Endurance Racing

GTE Pro proves to be the class to watch at the 1000 Miles of Sebring halfway point

Photo: WEC/Joao Filipe/AdrenalMedia.com

Toyota may be leading the WEC 1000 Miles of Sebring, but it’s the GTE Pro category that has been providing the most entertainment, having been led by three different manufacturers so far.

We’re four hours (500 miles?) into the World Endurance Championship’s 1000 Miles of Sebring, and it will surprise nobody that Toyota has dominated the race thus far. The majority of the entrants have been respecting the bumps, but the very nature of Sebring coupled with incredibly close multi-class racing meant we were bound to see trouble before long.

Tyre wear has been causing issues for several cars already including the invitational entry of Corvette Racing – Antonio Garcia appeared to be standing still at one point during his stint as almost all of his GTE Pro rivals sailed passed him. Garcia got off lightly however in comparison to Petrov in the #17 SMP Racing BR1 – a rear tyre gave up the ghost, shedding rubber all over the circuit and it’s a miracle the #17 didn’t suffer serious damage.

It’s been a rough race so far for SMP Racing with Egor Orudzhev in the #11 coming to an abrupt halt after having a meeting with the tyre barriers around turn two. This brought out a safety car not only to clear the carbon debris from the start/finish line but also to repair the barriers following their smack.

If you’ve been watching the video coverage of the race, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this is a race just for GT cars, but the cameras follow the action and there’s not much more exciting than the current GTE Pro field. Porsche – our pole-sitters, BMW and Ford have all led the class at some point during the first half of this race and fans have frequently been treated to trains of rivals locked in epic battles while simultaneously steering clear of the overtaking prototype cars – a sight to behold on such a narrow track!

As we go into the second half, Kazuki Nakajima in the #8 Toyota leads the sister car with Mike Conway behind the wheel – the only two cars on the lead lap. Behind them sits the #3 Rebellion Racing, several laps ahead of Brendon Hartley in the remaining SMP Racing machine.

LMP2 has the #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca at the front, ahead of the ever-present #36 Signatech Alpine Matmut, and the #29 Racing Team Nederland – Nyck de Vries did an outstanding job to take the Dutch Dallara from the back of the grid to second in class during his stint, it’s his debut at Sebring remember!

As we’ve mentioned, there’s been plenty going on in GTE Pro, but as things stand, following a big batch of pit stops, Andy Priaulx in the #67 Ford leading the pack. Darren Turner in the #95 Aston Martin currently running in second, with Kevin Estre in third in the #92 Porsche.

Up until the third hour, Team Project 1 were the team to beat. However, an unfortunate coming together with the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari saw Jorg Bergmeister in the #56 briefly in the barriers. This resulted in a penalty for the #54 and has gifted Paul Dalla Lana in the #98 Aston Martin Racing the class lead. Running in second is Christian Ried in the #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche, with the recovering #56 Team Project 1 car behind them in third.

Still plenty of track action to go, darkness has fallen and the temperatures are falling too, so it could all still change! We’ll be back at race end with the final report.

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