The new era of the FIA WEC has opened in the name of tradition. There was a lot of anticipation for the return of brands such as Ferrari and Porsche to the premier class, but in the end the ones who dominated the last few years of the endurance scene celebrated at the Sebring 1000 Miles, namely the men from Toyota.
The pole position of the #50 Ferrari was a flash in the pan, because the music changed decisively during the race. Also taking advantage of the fact that the Reds immediately tried to mix up the strategies, returning to the pits after a few minutes on the occasion of the safety car triggered by the overturning of the Ferrari 488 #83 of Luis Perez Companc (the only one in the race among many full course yellow), the GR010 Hybrids found themselves in first and second position right from the early stages.
And at that point they imposed a pace on the race that was truly unsustainable for everyone else. For about half the race the #8 was in charge, but just after the fourth hour in the pit stop game she took the #7 ahead and stayed there until the checkered flag. The victory therefore went to the trio made up of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José Maria Lopez, who got the better of their teammates Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirawaka.
In any case, the debut for Ferrari was positive, as Antonio Fuoco’s pole was joined by the lowest step of the podium conquered by crew #50, the one that joined the Calabrian driver Miguel Molina and Niklas Nielsen. There were also complicated moments, such as a drive through due to overtaking under the safety car, a 5″ penalty for a pit stop infringement and a sudden drop in tires when Molina was driving. Overall, however, the #50 is the car that gave the feeling of having the best cards to play behind the Toyotas, even if the two-lap gap from the Japanese is quite heavy.
Too bad instead for #51, that of Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado and Antonio Giovinazzi, who frustrated his efforts a couple of hours from the end, when the former got carried away in the dubbing stages, touching each other with Francesco Castellacci’s Ferrari 488. A contact that started a carambola in which the #56 Porsche 911 was also involved. In the impact, the 499P suffered a lot of damage to the rear and this required a stop of around 20 minutes which dropped the car in the standings, ending up in 15th place overall.
Among the positive notes, however, the Cadillac must be mentioned without a doubt, because the V-Series.R of Earl Bamber, Richard Westbrook and Alex Lynn tried to contend for the podium with Ferrari #50 until the end of the eight-hour race, closing only about ten seconds. The car felt very sweet on the tires and probably could have been a coup if Lynn hadn’t been penalized for a drive-through offense during a full course yellow.
On the other hand, one cannot fail to speak of disappointment for the great return of Porsche. For about half the race the #6 (Estre-Lotterer-Vanthoor) had given the feeling of being able to join the fight for the podium, but then she lost pace and in the end she also suffered a problem during a pit stop. thus also handing over the fifth position to the twin car of Cameron-Christensen-Makowiecki. In the end, however, the gap wasn’t heavy only against the Toyotas, but also against Ferrari and Cadillac, who preceded the 963s by two laps. So there still seems a lot of work to do.
Peugeot’s US trip was even disastrous: the 9X8 #94 even returned to the pits before the race got underway and also the #93 suffered a problem with the hybrid part after approx. In the end, both were able to restart, but very far apart, using this opening race of the season as if it were a test. And the fact that a car that made its debut before Ferrari and Porsche still has all these reliability problems is quite worrying.
Among other things, the #93 also ruined the Vanwall race, because Mikkel Jensen collided with Esteban Guerrieri when he slowed down for a full course yellow, sending him into a spin and damaging the rear of the Vandervell 680, which then suffered again when Jacques Villeneuve was in the cockpit. The Glickenhaus race, on the other hand, lasted only 62 laps, stopped by an electrical problem that the mechanics were unable to resolve, forcing it to retire definitively.
The race that was most in the balance until the end was that of the LMP2 class, in which in the end the Jota Sport trio made up of David Beckmann, Yifei Ye and Will Stevens prevailed, seventh overall at the checkered flag. Crew #48 seemed to have the race in hand, but with 12 minutes to go they returned to the pits for a splash that seemed to represent a great opportunity for Prema.
Mirko Bortolotti therefore found himself in the lead and tried in every possible way to get to the finish line, but was forced to refuel with four minutes from the end, destroying his dreams of glory as well as those of his teammates Daniil Kvyat and Doriane Pin . Among other things, this last minute pit also cost him the place of honor, because in the end United Autosports took the second step of the podium with crew #22, the one made up of Filipe Albuquerque, Frederick Lubin and Phil Hanson , who in the central part of the race gave away a truly mouth-watering duel with Fabio Scherer.
This second place at least partially repays United for the unfortunate episode that happened to the other team car. The #23 of Joshua Pierson, Tom Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis was literally dominating the race, but after about three hours it was forced to surrender by an electrical problem. The joke is that it seems to have been generated by one of the onboard cameras mounted by the organization.
Moving on to GTE-Am, it was all too easy for the #63 Corvette, which won with Nicky Catsburg, Nicolas Varrone and Ben Keating. Only the Porsche #85 of the Iron Dames seemed to be able to really give him a hard time, but during the third hour the girls paid dearly for a mistake by Rahel Frey, who went wide out of turn 1, destroying the bumper and the diffuser of the his 911, causing damage that cost him a very long pit stop.
The Corvette crew was therefore able to manage the race easily, arriving at the checkered flag with a two-lap margin on the #77 Porsche driven by Dempsey Proton (Reid-Pedersen-Andlauer). The #57 Ferrari of Kessel Racing (Kimura-Huffaker-Serra) completed the podium. It wasn’t a lucky race instead for Alessio Rovera, who together with Lilou Wadoux paid the price for Perez Companc’s accident, not even managing to climb into the cockpit.
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