Round 6 of the FIA World Endurance Championship was run at Sebring International Raceway.
It was a real “Florida” day, with 31,5 degrees Celsius air temperature before the start.
Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 with Fernando Alonso, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima started from Pole Position in LMP1, Jackie Chan DC Racing #38 with Ho-Pin Tung, Stephane Richelmi and Gabriel Aubry had LMP2 Pole, Porsche #92 with Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre on GTE Pro Pole, while Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #77 with Christian Ried, Julien Andlauer and Matt Campbell had GTE Am Pole.
The start went without any problems in all the categories, and people held their position through the first corner.
Corvette Racing #63 quickly went up to third, with, Garcia’s experience from the track. Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #77 fell back in the GTE Am the field, with Christian Ried behind the wheel. Thus Egidio Perfetti in Team Project 1 Porsche #56 was leading the race, but with Mathias Lauda in Aston Martin Racing #98.
Rebellion Racing #1 had to pit due to technical problems with the car. It costed them five laps, before they could send the car back to the track.
Jackie Chan DC Racing #38 lost the lead in LMP2 to their teammates in #37, and had to pit a few laps later when Ho-Pin Tung encountered problems with downshifting.
There were more battles in GTE Pro between all the constructors. Corvette Racing #63 seemed to have cooked their tires, when Garcia suddenly fell back down the field like a stone. The Spaniard had problems with steering the car through the corners, so it was a piece of cake for Augusto Farfus in BMW Team MTEK #82 and Martin Tomczyk in BMW #81 to drive past him, and shortly afterwards, #66, #95, #91, #97 and #71 also did, before the team finally chose to pit him for a new set of tires.
Jackie Chan DC Racing #38 was in the pits a few times to solve the problems with the gearing. First, they changed the steering wheel before going to change the other parts of the electronic, and finally removed the rear part of the car to check the gearbox.
45 minutes into the race, BMW Team MTEK #82 drove past Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK #67, by overtaking the Ford from the outside in the ultra fast Turn 6.
Gianluca Roda had a WOW moment when he spun in Turn 15 in Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #88, but he came back in the right direction since there is a big run-off area nearby.
The GTE Pro cars were due to their first pitstop, just before the an hour mark. Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK #67 came out in front, with BMW Team MTEK #82 and Porsche #92 on the next positions. However, nothing was decided in GTE Pro, since top 5 were within five seconds of each other – with Ford, BMW and Porsche in the top 5. After that there was a group with Corvette, Porsche and Aston Martin, before Ferrari was a bit behind with both their cars.
SMP Racing #11 got a puncture with Vitaly Petrov behind the wheel, but he managed to limp back to the pits. There were some minor damage on the car, that the mechanics had to repair before sending it back to the track.
DragonSpeed #31 had to pit with a loose rear wing, where the mechanics quickly mounted a new one on.
Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK #66 was forced to have a long pitstop, when the gearbox caused them some problems, and they lost nine laps in total.
SMP Racing #17 got a bigger problem coming, when Egor Orudzhev was too fast through Turn 1 and ran out of road. It resulted in #17 hitting the tire wall and having to retire. Luckily, Orudzhev could come out of the car by himself, but it caused a Full Course Yellow which later evolved into a Safety Car period. It took 23 minutes before the race got restarted.
But it didn’t take long before another problem occurred. Pastor Maldonado brushed the tire wall in Turn 17, and it ripped the rear wing of his car. After a lap without rear wing, the mechanic mounted a new one and he could continue. It deployed another Safety Car to get the tire barrier repaired.
Spirit of Race Ferrari #54 and Team Project 1 Porsche #56 had a close-up moment in Turn 1, where #56 ended up backwards and had a light contact with the tire wall – but not worse than Jörg Bergmeister in #56 was able to continue without any problem. Fisichella in #54 got a Drive-through penalty for the incident.
Kevin Estre in Porsche #92 came in contact with Darren Turner in Aston Martin Racing #95, in a battle for third place in GTE Pro. #95 could luckily continue but had to lose two places. It gave #92 a Stop & Go penalty for the accident.
Top 3 in the different classes, halfway through the race was Toyota Gazoo Racing #8, Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 and Rebellion Racing #3 in LMP1 – Jackie Chan DC Racing #37, Signatech Alpine Matmut #36 and Racing Team Nederland #29 in LMP2 – Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK #67, Aston Martin Racing #95 and Porsche #92 in GTE Pro – Aston Martin Racing #98, Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #77 and Team Project 1 Porsche #56.
Jackie Chan DC Racing #38 was once again in trouble, when Ho-Pin Tung couldn’t get the door up as he should give the car to Gabriel Aubry. The mechanics had to use tools to open the door – and later changed the door before the car was ready again.
Mathias Beche in Rebellion Racing #1 had a solo spin in Turn 10, but could continue by himself.
There was drama in the Toyota pit with three hours and hours and 25 minutes left, when Jose Maria Lopez in #7 came into the pits and the mechanics threw themselves over the rear of the car. The TV pictures showed that he had a contact with TF Sport #90, when Lopez dived into an opening that got closed when he went past.
