Kazuki Nakajima laid down the gauntlet for Toyota Gazoo Racing in the first practice session of the FIA WEC Sebring 1000 Miles weekend today, setting a benchmark time of 1m41.957s in the No. 8 TS050 HYBRID.
The time, while not beating the team’s best during the pre-event test (1m41.1s from Mike Conway) would still be good enough to claim the all-time Sebring track record. This is the third instance that the Japanese marque has shown its potential pace on the Floridian circuit, as it continues to look certain to eclipse Sebastian Bourdais’ 1m43.2s driving a Peugeot 908 from the 2009 Sebring 12 Hours this week.
Nakajima’s time came late in the session, leapfrogging Jose Maria Lopez in the No. 7 sister TS050 HYBRID to go top. Lopez’ best was a 1m42.506s, still a second faster than any of the LMP1 privateer pack.
Mathias Beche in the No. 1 Rebellion R-13 came closest with a 1m43.552s, the Swiss setting multiple improvements late in the session, eventually ending up third ahead of the team’s No. 3 machine.
SMP Racing’s BR1s ended up fifth and sixth in the times, unable to split the two Swiss-flagged R-13s.
In the LMP2 class, following on from its form in the pre-event test, Racing Team Nederland managed to put its Dallara P217 atop the timing screens with a 1m47.385s from Nyck de Vries.
Behind, five ORECA chassis made up the rest of the top six spots. Signatech Alpine’s A470 ended up second, with a 1m48.346s by Andre Negrao. The top three was completed by TDS Racing’s ORECA, the French-run 07 the first of the three Dunlop-shod cars, running the new C-spec compound this weekend.
GTE Pro was headed by Shanghai 6 Hours-winning team Aston Martin Racing, its new Vantage AMRs, racing at Sebring for the first time, looking strong early. The fastest of the team’s pair was the No. 97 of Maxime Martin (above), the Belgian setting a 1m58.044s.
Andy Priaulx got the No. 67 Ford GT within a few tenths of Martin, ahead of the first of the Porsches — the No. 91 — which made it three marques in the top three.
Fastest of MTEK’s BMWs ended up seventh with a 1m58.757s, the two AF Corse’s Ferrari 488s could only manage ninth and 11th, sandwiching the Corvette Racing C7.R that finished up 10th.
Aston Martin topped GTE Am too in the session, with a 2m00.043s from Pedro Lamy. The car that ended up second in the class, the No. 88 Dempsey Proton Porsche, brought the session to a halt for a handful of minutes. Gainluca Roda stopped out on track, forcing red flags.
UP NEXT: FP2 for the WEC runners is set for 7:45pm ET, when the cars running in full darkness for the first time.