Text: Rick Kiewiet
Images: WEC, United Autosports, Chevrolet
Pole, race win and fastest lap: Alpine didn't leave much room for discussion about who was fastest in Sebring. But that's probably not what we'll remember from this race in a couple of years. José Maria Lopez' crash at turn 14 though is one we'll remember for a while. And maybe in a couple of years, when an American called Josh Pierson achieved great things in the racing world, we might remember Sebring 2022 where he, at the age of 16, won his first race in the LMP2 class of the World Endurance Championship. Meanwhile, Porsche took the victory ahead of Chevrolet in GT Pro while Aston Martin achieved top honors in GT Am.
The 2022 1000 Miles of Sebring won't go in the history books as the most exciting race ever, but one time, it definitely had our heart pumping. Almost 3,5 hours into the race, Jose Maria Lopez in the #7 Toyota lapped the #88 Proton Porsche of Julian Andlauer round the outside after turn 7. Whether he misjudged the yellow 911's speed or simply took too much risk is unclear, but he did return to the race line too quickly, causing him to hit the front of Andlauer and get into a spin. Lopez almost managed to keep the car out of the barriers, with an emphasis on almost.
The Argentinian attempted to bring the front-damaged car back to the pits, but just before turn 14, the nose seemed to break and slid under the front wheels making it uncontrollable. The GR010 hit the barriers at high speed under a slight angle, throwing it in the air and rolling it on its roof. Luckily, even before race director Freitas had the chance to red flag the race, we saw Lopez walking away from the car. Another testimony to the incredible level of safety of today's racing cars.
In the hours leading up to the incident, the Alpine had built a steady lead over the competition. The first hour, this was the Glickenhaus who managed to keep the Toyota's behind it without too much trouble. But after the first round of stops, the #7 and #8 took over the pursuit of the Alpine. After the first red flag for Lopez' incident, the race resumed, only to be red flagged two more times due to (threat of) lightning on track. In the end, the race finished under safety car conditions and Alpine took the checkered flag. Hartley, Buemi and Hirakawa took 2nd in the #8 while Pla, Dumas and Briscoe finished 3rd.
Although it first looked like the United Autosports #22 car had the best cards for the race win, about halfway through the #23 of Oliver Jarvis, Paul Di Resta and the forementioned Joshua Pierson overtook the lead. Challenged only slightly by both the #31 and #41 WRT cars and the #9 Prema, United Autosports' victory came relatively unchallenged. Robin Frijns, René Rast and Sean Gelael ended up 2nd in the #31, Rui Andrade, Ferdinand Habsburg and Norman Nato claimed the final podium spot.
With 16 years, 1 month and 4 days, Josh Pierson is the youngest ever (class-)winner in WEC history.
At the moment of Lopez' crash, Nick Tandy and Tommy Milner had built a slight advantage over both Porsche's going easier on the tires. The red flag that followed proved to be detrimental to the Corvette's race as the advantage was lost and Porsche's Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen managed to take the win. Tandy and Milner should be very satisfied with their 2nd place however, keeping the other Porsche, the #91 of Bruni and Lietz behind them.
Ferrari played no part in Sebring, the reigning World Champions Pier Guidi and Calado finshing 4th, Molina and Fuoco 5th.
Sebring proved pretty well suited for the Aston Martins in GT Am, taking a double victory with the #98 of Dalla Lana, Pittard and Thiim and the #33 TF Sport of Ben Keating, Florian Latorre and Marco Sorensen. The #56 Project 1 Porsche of Iribe, Millroy and Ben Barnicoat completed the podium.
The World Endurance Championship moves to Europe for its next race: the 6 hours of Spa-Francorchamps is scheduled at the 7th of May.