FIA WEC 1,000 Miles of Sebring: Alpine Take First Pole of 2022 with Porsche One-Two

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#36 Alpine Elf Team on track at the 1,000 Miles of Sebring
Credit: Alpine Elf Team

Alpine Elf Team have claimed pole position for the FIA World Endurance Championship 1,000 Miles of Sebring ahead of the #708 Glickenhaus Racing. As predicted from their pace in practice, Porsche GT Team will start the first race of the year locking out the front row of the GTE grid.

It became clear early on in the Hypercar and LMP2 qualifying session that the fight for overall pole was between Alpine and Glickenhaus as Toyota Gazoo Racing was still struggling to find optimum pace at the Sebring International Speedway. Nicolas Lapierre led the way in the #36 Alpine, taking provisional pole after the first flying laps. Due to the new qualifying system that came into place in the WEC last season where only one driver from a team has to set a qualifying lap time, Lapierre stayed on board to protect the lap time from charging Olivier Pla.

But there was no need for the Frenchman to sweat; his 1:47.407 was not only the fastest lap time of the race event so far by almost three seconds, but set the Alpine 1.3s up on Pla’s fastest time in the Glickenhaus. It was too much of a deficit for the privateer team to overcome.

The Hypercar/LMP2 qualifying was shortened by 12 seconds after Fabio Scherer – replacing Alex Brundle after the Brit tested positive for Covid – in the #34 Inter Europol Competition went wide through Turn 1 and hit the tyre barrier on the outside of the circuit. There was a lot of damage done to the car, and with the sun setting and only 12 seconds left on the clock the decision was made not to restart. This was much to the annoyance of Sebastien Buemi who believed his team mate Brendon Hartley driving the #8 Toyota was due to improve on his lap time.

If the New Zealand driver had improved, he could have possibly placed the Toyota third on the grid rather than fourth behind the LMP2 pole sitter. Only two tenths off the LMP2 car, Hartley was on an improved lap time and quite possibly would have promoted himself up a position. Still, the fastest Toyota was nearly two seconds adrift of pole-sitting Alpine. Toyota will be hoping their race pace is stronger than their one-lap pace displayed so far.

Jose Maria Lopez in the sister Toyota could do no better than seventh overall, 2.174s off the lap time of Lapierre but finally breaking into the 1m50s lap time that had eluded the car during practice.

LMP2 pole position #83 AF Corse at the 1,000 Miles of Sebring
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

The surprise came from LMP2; all eyes had been on the #22 United Autosports in the hands of Filipe Alberquerque to take class pole and third overall, but in the early end to the session he was unable to finish his final flying lap. The team that got the timing right and not only completed their last lap but jumped up the timing board to snatch LMP2 pole was Pro-Am line up #83 AF Corse. Nicklas Nielsen showed why he is one of the favourites for Ferrari to pick up for their Hypercar program next year by setting a stunning 1:49.014 to go three tenths up on Alberquerque and jump ahead of the #8 Toytoa for third overall.

United Autosports took a two-three at the chequered flag, splitting the two Toyotas on the overall timing board, with Team WRT fourth. Realteam by WRT and Prema Powertrain rounded off the top ten, taking fifth and sixth in class respectively.

Although the United Autosports seemed to have the advantage on single lap pace, when they had this advantage last year they struggled to convert it to race day. The predicted-eight hour race tomorrow will be long and anything can happen, but the WRT cars are well positioned to gain places. Another curve ball that most would not have been expecting is a Pro-Am car on class pole. This means, at some point during the race, Am driver Francois Perrodo (bronze class) could find thimself leading the field. It will be up to the cars and drivers around him to take advantage of this if it happens.

Porsche One-Two as Aston Martin Cause Upset in Am

Rear of #92 Porsche GT Team at Sebring International Speedway
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

The pace displayed during practice did not lie, and Michael Christensen took a leaf out of his team mate’s book to take class pole ahead of the 1,000 Miles of Sebring. Gianmaria Bruni did not make it easy in the sister Porsche however, racing Christensen to the chequered flag. Christensen’s 1:57.233 was only 0.15s up, keeping the #92 on its run of pole positions (now at three in a row carrying over from 2021).

Corvette Racing came third thanks to Nick Tandy’s 1:57.696, four tenths down on the leading Porsche. However just like in the Hypercar/LMP2 session, the Am pole sitter split the top three from the Ferrari Pro cars. The Ferraris both finished over two seconds off the pace of pole-sitting Christensen, making it clear why the Am pole sitter managed to split them from the group. It will be a case of damage limitation and taking advantage of any misfortunes that befall their competitors tomorrow for the Italian outfit.

Even though Porsches were on top and leading the way in practice, the threat of Aston Martin won in GTE Am with Ben Keating taking the first class pole of the year. His 1:59.204 was a tenth up on the fastest Pro Ferrari, 1.4s up on second in class. The #98 Northwest Aston Martin Racing really added salt to Porsche’s wounds, helping the British manufacturer take a one-two and lock out the front row in class. Team Project 1 #56 was the highest placed Am Porsche in third thanks to the 2:00.649 set by Oliver Millroy.

#33 TF Sport Aston Martin on track for FIA World Endurance Championship 1,000 Miles of Sebring
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

Lights go out for the 1,000-mile event at 16:00 GMT tomorrow, 18th March. Mixed grids and faster cars qualifying behind slower ones will force teams to get tactical ahead of the race and could see interesting strategies up and down the field. For the first time in the past couple of years, winners aren’t clear and easy to predict, so make sure you’re watching from lights out to the chequered flag so you don’t miss any of the action from the opening round of 2022.

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About author
The Checkered Flag’s correspondent for the FIA World Endurance Championship. Working in motorsport as a hobby and as a professional, Alice is a freelance digital communications manager, video editor and graphic designer at OrbitSphere. She also runs and manages her own YouTube channel - Circuit The World - with videos on gaming, travel, motorsports and reviews.
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