The FIA WEC cars took to the Sebring International Raceway for the first time in earnest as the Super Sebring weekend kicked off with FP1 in windy and slightly overcast conditions.
The #7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid led the vast majority of the session before Japanese driver Kazuki Nakajima went fastest with a 1:41.957 just two-and-a-half minutes before the end of the first session.
Nakajima’s time was almost 4 seconds quicker than the fastest time recorded at Sebring the last time the FIA World Endurance Championship raced here, by André Lotterer for Audi in 2012.
Second-fastest was José María López in the sister Toyota just over half a second further back. The quickest privateer driver was Mathias Beche in the #1 Rebellion Racing machine with a 1:43.552.
GTE Pro times were headed by the #97 Aston Martin Racing crew, with Maxime Martin posting the fastest time of the session with a 1:58.044. The 1000 Miles of Sebring marks the first competitive appearance for the new Aston Martin Vantage GTE in the US.
Second-fastest was Harry Tincknell in the #67 Ford GT around three tenths behind the Vantage. The third-fastest driver of the session was Tincknell’s teammate Andy Priaulx, showing that Ford certainly mean business at their home race. Richard Lietz made it three manufacturers in the top three in GTE Pro by going third-quickest with a fastest lap of 1:58.577
Hard fights in LMP2 and GTE-Am
Nick de Vries was the fastest driver in LMP2 for the #29 Racing Team Nederland crew, the sole Dallara in the FIA WEC field and another car making its competitive debut on US soil. The Dutchman was the only LMP2 driver to dip into the 1:47s, posting the fastest lap in class of 1:47.835. Brazilian driver André Negrão was second-fastest for the #36 Signatech Alpine Matmut team with a 1:48.346.
The only source of drama during FP1 at Sebring was a red flag caused by an incident involving the #88 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR. Driver Gianluca Roda lost control of the Porsche in the final corner, resulting in damage to the rear of the car.
Team Project 1, who lost their original chassis earlier in the week in a fire during testing, failed to post a time in FP1 as they are still busy building up their replacement car for the weekend’s race.
The fastest time in the GTE Am class went to Pedro Lamy in the #98 Aston Martin, who was just nine hundreds of a second quicker than Matteo Cairoli in the #88 Dempsey-Proton Racing machine. Incredibly, less than 0.05 of a second separated the top five cars in GTE Am, which raises hopes of an exciting class battle.
Images © WEC-Magazin (Walter Schruff)