Stephen Simpson led Thursday at Sebring. Photo courtesy of IMSA

Sebring weekend, Thursday notes and results

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SEBRING, Fla. – Thursday at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring is almost longer than race day itself.

Today’s on-track sessions featured three IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice sessions, two Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge practice sessions, and a practice, qualifying and race apiece for the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda and the IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama.

WEATHERTECH SESSIONS

The No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson of Stephen Simpson posted the fastest lap in Thursday’s three practice sessions, set in the morning session at 1:49.516 around the 3.74-mile, 17-turn Sebring International Raceway circuit.

That being said, two of the Cadillac DPi-V.Rs topped the two subsequent sessions held in the afternoon and evening, with the No. 10 Konica Minolta and No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillacs on top respectively. Both of their times were in the 1:49 bracket.

Fred Makowiecki ended the day with the best time in the GT Le Mans class, also in the morning session. His best time in the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR was 1:57.109, set in the morning. In the evening session the No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT of Sebastien Bourdais was just a tiny bit off with a best time of 1:57.116. Corvette Racing made it three different teams and manufacturers on top in as many sessions, with Tommy Milner fastest in the afternoon session at 1:57.206 in the Corvette C7.R.

At a lap time of 2:00.964 in the evening session, Lawson Aschenbach posted the fastest time of the day in the GT Daytona classes in the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS. That car also led the afternoon session with the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 tops in the morning session.

BAR1 Motorsports led two of the PC class sessions in the afternoon and evening with Performance Tech Motorsports on top in the morning.

There were no major incidents during the three sessions, including the night practice, which always has the potential to be a trouble spot.

RESULTS

NOTES

  • Ford Chip Ganassi Racing held a quick photo opportunity Thursday with the respective trophies from the team’s class wins at Le Mans in June and Daytona in January. The team has the shot to go for three-in-a-row and hold all three titles simultaneously if they win Sebring this weekend, which would be a feat Corvette Racing achieved in the 2015 calendar year, and also from June 2015 into March 2016.
  • Corvette Racing, meanwhile, hosted its annual dinner with longtime oil partner Mobil 1 on Thursday night.
  • Fitting transition here, here’s Mobil 1 The Grid’s Sebring preview with Corvette Racing driver Oliver Gavin.
  • Ricky Taylor joins Ben Keating’s LMP2 program for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, as initially reported by Sportscar365 and confirmed by Taylor’s dad and team principal Wayne Taylor to NBC Sports. The older of two Taylor brothers was initially listed in Larbre Competition’s No. 50 Corvette C7.R in the GTE-Am class but now moves into the LMP2 time for the second time in his career.
  • The No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPi missed second practice with gearbox issues, but returned for the evening.
  • Sebastien Bourdais, Scott Dixon, Spencer Pigot (IndyCar), Ryan Dalziel, Bryan Sellers, Lawson Aschenbach, Frankie Montecalvo (PWC), Pato O’Ward (Indy Lights) and Max Hanratty (Pro Mazda) are completing the St. Pete to Sebring 12-hour double this week. There’s a handful of others in the Sebring field who either were at St. Pete at some point last weekend and/or are competing in multiple races at Sebring this weekend between the other series.
  • Sellers’ No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 featured new daughter Mila’s name over the driver door, while young son Liam was making the rounds in the paddock on Wednesday with Sellers’ wife Jamie Howe.
  • Starworks Motorsport has had to perform a last-minute scramble to fill its lineup with James Dayson unable to compete. Mazda Road to Indy veterans Garett Grist and Max Hanratty got a crack within the team’s orange and white No. 8 Oreca FLM09 in Thursday practice, with Sean Rayhall also taking laps in the evening session. The team had apparent engine issues but returned in the final stages. Meanwhile at another of the PC (class) teams, BAR1 Motorsports adds Danny Burkett to its lineup, one of several pros alongside the previously listed Buddy Rice, Colin Thompson and Gustavo Yacaman.
  • Tristan Vautier now lives in Mooresville, N.C., site of the SunEnergy1 Racing team headquarters. The privateer team runs with some Mercedes support for one of the three Mercedes-AMG GT3s in the field; Vautier, a past Indy Lights and Pro Mazda champion in back-to-back years, shares the brightly colored No. 75 car with Boris Said and Kenny Habul.
  • Cool nugget about JDC Motorsports’ present this weekend. The team campaigns the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson in the WeatherTech Championship (an LMP2 car in Prototype), the No. 54 JDC-Miller Motorsports BMW 228i in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge ST class, two LMP3 Ligier JS P3s and two MPC Elan DP02s in the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda series, for a total of six cars for the John Church-led team.
  • Nico Jamin won the opening Prototype Challenge race in his Ligier JS P3, the No. 20 ANSA Motorsports entry. Jamin, who was in St. Petersburg last weekend for his Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires commitments with Andretti Autosport, was a late add in a second car for that team.
  • In the debut of the new Porsche 991-spec GT3 Cup car, Scott Hargrove won that first race Thursday afternoon in the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche over Jake Eidson, the Haywood Scholarship winner, in the No. 24 Kelly-Moss Motorsports Porsche.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.