The FIA WEC 1000 Miles of Sebring has been red flagged after 112 laps following a big off into the barriers for Jose Maria Lopez in the No. 7 Toyota Gazoo Racing GR010 HYBRID.
The incident occurred while Lopez was leading the race and trying to get past the No. 88 Dempsey Proton Porsche of Julien Andlauer at the hairpin. Lopez tagged the Porsche while going around the outside after the exit of Turn 7 and was spun off into the barriers.
Lopez continued, thinking the damage wasn’t too bad and he could nurse the car back to the pits. Unfortunately, moments later the nose dropped shortly after he got up to speed, sending the Toyota head-on into a set of tire barriers where it was launched into a rollover.
Big OFF for @pechito37 and @TGR_WEC. José is OK and has walked out of the car. #WEC #1000MSebring pic.twitter.com/1wlD0rvf3W
— WEC (@FIAWEC) March 18, 2022
Thankfully Lopez was able to walk away unscathed. Toyota told RACER that Lopez is being checked out at the medical centre because the car’s G-force impact light came on after the incident. “The doctors are with him and report he is fine,” a spokesperson said.
Toyota’s Alex Wurz said: “First of all, Jose is out of the car — he is OK with no pain. This is good news. This is what we see sometimes in WEC. He clipped the tail of the car, said on the radio it was OK to continue after his spin. He accelerated, the nose came down because of the impact, he couldn’t steer and he went straight into the tire wall. Thank God he is OK and the safety of the car is good.”
This leaves Toyota with just one car left in the race, and makes the Le Mans Hypercar class a straight fight between three cars from three different teams.
Brendon Hartley, in an out of sync pit sequence, leads in the No. 8 Toyota, though the sole remaining GR010 will drop back behind the Alpine which has led from the start after its next stop.
Andre Negrao is currently aboard the leading Alpine, which had a lead of over a minute before the red flag, with the race approaches its halfway point. Third is the No. 708 Glickenhaus, which has struggled with tire temperatures but has shown flashes of pace.
In LMP2, PREMA Orlen leads after leapfrogging the two United Autosports ORECAs at the fifth round of stops. Louis Deletraz will lead the way in the class when the race restarts, ahead of Paul Di Resta in the No. 23 United ORECA and Will Owen in the sister No. 22 United entry. The two WRT ORECAs complete the top five with the No. 41 ahead of the No. 31.
In GTE Pro it’s been a fight between Corvette and Porsche thus far, with the No. 64 C8.R leading the way after Nick Tandy stormed into the lead in the opening stint of the race.
The No. 92 Porsche sits second with the No. 91 Porsche third. The two AF Corse Ferraris, as in qualifying, don’t have the outright pace to challenge here. The only hope as it stands for a 488 GTE EVO to reach the podium is attrition to become a factor in the Pro category,
Am, meanwhile is being led by the No. 98 Northwest AMR Vantage, which took the lead in the first hour when Paul Dalla Lana made a daring move to get past polesitter Ben Keating in the TF Sport Aston. It’s by no means over for TF Sport at this stage, with the No. 33 still very much in the fight, sitting second.
There are three Astons in the top four, with the No. 77 Dempsey Proton Porsche splitting the pack, currently sitting third.
Originally the race was due to run to 238 laps, but the red flag has left the clock running, meaning it will now be a timed race. It is due to get back underway shortly once marshals have repaired the barriers.