A few minutes later, Beche was in another problem when he tried to overtake Spirit of Race Ferrari #54 from the inside, but just as it was with Lopez, the opening got closed before Beche was through. Beche noticed the danger in the last moment and braked hard, so that he didn’t hit the Ferrari. He went off over the grass, hit the concrete wall and it damaged the rear of his car. He drove back to the pits, and the mechanics went to repair it straight away. They ended up pushing the car back to the garage, since the damage was too big to be repaired on the pitlane.
Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 had a tour over the grass, when he tried to overtake Renger van der Zande from the outside and had to avoid hitting him.
Vitaly Petrov in SMP Racing #11 had a solospin in Turn 1, but he fortunately didn’t hit anything.
DragonSpeed #10 had to pit with problems, where the mechanics went to use the tools in the engine compartment. They then stopped working on the car on the pitlane and pushed it back to the garage.
After that the race fell into a quieter rhythm, with less drama. But there had been so many Safety Car periods that the race would be run on time limit instead of the 1000 Miles. Before the race they already called it 1000 Miles or 8 hours – but in order to achieve the 1000 Miles, it was necessary for the race to more or less be run under green flag all the way through.
The lead in GTE Pro changed with 2 hours and 14 minutes left, when Martin Tomczyk in BMW Team MTEK #81 drove past Jonathan Bomarito in Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK #67. It was the first time in many hours, that Ford lost the lead in the GT class, regardless of different pitstop strategies.
After everything went pretty well for Racing Team Nederland #29, unfortunately they had to stand still in the pits due to technical problems.
With two hours left on the clock, Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 was in front of LMP1, Jackie Chan DC Racing #37 in LMP2, BMW Team MTEK #81 in GTE Pro and Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #77 in GTE Am.
Rebellion Racing #3 had some problems with leaving the pits. The car did a weird jump, but it could continue. It caused them to lose the third place in LMP1 to SMP Racing #11.
BMW Team MTEK #81 went in as the leader in GTE Pro, but it apparently had one more pitstop than Porsche #91 in second place.
With half an hour left, the race officially got declared a Wet Race, which meant that the drivers must turn on the rain lights, when the rain radar spotted some rain in the area. There were also a few drops on the cameras, but it wasn’t too bad.
TF Sport Aston Martin #90 had a broken diffusor with half an hour left, which evoked some beautiful sparks behind the car. The race director, however, wasn’t so impressed the extra visual effect and ordered the car to go to the pits and get it repaired.
It slowly rained harder, so some teams started to change to rain tires. There were some different strategies going on, with some teams putting on rain tires, while others opted for Intermediates.
Both Larbre Competition #50 and Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK #67 had a couple of small off track moments in Turn 7, which caused the majority of the field to pit.
The rain was exactly what BMW Team MTEK #81 needed, so that they could fill the fuel tank and, at the same time, put rain tires, as well as the Porsche. Porsche came out of the pit first, but the BMW was right behind.
The concrete got so slippery, that the teams sailed around, and the laptimes fell with half a minute per lap.
Actually, the GT cars began to drive faster than some LMP cars, since horse power isn’t always a good thing.
12 minutes before the end, the Safety Car came out when Loic Duval in TDS Racing #28 had planted the car deep in the tire barrier in Turn 13. He couldn’t reverse the car, since it got stuck at the bottom.
They could free the car quickly, but the front part was so damaged that it could no longer drive. And they wouldn’t manage to repair the tire barrier in time, so despite the slightly flat feeling, the race had to end behind the Safety Car.
Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 with Fernando Alonso, Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi won the race, ahead of their teammates in #7 with Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez, and SMP Racing #11 with Brendon Hartley, Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin.
The LMP2 class was won by Jackie Chan DC Racing #37 with David Heinemeier Hansson, Jordan King and Will Stevens, in front of Signatech Alpine Matmut #36 with Nicolas Lapierre, Pierre Thiriet and Andre Negrao, with DragonSpeed #31 drivers Alexander Davidson, Roberto Gonzalez and Pastor Maldonado in P3.
Porsche #91 with Richard Lietz and Gianmaria Bruni won GTE Pro, ahead of BMW Team MTEK #81 with Nicky Catsburg, Alexander Sims and Martin Tomczyk, who lost the race due to a longer pitstop than Porsche #91’s. Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK #67 finished in third, with Andy Priaulx, Harry Tincknell and Jonathan Bomarito.
Porsche also won GTE Am with Dempsey-Proton Racing #77, with Christian Ried, Matt Campbell and Julien Andlauer, ahead of Spirit of Race Ferrari #54 with Giancarlo Fisichella, Thomas Flohr and Francesco Castellacci, as well as Team Project 1 Porsche #56 with Jörg Bergmeister, Patrick Lindsey and Egidio Perfetti.
Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 extended their lead in LMP1, while Jackie Chan DC Racing #37 car has taken the lead in LMP2. The latter is a special situation, because the drivers are started with zero points before the race, but the points that belong to the car give them the championship lead.
Porsche now has a 1-2 lead in GTE Pro, with #92 still in front, while #91 comes up to second place.
Team Project 1 Porsche #56 had a fantastic day, after everything looked otherwise bad for them last weekend, due to the burnt car and all the stress that they had to get a new car flown to Florida. They’re still leading the championship and even extending it with several points.
Now there will be a two-month break before the next race in FIA World Endurance Championship, where the teams will be back in Europe and Spa Francorchamps at 4 May 2019.