Sebring

  • #8 Toyota secures lights-to-flag victory at Sebring

    The #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 of Fernando Alonso, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima took a dominant victory in the maiden 1000 Miles of Sebring, despite a late rain storm causing chaos.

    Starting on pole ahead of the sister #7 driven by Jose Maria Lopez, Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway, Buemi – who took the first stint – was untroubled at the head of the field as he pulled clear of the competition. Even as day transformed into night, the #8 ran like clockwork over the airfield circuit’s fearsome bumps to open up a comfortable lead over the #7. Its victory was all but assured with just over three hours of the eight-hour race remaining when Lopez clattered over a kerb at turn 15 trying to avoid the TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage. He was called into the pits so the car could be checked over and lost more than four minutes while the Toyota mechanics went to work.

    The #8 had a scare of its own with less than 15 minutes on the clock as Nakajima slithered off the track despite using wet tyres. He only lost a handful of seconds, but it could have been much worse for the race winners, as the Japanese driver only just missed the barriers.

    After the #28 TDS Racing Oreca, with Loic Duval behind the wheel, went straight on into a tyre wall at low-speed, the last 12 minutes of the race was run under the safety car – guaranteeing a fourth win of the season for the #8.

    Brendon Hartley claimed a podium finish on his return to endurance racing as the #11 SMP Racing BR1 survived an early explosive tyre failure to finish third – the team’s second consecutive podium after success in Shanghai. Their cause was helped by a crash for the #1 Rebellion Racing R13 with three hours to go which sent the car to the garage. The #3 Rebellion also had a number of mechanical issues which relegated it to a distant fourth in LMP1. The #17 SMP machine was on course for a good result in the top class, but Egor Orudzhev crashed into the barriers at turn one just before the two-hour mark. The Russian was running third at the time, having pulled clear of the #3 Rebellion in the opening quarter of the race. Also failing to finish was the DragonSpeed BR1, which was pushed into the garage with a mechanical issue with two hours and 40 minutes still on the clock.

    A decisive move on the opening lap of the race proved to be decisive for the #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing crew of David Heinemeier-Hansson, Jordan King and Will Stevens. Passing the sister #38 at turn one on the opening lap, the trio was unchallenged as they took victory in LMP2 by more than 50 seconds. The pole-sitting #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca endured a frustrating race. The car lost almost an hour in the pits as the team dealt with a gearbox fault in the car and then lost more time after a bizarre issue with the door failing to open on the Oreca at a driver change. It eventually finished 30th, last of the classified runners.

    Finishing second, a familiar position for the team after the three Free Practice sessions, was the Signatech Alpine A470. Despite a clean race for the French team, its crew of Andre Negrao, Nicolas Lapierre and Pierre Thiriet couldn’t match the front running pace of the DC Racing team. Despite disappointment in LMP1, DragonSpeed picked up a podium in LMP2 as the #31 of Anthony Davidson, Pastor Maldonado and Ricardo Gonzalez had enough pace to counteract two unscheduled pitstops to replace the rear-wing twice – once for a failure on the bumps and once after Maldonado swiped the barriers on the exit of turn 17. Despite a herculean effort to get the car from last on the grid to P8, the Racing Team Nederland entry could only manage fifth in class at the chequered flag – behind the Larbre Competition Ligier.

    GTE Pro proved to be the hardest fought category during the race, with almost every entry in the 11-car class enjoying a spell in the lead and half-a-dozen cars often covered by less than three seconds. Despite the back-and-forth between the teams, it was the heavy rain with less than 20 minutes of the race remaining that made the decisive difference. With teams scrambling into the pits to swap their slicks for wets, Gianmaria Bruni – in the #91 Porsche GT Team 911 RSR – jumped the #81 BMW Team MTEK M8 GTE in the pits and with the late safety car to recover the #28 TDS Racing Oreca, the Italian held on to secure the victory.

    The #81 finished second, the best result of the season for Martin Tomczyk, Nicky Catsburg and Alexander Sims, with the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Team UK Ford GT in third. That car had led for the majority of the opening four hours, but faded as the race went on – that was summed up by a great overtaking move by Bruni to relegate the #67 from the lead, the Porsche driver out-braking Jonathan Bomarito going into the turn seven hairpin. James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Davide Rigon ensured four manufacturers were represented in the top four as the #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo finished ahead of the #92 Porsche of Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen. The latter lost time late on as Estre was given a stop & go penalty for rear-ending the #95 Aston Martin Racing Vantage of Darren Turner. The Aston was running in second at the time, but the contact, which sent turner spinning across the grass, dropped the car down the order.

