Alpine claims victory in shortened 1000 Miles of Sebring
Florida storm brings an early halt to the opening round of the FIA WEC season, ensuring that Alpine becomes the first French winner in the series' history. Meanwhile, Joshua Pierson becomes the WEC's youngest winner at 16 years old in LMP2
The Tricolore of France was carried to victory by Alpine after André Negrão, Nicolas Lapierre and Matthieu Vaxiviere won a dramatic opening race for the 2022 FIA World Endurance Championship.
The 1000 Miles of Sebring was called to a premature halt after 194 laps of the 6.019km (3.74-mile) circuit with 70 minutes remaining due to the hazard posed by an oncoming thunderstorm of epic proportions.
The red flags had already flown to halt the race at the three-and-a-half hour mark after the number 7 Toyota GR010-Hybrid of defending champions Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María Lopez crashed heavily after making contact with the number 77 Porsche of Dempsey-Proton Racing. The Toyota, piloted by Lopez, speared off the track at Turn 14 on the historic Florida raceway, requiring a 30-minute break in order to repair the barriers.
“I had a contact with a GT car and damaged my front end,” Lopez explained. “I tried to recover as quickly as I could but I misjudged the damage I actually had on the car.
“As I was approaching Turn 14, the front bodywork fell down due to the damage and I wasn’t able to steer or slow down properly, so I went straight into the barriers. It was a big one but the car is very safe so I am thankful for that.”
With their nearest rivals thus eliminated, the Alpine team gained additional time over the number 8 Toyota when it was forced to make two pit stops in rapid succession as the field returned to action. The third surviving Hypercar entry of the Glickenhaus team was delayed by a penalty after overtaking before the restart but held on to claim third place at its home event.
The Hypercars were challenged throughout the race by the light and nimble LMP2 prototypes, among which the winner in fourth place overall was the number 23 car of United Autosports USA driven by Paul di Resta, Oliver Jarvis and Joshua Pierson. The 16-year-old Pierson became both the youngest ever driver to start a WEC race and the series’ youngest winner. Second place fell to the WRT team of Robin Frijns, Sean Gelael and Rene Rast after a late charge to eclipse the sibling Realteam by WRT squad of Ferdinand Habsburg, Norman Nato and Rui Andrade.
The No.83 AF Corse crew of Francois Perrodo, Alessio Rovera and Nicklas Nielsen capped a successful first LMP2 race with victory in the Pro/Am division.The trio followed up a surprise pole with a strong race to claim maximum points for teams that include bronze categorised drivers.
In the manufacturer’s contest for LMGTE honours, Porsche's number 92 of Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen bested its new season-long rival Corvette, whose C8.R is driven by Nick Tandy and Tommy Milner, after the two marques put on a thrilling battle. The second works Porsche 911 RSR-19 of Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz finished in third place, with the two Ferraris struggling to stay with the battle for the podium and finishing in fourth and fifth.
Aston Martin celebrated a 1-2 finish in the LMGTE Am category with the Northwest AMR entry of David Pittard, Nicki Thiim and Paul Dalla Lana just shading the similar car of TF Sport driven by Ben Keating, Marco Sorensen and Florian Latorre. Third place fell to the Porsche of Team Project 1 drivers Ben Barnicoat, Oli Millroy and Brendon Iribe.
The WEC field will regroup in Belgium for the second round of the championship, the TotalEneregies 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, on May 5-7.