Alpine edge Toyota in rain-marred WEC Sebring opener

The FIA WEC made a triumphant return to Florida after two years of pandemic postponements. Ultimately, the 2022 1000 Miles of Sebring was a race to forget for Toyota Gazoo Racing, as Alpine walked away with the spoils.

The 2022 running of the 1000 Miles of Sebring was a different beast to the last race here in central Florida, back in 2019. The earlier start time meant that the heat of the day replaced the darkness of the night as the main challenge for teams and drivers to overcome. What both races shared was weather-related disruption, with the 2022 race ending in confusion as lighting warnings forced multiple stoppages to the on-track action.

Alpine celebrate maiden FIA WEC win

Alpine ELF Team –still running its “grandfathered” Alpine A480 LMP1 machine – had the pace advantage all weekend over fellow Hypercar challengers Toyota and Glickenhaus and secured its first ever WEC win in clinical fashion.

Starting from pole, driver Nicolas Lapierre got the jump on the chasing pack and established a decent lead in the early stages. However, the first set of pit stops soon revealed what the French manufacturer was up against: With its hybrid system and car built to the newer Le Mans Hypercar regulations, Toyota Gazoo Racing was able to go around four laps longer.

It was an endurance racing battle seen countless times through the ages: faster and thirstier vs slower and more efficient.

López uninjured after horror shunt

Just before the halfway stage, Alpine were handed a lifeline in this hare-and-tortoise battle. José María López in the #7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid made contact with the GTE Am Porsche while attempting to lap it, spinning into the barriers as a result.

Damage to the car then caused López to career into the tyre wall at high speed and flip over. The Argentine emerged from the car unhurt, to the relief of all watching at the track and at home. The race was red flagged for over 30 minutes while the marshals repaired the barriers.

Thanks to the stoppage, Alpine closed the gap to the remaining Toyota and saved itself almost an hour of green-flag running.

After the restart, the result looked to be in the bag for Mathieu Vaxiviere, Nicolas Lapierre and André Negrao. The trio extended their lead to 90 seconds as the race entered the closing stages.

Another red flag – this time pre-emptively for adverse weather in the area – appeared as if it might set up a final-hour shoot-out, but the race was ultimately ended prematurely due to repeated lighting strikes.

Glickenhaus Racing scored its first-ever overall podium finish in the WEC after a promising performance in their home race. The US-entered team was able to match the pace of its competitors in Hypercar but lost time early on due to a drive-through penalty that it was ultimately unable to recover.

Strong Porsche performance in GTE Pro

Porsche maintained the upper hand throughout the vast majority of the GTE Pro class battle. 2021 World Championship runner-up Kévin Estre and Michael Christensen held off valiant challenges from the #64 Corvette and the #91 Porsche to start their 2022 season on a high.

Corvette took a promising second-place finish in its maiden full-season WEC entry as a full-works programme, Ferrari were nowhere to be seen in the Pro class battle, victims of balance of performance or just a genuine lack of pace – depending whom you asked.

LMP2: United victorious, Prema podium on debut

United Autosports took a comprehensive win in the LMP2 category after an impressive performance by Paul di Resta, Oliver Jarvis and 16-year-old debutant Josh Pierson in the #23 Oreca. Reigning champions WRT finished second and challenged the #23 car throughout the race, but just needed a little more luck. Robert Kubica’s Prema Orlen Team celebrated its WEC debut with a maiden podium for the #9 car.

Aston Martin one-two in GTE Am

The situation in qualifying was repeated in the race, as the Aston Martins claimed a one-two finish in the GTE Am class. The win went the way of the #98 Northwest AMR car of Paul Dalla Lana, David Pittard and Nicki Thiim. Second was the #33 TF Sport Aston, with third going the way of Project 1 and the #56 Porsche 911 RSR-19.

Photos: Copyright 2022 Gabi Tomescu/