    Dempsey-Proton Racing secured top honours in GTE Am to make it a Porsche clean sweep of the GTE classes as the #77 of Matt Campbell, Christian Ried and Julien Andlauer fought hard to pass the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari. The Ferrari finished second, despite receiving a penalty for side-to-side contact which sent the Team Project 1 Porsche into the barriers early on in the race. Thankfully for the Project 1 team, the damage proved to only be minor and thanks to a strong charge from Egidio Perfetti, Jorg Bergmeister and Patrick Lindsey, the team recovered to the third step of the podium. Gulf Racing took advantage of a black and orange flag for the TF Sport Aston Martin – after the rear diffuser on the Vantage broke apart on track – to finish fourth. The TF Sport car crossed the line sixth after hasty repairs – behind the MR Racing Ferrari.

  • Alonso smashes Sebring lap record to secure pole for Toyota

    Fernando Alonso set the fastest ever lap around Sebring as he headed a Toyota Gazoo Racing in qualifying for the WEC 1000 Miles of Sebring.

    The Spaniard, competing at the Floridian circuit for the first time, set a 1m40.124s to demolish Jose Maria Lopez’ previous lap record in the sister TS050 Hybrid set in Free Practice 3. Partnering with Kazuki Nakajima in the #8 entry, Alonso’s average time was 1m40.318 – almost half-a-second faster than the #7 of Lopez and Mike Conway.

    SMP Racing secured third as Egor Orudzhev and Stephane Sarrazin topped the standings for the non-Hybrid LMP1 machines – just 0.133s ahead of the fastest #3 Rebellion of Gustavo Menezes and Thomas Laurent. Brendon Hartley propelled the second SMP BR1 to fifth, ahead of the #1 Rebellion. DragonSpeed rounded out the LMP1 class in seventh.

    Jackie Chan DC Racing locked out the front row in the LMP2 class as the #38 of Gabriel Aubry and Stephane Richelmi out-paced the #37 of David Heinemeier-Hansson and Will Stevens by 0.650s. Third went to Signatech Alpine’s pairing of Pierre Thiriet and Nicolas Lapierre, just ahead of the #31 DragonSpeed Oreca of Roberto Gonzalez and Anthony Davidson. Racing Team Nederland, which had set the pace in free practice, struggled to replicate that time in qualifying as Frits van Eerd and Nyck De Vries finished bottom of the LMP2 class.

    In GTE Pro, Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre fought off the challenge of Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Team UK to secure pole for Porsche GT Team in the #92 Porsche 911 RSR by 0.115s. The #67 of Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell secured second – ahead of the sister #66 of Olivier Pla and Stefan Mucke. Fourth went to BMW Team MTEK’s Augusto Farfus and Antonio Felix Da Costa as the pair relegated the #63 Corvette Racing C7.R to fifth late on in the session. Aston Martin Racing was denied what could have been pole position after Maxime Martin was unable to set a lap time in the #97 due to a technical issue. Alex Lynn had set the fastest time in his portion of qualifying, but Martin was unable to set a representative lap time – they’ll start on the back-row.

    The #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche secured its second pole of the season in GTE Am as Christian Ried and Matt Campbell headed a Porsche 1-2 in the class – ahead of the Team Project 1 entry of Jorg Bergmeister & Egidio Perfetti. The latter pair rewarding their mechanics for quickly building up a replacement 911 in less than 24 hours after their first car burnt down in testing.

    Aston Martin Racing mechanics performed a miracle to repair the #98 after its big crash in FP3. With a new rear-end and suspension in the car, Pedro Lamy and Paul Dalla Lana combined to go third in class, 0.061s ahead of the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE.

    Luis Perez-Companc brought out the only red flag of qualifying after a nasty crash in the #61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari 488 GTE. The car snapped left on the approach to the turn seven hairpin and hit the concrete barrier. Thankfully, he got out of the car unaided but will start the race in last place.

  • Disappointment at 12 hours of Sebring

    It was a race of disappointment for the VISIT FLORIDA Racing team for the second race of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. After finishing so strongly at Daytona, taking a podium by scoring third place and being ‘best-of-the-rest’ over the 24 hour endurance race, an electrical issue forced the team to bring the car behind the wall during the 12-hour marathon. Perseverance and impressive driving saw Marc Goossens, Renger van der Zande and Rene Rast pulled the VISIT FLODIRA Racing challenger to sixth for the chequered flag.

