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.