World’s Fastest Sports Car Race at Sebring

March 21, 2019 Updated: March 21, 2019

SEBRING, Fla—For the first time in seven years, international sportscar racing’s premier series brought its fastest racing cars to Central Florida.

The World Endurance Championship visited Sebring International Raceway for a 1,000-mile event on March 15, offering North American sports car fans the spectacle of its 1000-bhp hybrids supported by a full field of cars in four classes.

The #31 LMP2 Dragonspeed Oreca bounces through Turn 17
The #31 LMP2 Dragonspeed Oreca lifts a wheel as it bounces through Sebring’s infamous Turn 17. (Chris Jasuek/Epoch Times)

The sports car world is divided into North America and the rest of the world. Different commercial considerations demand different approaches, which is why most of the world watches the cars of the World Endurance Championship race in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, while in North America, fans follow the International Motorsports Association’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship—all under the auspices of the global Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, or FIA.

The FIA brought its European series to Sebring in 2011, as the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup series and again in 2012, in the series’ first year as the WEC. In both cases both series, the U.S. and European, ran together, creating some very crowded racing.

Oreca-Matmut’s Peugeot 908 won the 2011 Sebring 12 Hours.
Oreca-Matmut’s year-old Peugeot 908 diesel beat the factory teams to win the 2011 ILMC-ALMS Sebring 12 Hours. (Chris Jasurek/Epoch Times)

This time the organizers of both series realized their rules were too different to combine both series. The only answer was to hold separate events on successive days. And so, fans were treated to the 20 Hours of Sebring.

Due to differing regulations, the WEC cars are faster. The top-tier WEC cars cost a lot more than the IMSA cars. That money buys about 100 or more horsepower for the quickest conventionally powered cars and an extra 400 horsepower for the all-wheel-drive gas-electric hybrids.

The impressively futuristic Toyota Hybrid
The impressively futuristic Toyota Hybrid … (Bill Kent/Epoch Times
And what’s under that body work.
And what’s under that body work. (Bill Kent/Epoch Times)

In terms of mile per hour and lap times, the quickest WEC cars, the Le Mans Prototype Hybrids (LMP1-H) lapped Sebring’s bumpy 3.74-mile course five seconds quicker per lap than the fastest IMSA cars. Two-time World Drivers Champion Fernando Alonso got around the 17 corners in 1:40.124 at an average speed of 134.46 mph in the #8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid. The speediest IMSA car, the #6 Acura Daytona Prototype International (DPI) piloted by two-time IMSA champion Dane Cameron, completed a circuit in 1:45.865 at 125.837 mph average.

That’s the difference 400 horsepower can make.

Multi-class racing at its best--GT versus prototype
The #29 29 Racing Team Nederland Dallara LMP2 slides inside the #61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari 488 on the run to Turn 7. (Chris Jasurek/Epoch Times)

Nearly Eight Hours of Great Racing

The FIA World Endurance Championship 1000 Miles of Sebring started at 4 p.m. on Friday, March 15, and ended under yellow eight hours later, after providing race fans with 7:45 of high-speed action.

The pace seemed a little languid for the first four hours, as teams seemed to be testing the waters—how would their cars react to changing track conditions, and Sebring’s extreme bumps, during extended runs at race pace?

The intensity seemed to increase about halfway through, and stayed high until rain slowed the action with about 30 minutes left on the clock.

Light rain started falling on parts of the track with about half an hour left in the race. Thee, 22 minutes from the end, the skies opened up and dropped a deluge, causing everyone to scramble to change to full wet tires. Ten minutes later, Loic Duval lost control of the #28 TDS LMP2 Oreca and slammed head-on into the barrier at Turn 12. Cleanup lasted nine minutes, and the race ended under caution.

The #28 TDS LMP2 Oreca ended up stuck in a tire barrier
The #28 TDS LMP2 Oreca ended up stuck in the tire barrier at Turn 12 when rain caught driver Loic Duval off guard. (Bill Kent/Epoch Times)

Prior to that, the Toyota hybrids, arguably the most advanced race cars on the planet, opened an insurmountable lead over the competition and unsurprisingly finished 1–2.