    At the start of the Mobil1 Sebring 12 Hours, the VISIT FLORIDA Racing trio put the car fifth, looking strong to repeat their performance at Daytona and get the car onto the podium. Van der Zande started the race off, taking the green flag to get into the rhythm of the race instantly and began firing off competitive lap times.

    A two-hour stint saw van der Zande bring the car it for its first pit stop. The Netherlands native managed to get up to third place before handing over to Goossens for the second stint.

    It was just half an hour into his stint that Goossens discovered an issue with the Gibson Riley. He was stuck with an ailing throttle and forced to bring the car back in to go behind the wall for repairs. The team lost around an hour and a half in the garage, giving Goossens just over eight hours of the race left when he finally returned to the track.

    Goossens left nothing out on track as he pushed the VISIT FLORIDA Racing Gibson Riley through its paces. It didn’t take long for him to get back up to pace with the focus now on damage limitation. He made up a few positions before handing the car over to third driver Rast.

    Rast’s pace matched the example set by Goossens before him and the car was looking strong. Sadly the 90 minute delay behind the wall had dropped the VISIT FLORIDA Racing team down to seventh in class. However strong the pace was there was no way the team would be able to close the ground to get a second consecutive podium at this event.

    The pure perseverance of the team brought the Gibson Riley up to take sixth as the chequered flag fell, showing a display of incredible team spirit. It was a disappointing end to what could have been a brilliant race, but reliability had thrown its hand in the mix and prevented VISIT FLORIDA Racing from getting anything more out of the weekend.

    The team now looks forward to heading to the West Coast to take part in the third round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Island will take place over the 7th and 8th of April. Hopefully VISIT FLORIDA Racing’s luck will be back and they can remind the IMSA grid exactly what they are capable of.

  • Hartley relishing double Sebring programme

    Sportscar returnee Brendon Hartley is relishing the opportunity to race at Sebring twice in the same weekend as he gets set for a dual programme in the IMSA Sportscar Championship and the FIA World Endurance Championship.

    The New Zealander – a WEC champion with the Porsche LMP1 team – is set for his first endurance race for the first time since he was dropped from Toro Rosso’s Formula One line-up and has found a seat in two top category teams.

    First, he will tackle the 100 Miles of Sebring in SMP Racing’s BR1 LMP1 entry – where he partners Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin – before jumping across to the Action Express Cadillac DPi he shares with Joao Barbosa and Filipe Albuquerque for Saturday’s 12 Hours.

    Hartley admitted both deals came together at short notice and didn’t realise the scale of how much combined running he’ll be doing throughout the weekend.

    “Both deals came together relative late, especially the SMP deal, they got in touch with me less than two months ago, or even one month ago, to say that there is a seat available and would I be interested? Both teams allowed that I could do both races, which I was really happy about,” Hartley said. "It kind of dawned on me in the last couple of days that it is going to be very intense for me, and the challenge of jumping between cars is not easy. Especially not on the same weekend. But I still see it as a positive, before I hopped into the Cadillac for the first time I had already done a lot of laps around the track so there were fewer unknowns.”

    As well as the challenge of tackling two long distance races in two days, extra complexity has been put on Hartley’s shoulders because he is experiencing both cars for the first time this weekend. However, the 29-year-old is relishing the opportunity to get to grips with both cars.

    He added: “The drivetrain is very different between the two cars – it is the same chassis actually which is helpful – but the levels of downforce are less restricted in LMP1 so they are different to drive. It’s very clear that Action Express has to be to Sebring many times, they know endurance racing over here and the car felt very solid. They are different animals to drive, but I am enjoying both. It is just going to be a bit of a challenge jumping between and being straight on the pace. Race day I think it will be less of an issue but on days with a lot of practice, jumping between the two cars – especially with different systems, pitlanes in different places – it is more challenging.

    “It is going to be a challenge but I’m up for it, I’m going to use my experience to the best of my ability.”

  • Kevin Estre ready for ‘special’ Sebring

    Porsche GT driver Kevin Estre believes the 1000 Miles of Sebring will be a special race for the FIA World Endurance Championship ahead of the first race at the track since 2012.

    Estre, who leads the GTE Drivers’ Championship alongside Michael Christensen, has experience of the Floridian circuit in both the IMSA Sportscar Championship and in the GTC class in the former American Le Mans Series. However, this will be the first time the Porsche factory driver has tackled the circuit as part of the WEC and he believes the combination of the 1000 Miles of Sebring and the Sebring 12 Hours will lead to a special weekend.

