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Toyota Gazoo Racing Set A New Sebring Lap Record

At its first ever visit to Sebring International Raceway for the World Endurance Championship (WEC) 1000 Miles of Sebring, Toyota Gazoo Racing (GR) set a new lap record on Test Day #1. Mike Conway in the #7 TS050 Hybrid LM P1 car had a best lap time of 1:41.211. Like Brabham's BT62 Bathurst lap record a few weeks ago, the lap time is unofficial because it wasn't set during a competitive session, but it is a verified clocked time. But this is a test session for the WEC 1000 Miles of Sebring so this is likely in race spec unlike the Brabham's BT62 lap time that was set during demonstration laps. Porsche's LM P1 car, the 919 Hybrid, famously obliterated the Nurburgring lap record last summer in 2018 with a lap time of 5:19.55.

Before the test, Mike Conway said: "Going into Sebring my expectations are high. We would like to keep up the good run of form we have had in #7, which means continuing to score well and win more races. Sebring is going to be a challenging one because it's a new track for the team. I know the circuit well from IMSA racing and testing in IndyCar. I hope that my experience there will help the team to speed up the process and get the car into a good window. I'm looking forward to going back there and earning a good result." I doubt he's disappointed with their progress so far.

Toyota GR driver Mike Conway - Toyota GR ©

Now, everyone knows exactly how fast the Porsche 919 is because there is an abundance of lap times at the 'Ring but very few people have a gauge for lap times at Sebring (myself included). To put the lap time into perspective, I tried to find lap times at Sebring but it was harder than I thought. Fastestlaps has only 11 entries and none of them are easily verified. Sebring International Raceway website doesn't have any (or if it does, they're buried). After a bit of searching, I found just about the best resource there is: NASA (National Auto Sport Association) championships. Jackpot.

I couldn't find any national championships held in 2018 but I checked Time Attack (TT - Time Trial) in 2017 and found plenty of events. All production-based cars (Corvette's, Ferrari's, Porsche's, etc.) have lap times in the 2:10+ range. The vast majority of lap times are 2:20 and slower. Fastest lap time was a 2:13.410, a whopping 32+ seconds slower which. If you're curious (kids, don't do this at home), that would be like saying the Porsche 919 can do a 5:19 lap on the 'Ring but most other cars that are really quick and built for lap times are around the 7:00 minute mark, right in the ball park you'd expect.

The previous lap record at Sebring was set in 2013 by an Audi R18 e-tron, one of the cars that basically kicked off the current crop of hybrid LMP1 cars. It was 2.655 seconds slower with a lap time of 1:43.866. Leading both of the morning and afternoon sessions puts Toyota GR in the lead, but being just a test session, it won't count until Qualifying.

FIA WEC 1000 Miles of Sebring Test Day 1 results - FIA WEC ©

LMP2 class and LM GTE AM classes swapped leaders. Signatech Alpine Matmut had the quickest LMP2 time in the morning session with a lap time of 1:49.343 whereas TDS Racing led the afternoon test session with 1:47.869. In GTE Am, Dempsey Proton Racing led the morning test session with 1:59.943 in the #88 Porsche 911 RSR (GTE Am) car, to be bested by about half a second by the Aston Martin Racing team in the afternoon session with a 1:59.435 in the #98 Vantage GTE car.

In the LM GTE Pro class, Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK lead both sessions like Toyota GR in its class, with a best time of the day of 1:58.318 in the #67 Ford GT car. With that said, one of the Ford GT's prime rivals, the Corvette C7.R, was absent from the test session. That said, Chip Ganassi did manage to stay ahead of the other front runners in the class, the 911 RSR GTE Pro and the GTE Pro Ferrari 488.

There are three more Free Practice (FP) sessions before Qualifying on March 14th and then the race on March 15th. I can't wait!

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