The Toyota Hybrids were the fastest cars on track.
The Toyota Hybrids were visibly quicker than any other car on track. (Chris Jasurek/Epoch Times)

The #8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, driven by Kaz Nakajima, Sebastien Buemi, and two-time World Driving Champion Fernando Alonso took the win, finishing a lap ahead of the #7 car piloted by Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez.

The two Toyotas ran as a team until Hour Five, when Lopez had an unfortunate coming-together with an errant Aston Martin, costing the car four minutes in the pits.

The #11 MP BR1 finished third overall
The #11 MP BR1 finished third overall, first of the LMP1-L cars. (Chris Jasurek/Epoch Times)

The #11 SMP Racing BR Engineering BR1 of Vitaly Petrov, Brendon Hartley and Mikhail Aleshin finished third overall and first in LMP1, 11 laps behind the winning Toyota.

The #11 SMP BR1 lost time with a puncture in the first hour, while the #17 BR1 hit the wall hard exiting T1 in the race’s second hour, sidelining the car.

The #1 Rebellion crashed and retired
The #1 Rebellion crashed and retired, while the #3 lost time making repairs and finished 7th. (Bill Kent/Epoch Times)

SMP’s chief rivals, the two Rebellions, both suffered mechanical woes. The #1 Rebellion struggled with gear-selector problems throughout the race, finally crashing hard and retiring in Hour Five when the shifter failed entirely. The #3 Rebellion suffered late-race mechanical issues which dropped it to 7th.

The #91 Porsche won GTE-Pro with fuel
The #91 Porsche won GTE-Pro with fuel strategy. (Chris Jasurek/Epoch Times)

Porsche triumphed in both GT classes. The #91 Team Porsche 911 RSR of Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz took GTE-Pro honors, and the #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE by a mere 12 seconds.

Porsche won GTE-Pro with pit work and fuel strategy. Everyone had to pit for rain tires in the final 20 minutes, but the class-leading #81 Team MTEK BMW M8.also needed fuel. The Porsche crew got the tires swapped and sent the car on its way while the BMW was still tethered to the fuel hose. The #91 Porsche came in second, but exited the pits first in class. Shortly after the Porsche took the lead, the yellow flag ended BMWs chances to retake the lead.

The #67 Ganassi UK Ford GT finished third in GTE-Pro
The #67 Ganassi UK Ford GT finished third in GTE-Pro after leading for much of the race. (Bill Kent/Epoch Times)

The #67 Ganassi UK Ford GT, which had led the class for most of the race, finished third in class.

The #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR won GTE-Am.
The #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR beat the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE by a mere 12 seconds to win GTE-Am. (Chris Jasurek/Epoch Times)

The #77 Porsche, driven by Christian Ried, Julien Andlauer, and Matt Campbell, started from the class pole and finished 13 seconds ahead of its nearest rival, the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari.

The #37 DC Racing Oreca finished first in LMP2.
The #37 DC Racing Oreca finished fourth overall and first in LMP2. (Bill Kent/Epoch Times)

The #37 DC Racing Oreca driven by Will Stevens, Jordan King and David Heinemeier Hansson finished fourth overall and first in LMP2, 14 laps off the lead.

From Florida, the WEC moves on to Belgium for the Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps—another race frequently affected by rain. Practice for the Spa Six Hours starts on May 2, while the race goes green on May 4.

Visit the FIA-WEC website for details.

The #88 Dempsey-Proton Porsche finished 7th in class.
The second Dempsey-Proton Porsche, the #88, finished two laps behind its class-winning sister car. (Bill Kent/Epoch Times)

 

The Corvette finished 8th in class.
The Corvette looked gorgeous as always but didn’t perform particularly well, finishing 17th overall and 8th in class. (Bill Kent/Epoch Times)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RECOMMENDED