SEBRING — Tonight’s 1000 Miles of Sebring will mark the end of 18 months of anticipation for Sebring race fans. No sooner had the return of the World Endurance Championship to Sebring International Raceway been announced in 2017, when fans realized that meant of the return of their beloved LMP1 cars and in this case, it was the Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 HYBRID.
To say the Toyota has surpassed expectations would be an understatement, as the TS050 HYBRID smashed previous track records during the WEC two-day test over the weekend and picked up right where they left off in the first official practice on Wednesday, recording a fast time of 1:41.730.
The track record entering Thursday night’s qualifying was 1:43.886 set by Marcel Fasler in 2013, while Sebastien Bourdais set the fastest race lap in 2009 with a time of 1:43.274. Both records should be eclipsed by the end of this evening.
“I have been looking forward to racing at Sebring since the calendar was announced,” said Toyota driver Iazuki Nakajima. “It will be my first time there but I have heard a lot about this track and the American fans. “
But Toyota Gazoo isn’t out to set track records as much as they are to win and the team looks to build on productive practice sessions.
“Obviously with a lot more cars on track the traffic was a lot heavier than during our test, and on top of that the track conditions were different so we worked on fine-tuning the set-up,” said Fernando Alonso after the first day of official practice. “It was another positive and trouble-free day; I am happy with that. “
Mike Conway, who drives the No. 7 Toyota, is no stranger to Sebring, and liked what he saw from the cars during practice.
“It was okay today; we were adapting to the circuit conditions and getting the car dialed in during the night,” Conway said. “It felt okay but there was a lot of traffic so I didn’t get any clear laps. Still, that’s all good learning for the race. It’s more wild here at night because the circuit is quite narrow and when cars drop a wheel off the track there is so much dust. It will look good on the onboard camera!”
The 1000 Miles of Sebring runs from 4 p.m. to midnight, with the autograph session for WEC and IMSA drivers taking place 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. The WEC shortens its grid walk, so fans will have just 15 minutes, beginning at 3:20 p.m.