Hertz Team JOTA take tense LMP2 victory at Sebring
The newly-named Hertz Team JOTA squad took the first LMP2 win of the 2023 FIA WEC season with its No.48 Oreca-Gibson.
Yifei Ye, Will Stevens and David Beckmann controlled the second half of the event and despite a late splash and dash pit-stop, that at one stage appeared to jeopardise their victory, the trio took the checkered flag by a slender 2.8s margin.
Stevens, who started and finished the race in the gold Oreca-Gibson, ducked in to the pits for the late stop handing the lead to Mirko Bortolotti in the N0.63 Prema car.
However, when the Italian followed suit a few lapses later any worst fears were not realized and Stevens triggered wild celebrations in the Jota pit.
The victory ensured that Stevens took his second WEC 1000 Miles LMP2 win at Sebring after a prior success in 2019. Yifei Ye became the first Chinese driver to claim a WEC win, while David Beckmann won on his championship debut. Stevens also took home the first ever Goodyear Wingfoot Trophy which is given to the fastest average driver over a double stint.
The early phase of the race saw typically close LMP2 racing with multiple leaders vying for the converted win.
The pole-position starting No.23 United Autosports car, driven from the start by Oliver Jarvis, looked to have built a race challenging foundation. But a technical issue stopped Jarvis' teammate Joshua Pierson in the fourth hour. It ended all hope of Jarvis and Pierson scoring back-to-back Sebring wins.
All was not lost for United Autosports however, as the No.22 car of Filipe Albuquerque, Phil Hanson and Frederick Lubin took a hard-earned runners-up position.
Despite the late pit stop, the No.63 Prema crew of Bortolotti, Doriane Pin and Daniil Kvyat still took the final rung of the podium. Pin starred on her LMP2 debut, completing a stunning triple stint mid-race.