full Course Yellow’. On resuming the race, Nakajima took advantage of the large group of cars between him and Conway to escape but still managed to lose some of itsadvantage.

The Englishman inside Toyota #7 also took advantage of the crowding that had previously prevented him from approaching Nakajima. At the time of their respective relays, there were barely two seconds between them.

López’ deciding mistake

It was Sebastien Buemi’s and Pechito López’ turn once more. Both engaged in a hotly –contested battle right until the Argentinian driver made a fatal mistake when he ran over the grass as he attempted to avoid a GTE.

After the incident came a long pit stop to repair the damage caused to his car. This meant the loosing over two laps to the Swiss driver. It was the end of car #7’s winning chances. There were still over three hours to go and the #8 had a clear path to glory. 

Behind them, the Rebellion was already dreaming of the third place as well as having the honour of being the best non-hybrid LMP1, until it broke down. The SMP #11 was thus able to perform a great comeback after its earlier puncture.

The Jackie Chans dominated throughout the weekend with #37 taking the glory in the LMP2 category after the breakdown of their own team’s #38.

Fifth position was for the Signatech Alpine #36, closely followed by the Dragon Speed. As for the LMGTE Pro category, the Porsche #91 stole the position from the BMW in the final minutes in the pits.

In an odd race finale, some cars had to receive the checkered flag behind the safety car following an accident at ten minutes before the end of the race.

Images: Toyota Gazoo Racing

Leave a Reply