    “I really like this track. To have both IMSA and WEC on the same weekend is really cool. There are a lot of factory drivers here, it feels like half of the paddock! But, it is cool the track is very special, very challenging, you need a special set-up, you need a good physio!” Estre added.

    “It will definitely be a special race for the WEC.”

    Along with BMW and Ford, Porsche is tackling both races with factory teams and Estre believes the shared knowledge between the two squads will be of benefit to each other – with the WEC team getting more day running and the IMSA team getting more running in the evening.

    Estre said: “We’ve done a test in November with the WEC team, with Gimmi [Bruni] and myself. And then IMSA did a two-day test two or three weeks ago so we shared some data there and during the weekend our race engineers are for sure comparing data and speaking about the set-up options we can have because the cars are very, very close.

    “It is the same tyres this year between WEC & IMSA so for sure we can share but we drive in different times of the day, so we have to learn from what they’ve gained in cooler conditions, they learn off us in the hotter conditions so we try to work closely but sometimes the set-up has its differences and then it is tough to compare.”

    Despite tackling a longer race – scheduled for eight hours – as just a pair, Estre doesn’t believe the lack of a third driver hinders them.

    “At the end, it is only one hour per driver more for the WEC race, which for sure is going to be tough because Sebring is hard. But I think we prepared as well as we can, from my side I did a bit more focus on the arms because it is quite tough here and you have to hold the steering wheel quite strong because of the bumps but that is it,” he explained.

  • Lopez heads Toyota 1-2 in final Sebring practice

    Jose Maria Lopez continued Toyota Gazoo Racing’s domination of the 1000 Miles of Sebring as the Argentinian headed another 1-2 for the team in Free Practice Three.

    The #7 was the pacesetter from the very start of the 60-minute session with Mike Conway setting an early benchmark time in the TS050 Hybrid. Fernando Alonso briefly knocked Conway off the top spot in the sister #8, but Lopez struck his decisive lap – a 1m41.448s – with just less than 40 minutes of practice remaining.

    Claiming third in LMP1 was the DragonSpeed BR1-Gibson, in a remarkable turnaround in fortunes from Thursday’s running. The team finished bottom of the class in both sessions yesterday but a 1m44.156s from Renger van der Zande propelled the #10 ahead of both the Rebellions.

    The Rebellions occupied fourth and fifth, with SMP Racing taking sixth and seventh, the #11 finishing ahead of #17.

    In LMP2, Gabriel Aubry stole a march on his category rivals as he took the top spot for Jackie Chan DC Racing after unseating long-time class leaders Racing Team Nederland. The Dutch team, making up for lost time after a suspension issue in its Dallara P217 in FP2, was running in first thanks to another stunning lap from Nyck De Vries who set a 1m49.028s. However, the squad ended FP3 in third after Signatech Alpine’s Andre Negrao ensured the French squad secured second in every practice in Florida.

    Andy Priaulx ensured Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Team UK finished top of a practice session in GTE Pro – having finished second in both of Thursday’s practices – as he beat Kevin Estre in the #92 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR by three-tenths of a second. Gianmaria Bruni ensured a Porsche 2-3, ahead of the #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 Evo shared by Daniel Serra, Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado. Aston Martin Racing, which paced the opening two sessions with the #97 of Maxime Martin and Alex Lynn, finished last in class – the #95 of Marco Sørensen, Nicki Thiim and Darren Turner five-hundredths of a second quicker than the #97. Julien Andlauer set a time that was good enough for fifth in the combined GTE standings as he took the top spot in GTE Am for Dempsey-Proton Racing. The German, in the #77 Porsche 911 RSR, finished 0.7s ahead of the sister #88 car piloted to second by Giorgio Roda.

    Team Project 1 made it a Porsche top three, as the hastily built car – the squad’s European Le Mans Series machine - claimed the top spot ahead of the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari. The only significant accident in the session came from the #98 Aston Martin piloted by Paul Dalla Lana. The Canadian was caught out by the fearsome Sebring bumps at turn 17 and crashed into the tyre barrier rear-first. He managed to get the Vantage back to the pits, albeit with significant rear bodywork and suspension damage.

  • Pla puts Mazda on top after first day of IMSA practice at Sebring

    Olivier Pla’s fastest lap in Free Practice Two ensured Mazda Team Joest ended the first day of the IMSA Sportscar Championship’s Sebring 12 Hours on top of the standings.

