MIKE CONWAY, KAMUI KOBAYASHI and JOSE MARIA LOPEZ driving the Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 lead during round 1 of the World Endurance Championship at Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Florida.
Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez driving the Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 Friday at Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Florida. (Ed Aldridge photo)

Toyota Rules 1,000 Miles Of Sebring

SEBRING, Fla. — Reigning Hypercar world champions Toyota Gazoo Racing got their season off to the best possible start with a one-two finish in Friday’s 1000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring Int’l Raceway.

Kamui Kobayashi steered the No.7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid Hypercar he shared with Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez to the checkered flag 2.168s ahead of the sister No. 8 car which was driven by Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa. The No. 7’s victory in Sebring sees the Japanese manufacturer take its 40th WEC triumph.

Taking a first podium position to add to yesterday’s maiden pole, the No. 50 Ferrari 499P Hypercar crewed by Antonio Fuoco, Nicklas Nielsen and Miguel Molina claimed a strong debut for the Prancing Horse in its first Hypercar race. Today’s podium result was made even sweeter as this week Ferrari celebrated its return to the top class of endurance racing for the first time in 50 years.

AF Corse Ferrari had to work for its podium result, however, as the No.2 Cadillac Racing squad of Alex Lynn, Earl Bamber and Richard Westbrook challenged the Ferrari 499P Hypercar in the race’s closing stages.  

Penske Porsche Motorsport claimed fifth and sixth with the new Porsche 963 Hypercar as the No. 5 car of Frederic Makowiecki, Michael Christensen and Dane Cameron finished 23.977s ahead of the sister No. 6 driven by Laurens Vanthoor, Andre Lotterer and Kevin Estre. 

Home heroes Glickenhaus Racing retired in the race’s third hour after Romain Dumas was forced to stop the Glickenhaus 007 out on track with a technical issue. 

The newly-named Hertz Team JOTA squad took the first LMP2 win of the WEC season with its No.48 Oreca-Gibson.

Yifei Ye, Will Stevens and David Beckmann controlled the second half of the event and despite a late splash and dash pit-stop, that at one stage appeared to jeopardize their victory, the trio took the checkered flag by a slender 2.8-second margin.

Stevens, who started and finished the race in the gold Oreca-Gibson, ducked into the pits for the late stop handing the lead to Mirko Bortolotti in the N0.63 Prema car.

However, when the Italian followed suit a few lapses later any worst fears were not realized and Stevens triggered wild celebrations in the Jota pit.

The victory ensured that Stevens took his second WEC 1000 Miles LMP2 win at Sebring after a prior success in 2019. Yifei Ye became the first Chinese driver to claim a WEC win, while David Beckmann won on his championship debut. 

The early phase of the race saw typically close LMP2 racing with multiple leaders vying for the converted win.

The pole-position starting No.23 United Autosports car, driven from the start by Oliver Jarvis, looked to have built a race challenging foundation. But a technical issue stopped Jarvis’ teammate Joshua Pierson in the fourth hour. It ended all hope of Jarvis and Pierson scoring back-to-back Sebring wins.

All was not lost for United Autosports however, as the No.22 car of Filipe Albuquerque, Phil Hanson and Frederick Lubin took a hard-earned runners-up position.

Despite the late pit stop, the No.63 Prema crew of Bortolotti, Doriane Pin and Daniil Kvyat still took the final rung of the podium. Pin starred on her LMP2 debut, completing a stunning triple stint mid-race.

Corvette Racing took a victory on home turf at Sebring as Nicolas Varrone, Ben Keating and Nicky Catsburg held off challenges from Aston Martin, Ferrari and Porsche.

The No.33 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R claimed the LMGTE Am win as Nicolas Varrone, Ben Keating and Nicky Catsburg put on a dominant display.

The American entered team dominated the final half of the race to ensure reigning category champion Keating begins title defense in style. His teammates Varrone and Catsburg each notched up their first WEC wins.

Taking the runners-up position is the No.77 Dempsey Proton Porsche 911 RSR 19 of Julien Andlauer, Christian Ried and Mikkel Pedersen. It was Andlauer who capitalised on a late fuel pit-stop for the Daniel Serra piloted Kessel Racing Ferrari 488 GTE Evo.

That meant Andlauer and his teammates Takeshi Kimura and Scott Huffaker dropped to third and made it three different manufacturers to fill out the class podium.

The event was a prelude to Saturday’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.