Toyota start 2019 with a 1-2 at Sebring

And a new win for Fernando Alonso

By Franck Drui

16 March 2019 - 08:53
Toyota start 2019 with a 1-2 at Sebring

A dramatic 1000 Miles of Sebring saw the no8 Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 Hybrid with Kazuki Nakajima at the wheel taking the chequered flag to win Round 6 of the 2018/19 FIA World Endurance Championship and stand on the top step of the podium with Fernando Alonso and Sebastien Buemi.

A late safety car was deployed to recover the no28 TDS Racing Oreca of former World Endurance Champion Loic Duval after the French driver’s car end up in the tyre barriers. The race finished with the safety car pulling off and the cars filing across the line to take the chequered flag led by the no8 Toyota.

In second place was the no7 Toyota of Mike Conway, Jose-Maria Lopez and Kamui Kobayashi, which finished one lap behind their teammates. Reigning World Endurance Champion Brendon Hartley brought the no11 SMP Racing BR1-AER home in third place to claim the final step on the overall podium with Mikhail Aleshin and Vitaly Petrov.

The no91 Porsche 911 RSR won the LMGTE Pro as Gianmaria Bruni passed the no81 BMW MTEK M8 GTE of Nicky Catsburg during a late pitstop as both cars came in together to switch to wet tyres when heavy rain fell in the last 25 minutes of the race of the eight hour race.

Ford made it three different manufacturers on the podium with the no67 Ford GT of Andy Priaulx took the flag a lap behind the leading pair.

Jackie Chan DC Racing took the top step of the LMP2 podium with the no37 Oreca-Gibson with a lights to flag victory for the new crew of Will Stevens, David Heinemeier-Hansson and Jordan King. Finishing in second pace was the no36 Signatech Alpine Matmut A470-Gibson, with the no31 Dragonspeed in third.

A tight LMGTE Am battle saw victory for the no77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche of Julien Andlauer, Matt Campbell and Christian Ried. Ried also stood on the top step of the LMGTE Am podium on the WEC’s last visit to Sebring in 2012 and is the only driver on the grid who has competed in all 56 FIA WEC races.

The no8 Toyota crew of Fernando Alonso, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima now extend their lead in the Driver’s World Championship to 15 points over their teammates in the no7 Toyota.

Porsche leave Sebring with a 100 point advantage over Ferrari in the Manufacturer’s World Championship, while Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen maintain a 25 point advantage over Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz in the Driver’s World Championship.

Sébastien Buemi (TS050 HYBRID #8)

“I am really pleased to be in the middle of the podium again after quite a long wait. It was a tricky race because the traffic here is not easy. In my first stint José was really quick so I had to push. We wanted to make a gap but the #7 was within 10 seconds for many hours until they had the contact. I did the best I could to minimise the risk and stay cool. When the #7 had the contact we took it easy and just got to the end without any dramas.”

Kazuki Nakajima (TS050 HYBRID #8)

“It’s great to win here in Sebring, especially after such a tough race. Maybe it looked straightforward from the outside but in my first stint I had a bit of traffic so it was already hard. When I jumped in at the end I knew what I had to do; get to the end without any risk. I was happy with the car in dry conditions but not at all happy in the end in the rain. Visibility and grip were amazingly low so I was really happy to see the chequered flag.”

Fernando Alonso (TS050 HYBRID #8)

“It is a happy day for us. We came here to this very difficult circuit and we did a lot of testing and preparation. We went into the weekend feeling confident we would have a strong race, particularly starting from pole position. From the lead of the race, we tried to manage the risk. The rain was very stressful but Kazuki did a fantastic job in difficult conditions to bring home another win at a historic venue for endurance racing. ”



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