    Pla, who is also competing in the WEC’s 1000 Miles of Sebring in a Ford GT, used Thursday afternoon’s session to pull ahead of Felipe Nasr in the Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi and Dane Cameron, who set the fastest lap for the #6 Acura Team Penske crew. It wasn’t plain sailing for Mazda though, as the car stopped out on track during FP2 having ran out of fuel. However, it managed to complete the session having been recovered to the pitlane.

    Daytona 24 Hours winner Wayne Taylor Racing ended Thursday fourth as Renger van der Zande – another one of the 11 drivers double-heading the two races – finished three-hundredths of a second behind Cameron. Timo Bernhard waited until the final session to put the second Mazda into the top five, finishing 0.725s off Pla’s fastest time.

    Colin Braun added to the mix of marques at the top of the DPi category as he finished the day sixth-fastest overall in the CORE Autosport Nissan DPi – just a tenth ahead of Helio Castroneves’ fastest time in the second Penske Acura.

    In the two-car LMP2 class, the PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports entry of Matthew McMurry, Gabriel Aubry and Anders Fjorback finished the day comfortably ahead of the Performance Tech machine, as it paced all three sessions in its Oreca 07.

    Corvette Racing gave the fans a reason to cheer as Antonio Garcia left it until the final 30 minutes of Free Practice Three to set the fastest time in GT Le Mans as he clocked a 1m56.970s in the #3 Corvette C7.R. Just 0.013s behind the Spaniard was the fastest of the Porsche GT Team crews as Laurens Vanthoor in the #912 edged out Nick Tandy in the sister #911 Porsche 911 RSR by 0.008s. Ford Chip Ganassi Racing finished fourth and fifth in the combined standings with the #67 of Richard Westbrook finished 0.111s ahead of Sebastien Bourdais’ best time in the #66.

    There was a mix of manufacturers at the top of the standings in GT Daytona as Bill Auberlen – in the Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 – edged out the Mario Farnbacher-driven Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX by two-tenths of a second. Third went to the GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo with Mirko Bortolotti setting the best time of the day for that car, half-a-tenth ahead of Andy Lally in the Magnus Racing Lamborghini. Fifth and sixth in Thursday’s combined classification went to a pair of Porsches as Patrick Long put the Park Place Motorsports entry ahead of Scott Hargrove in the Pfaff Motorsports car. The only crash of note throughout the day of running came from the #47 Precision Performance Motorsports Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo, which had a disrupted day of running as the team missed the majority of FP2 following a crash for Don Yount. The American was caught out by a bump at the exit of turn three which pitched the car round and hit the barriers. Despite a herculean effort to repair the car, it wasn’t able to return to the track for FP3.

  • Spirit of Daytona take Sebring pole

    Action Express Cadillac held the early advantage in the 15 minute qualifying session with 16 cars vying for poll position at the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring. Juan Pablo Montoya temporarily held pole position in the Penske Acura before Tristan Vautier, in the #90 Spirit of Daytona Cadillac took the qualifying lap record twice, first of all with a 1:47.71 and then shortly after, he posted a time of 1:47.432 to cement pole position for the Florida team.

    All 10 DPIs were ahead of the P2 entries with ESM in the mix as well for the front positions on the grid, Olivier Pla took second place despite power sliding through turn 17 in the #2 ESM.  The #7 Acura took third position ahead of the #22 ESM with a time of 1:47.834. It was positive news from the Mazda Team Joest camp, Rene Rast qualified in seventh place ahead of the Mustang Sampling and Konica Minolta Cadillacs. The 10 DPI entries were split by just 9 tenths of a second whilst seven tenths split the P2 runners, the quickest of which, the #99 JDC Miller/Gainsco Oreca was about 1.4 seconds off the pace of the #90 SDR Cadillac. Oreca hold the advantage in LMP2, all four chassis ahead of the two Ligier entries.

    Headlines in GTLM also this weekend as the BMW M8 GTE took its first pole position, Connor de Phillippi beating the 2017 lap record by a tenth with a time of 1:55.839. It was by no means an easy pole for the BMW however, James Calado in the Risi Competizione Ferrari came within just 0.058 of the pole time whilst Joey Hand also challenged the #25 BMW but to no aveil. By the end of the session, the top six were split by just 0.412s, the #24 BMW rounded out the top three whilst Ford Chip Ganassi Racing took fourth and fifth and the 912 Porsche 911 RSR took sixth position.

