FIA WEC 1,000 Miles of Sebring: Lights to Flag Victory for Alpine in Red-Flag Shortened Race

4 Mins read
#36 Alpine Elf Team on track at the FIA WEC 1,000 Miles of Sebring
Credit: Alpine Elf Team

Victory at the FIA World Endurance Championship 1,000 Miles of Sebring never seemed in doubt for the grandfathered LMP1 Alpine Elf Team #36 despite the three red flags that caused the event to come to an early conclusion.

Starting from pole, Alpine had the perfect start to the race, beating the chasing second-placed Glickenhaus Racing #708 into Turn 1. The two Toyota Gazoo Racing machines got bogged down by the LMP2 United Autosports duo, leaving the run clear for Alpine to begin building on their race lead. Toyota managed to get back on the right foot and begin their chase of Alpine, but by time the #8 and #7 got to second and third respectively, the Alpine already had a 20 second lead.

It was still the early stages of the race so Toyota had time to play tactics and try to utilise a different pit strategy and longer stints to make up the time on the Alpine. Brendon Hartley, Sebasiten Buemi and Ryo Hirakawa looked like they were making some ground up when disaster struck the sister car. Jose Maria Lopez was on board when the #7 made contact with a Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche trying to lap it on the 3.7 mile circuit and spun into the tyre barriers at Turn 9. There was a lot of damage on the car, forcing Lopez to bring it back to the pits, but on his way back to the garage the Toyota veered off track again, hitting more tyre barriers at Turn 15 but this time flipping over and landing on its roof.

Lopez was fine and managed to extract himself from the car, passing the medical checks once he had returned to the paddock. He admitted on his TV interview that it had been his mistake that caused the second Turn 15 crash, stating he had misjudged his speed going through the corner in his haste to get back to the pits. The incident brought out the first red flag of the session and a 30 minute delay to repair the barriers.

Alas, the 1,000 Miles of Sebring was not destined to run its full course, for with three hours remaining on the clock threats of an electric storm crossing the track began to emerge. Due to safety laws in America, it is illegal to continue racing during an electrical storm, so as a precaution the race was red flagged once again to see if the storm would pass. A short delay later and the cars were back on track, but again it wasn’t to last.

With 35 minutes left on the clock, the race was red flagged for a final time thanks to the electrical storm. The decision was made not to restart the race with 20 minutes of potential race action to go, robbing a climactic end from all classes as the weather set in and refused to allow the chequered flag to be taken.

Thanks to their tactical driving, the #8 Toyota secured second place on the Hypercar and overall podium, whilst Glickenhaus took their first WEC overall podium finishing third.

#23 United Autosports on track at the FIA WEC 1,000 Miles of Sebring
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

It had looked like LMP2 was going to belong to United Autosports after their stellar start to the race, with the control of the class seeming to be in their hands. However, as the race developed, the predicted fight between Team WRT and the American outfit began to rear its head. The two cars were closely matched and raced competitively, meaning it all came down to strategy to give the winning team the advantage they needed to stay ahead.

The #23 United Autosport crew of Paul di Resta, Oliver Jarvis and Joshua Pierson took one less pit stop than the rest of the field, optimising on the red flag and full course yellow period for excessive debris on track to take class victory. At 16, Pierson became not only the youngest driver to start a WEC race but also the youngest to take a class win in the series’ history. It certainly was the cherry on the top for the young driver to achieve this feat at his home race.

Team WRT led home the Realteam by WRT entry, making it a two-three for the outfit in class. The teams did well to keep the pressure on Untied Autosports and prevent the American team from taking the double podium they seemed to be set for in the early stages by time the chequered flag fell.

Sadly for pole-sitters AF Corse, they fell down the order early in the race taking 12th overall, ninth in LMP2.

Porsche Beat Corvette as Aston Martin Shine

#92 Porsche GT Team leading the GTE grid at FIA WEC 1,000 Miles of Sebring
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

Porsche GT Team were favourites going into the ten-hour event, having taken class pole position, but Corvette Racing weren’t about to make it easy for the German team. The first half of the race was a thrilling neck-to-neck battle between the #92 Porsche of Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen and the sole Corvette #64 in the hands of Tommy Milner and Nick Tandy. Part of the reason the battle was so close was because both GTE Pro Porsches were handed penalties for start line infringements that put them directly in play for Corvette to challenge the class lead.

The red flag brought out by Lopez broke the flow of the GTE race, handing the advantage to Porsche for the second half of the race. Estre made it look too easy snatching the lead from the Corvette just after the race restarted. Corvette didn’t give up though, trying their best to close down the gap enough to remake the pass before the end of the race. At the early finish, the #64 was just under ten seconds off the leading GTE Pro.

Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz made it a Porsche one-three leaving the Ferraris 3m30s further behind. Still fighting with the Balance of Performance weightings, Ferrari remained on the backfoot during the race, but made improvements shown by managing to finish ahead of all the Am cars. James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi were fourth in class, Miguel Molina and Antonio Fuoco fifth. The only exception to this was the class winning Am car which split the two AF Corse Pro cars in the overall classification.

#98 Northwest Aston Martin Racing on track at FIA WEC 1,000 Miles of Sebring
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

On WEC debut, David Pittard took class victory with Paul Dalla Lana and Nicki Thiim in the Northwest Aston Martin Racing #98 ahead of class pole sitter and other Aston Martin entry TF Sport giving Aston Martin the top two steps of the podium. The Aston Martins looked like strong contenders from the start of the race, and once the #98 had passed the #33 TF Sport it barely gave up the class lead.

Ben Barnicoat, Ollie Millroy and Brendan Iribe completed the Am podium in the #56 Team Project 1 Porsche. The highest finishing Ferrari-running team in Am was the #85 Iron Dames car with its all female line-up, finishing fifth in class. The Iron Dames were also the last car on the timing screen to be classified because the 1,000 Miles of Sebring lost ten cars during the ten hours of racing including the Dempsey-proton Porsche that Lopez collided with.

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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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