    The #51 Spirit of Race Ferrari took pole position in GTD in the hands of Daniel Serra who has teamed up the Aston Martin GTE Am factory line up of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda.

    Gunnar Jeannette took an early lead in the #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari, posting a time of 1:59.609 early on in the session. Serra was quickly up to speed, going just over a tenth slower on his first flying lap, Jack Hawksworth the same behind Serra in the #15 Lexus before both Christopher Mies and Jack Hawksworth briefly each topped the time charts. Serra continued to push hard though and made it four provisional pole sitters in just a matter of minutes, five GTD cars under the previous lap record. The battle went down to the closing minutes, Serra taking a further few tenths out of his lap time was now 1 second below the previous record and half a second clear of Christopher Mies in the Montaplast by Land-Motorsport Audi.

    Images courtesy of imsaphoto.com

  • Toyota masters Sebring after opening day & night practice

    Toyota Gazoo Racing has laid down a marker to its rivals by breaking the Sebring lap record after sweeping the first day of FIA World Endurance Championship practice in Florida. In Thursday afternoon’s opening session, Kazuki Nakajima – in the #8 TS050 Hybrid - left it until the final two minutes to snatch away the fastest lap from the sister car of Jose Maria Lopez. His time of 1m41.857s was two seconds quicker than the 1m43.886s lap record set by Marcel Fassler on his pole lap for the 2013 Sebring 12 Hours in the Audi R18 e-tron Quattro. The positions were reversed in the second session – held under the cover of darkness - as Kamui Kobayashi in the #7 lowered the fastest lap even further as he set a 1m41.730s to lead the #8 by 0.8s.

    The best of the rest position behind the two Toyotas was shared by the #1 Rebellion Racing R13 of Mathias Beche in the first 90-minute practice and ex-Williams F1 driver Sergei Sirotkin in the SMP Racing BR1 in the second. Struggling in both sessions was the BR1-Gibson of DragonSpeed, which finished bottom of the LMP1 class. Ben Hanley told Radio Le Mans that the team was struggling to find the same ‘sweet spot’ it had found in pre-race testing.

    In the LMP2 class, Formula Two race winner Nyck De Vries topped the times for Racing Team Nederland in its Dallara P217 in FP1. However, in night practice the team had its running cut short after a broken rear-left suspension curtailed its running – stopping De Vries, Giedo van der Garde and Frits van Eerd from setting their minimum five laps of running in the dark. Making the opposite journey in the two sessions was the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07. Finishing fifth in the opening practice, Stéphane Richelmi was only the second driver on Thursday to drop into the 1m47s – after De Vries in FP1 – as he claimed the top spot in the class. Taking second in both sessions was the #36 Signatech Alpine A470 with Andre Negrão and Nicolas Lapierre setting the team’s fastest times. He finished 0.511s down on the benchmark time in the first session, before closing the gap ever so slightly to 0.497s in the second.Also occupying the same position in both 90-minute tests was third-placed TDS Racing, Matthieu Vaxiviere and XX setting the pace for the Oreca team.

    The #97 Aston Martin Racing crew of Maxime Martin and Alex Lynn were the pacesetters in both practices as they topped the times in the Vantage GTE.Martin led the way in the opening session with a 1m58.044s before Lynn made the most of the far cooler conditions later in the day to drop into the ‘57s with a 1m57.792. The pair were closely tailed by the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK squad of Harry Tincknell, Andy Priaulx and Jonathan Bomarito in their Ford GT – finishing just three-hundredths of a second behind Aston Martin in night practice. Securing third in both tests was the sister #66 Ford GT of Billy Johnson, Stefan Mucke and Olivier Pla.

    Ben Barker set the fastest time of the day in GTE Am as he put in a 1m59.327s in the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche 911 RSR to go almost two seconds quicker than Pedro Lamy’s class-leading time in the first session - the Portuguese driver just 0.009s faster than Matteo Cairoli’s #88 Dempsey-Proton Porsche in FP1. The biggest news in the class came from another Porsche team – the #56 Team Project 1 crew. After a fire in testing at the weekend destroyed its WEC chassis, Team Project 1’s mechanics perform a miracle to get the team’s ELMS chassis prepped and running in time for FP2. The car, which was flown to Atlanta overnight and then trucked to Sebring, was built up and running in less than 24 hours. Jorg Bergmeister set an early class-leading time before slipping down the order as the team focused on setting up the new car.