The 1000 Miles of Sebring and Sebring 12 Hours
Aston Martin Vantage embarks on FIA WEC LMGTE title defence as champion TF Sport, NorthWest AMR and D’station return to the fray
All three AMR WEC partner teams refresh driver line-ups for 2023
British marque seeks fourth class victory in 71st running of the world famous 12 Hours of Sebring on Saturday
Rolex 24 winner Heart of Racing lead the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTD standings and start among the favourites
Magnus Racing seek to go one step higher after Daytona podium
Sebring International Raceway, USA: Aston Martin’s multiple championship-winning Vantage begins the defence of its FIA World Endurance Championship (FIA WEC) LMGTE Am class title this Friday (17 March) when the 2023 season kicks off with the 1000 Miles of Sebring in Florida. Reigning GT class champion TF Sport, along with fellow Aston Martin Racing partner teams NorthWest AMR and D’station Racing, will contest the 8-Hour event with a trio of Aston Martin Vantage GTEs.
Having won its long-coveted GTE Am title after two years finishing runner-up, TF Sport brings an exciting new line-up of Aston Martin champions to the #23 ORT by TF Vantage GTE. Omani driver Ahmad Al Harthy (2017 and ’19 GT World Challenge Endurance Pro-Am champion) and American Michael Dinan (2020 double GT4 America champion) join Irish works star Charlie Eastwood (2019 GT World Challenge Endurance Pro-Am champion) to present a formidable defence of the team’s crown.
Paul Dalla Lana (CDN) returns with his NorthWest AMR team for his ninth full WEC season as the most experienced Aston Martin driver in the field – having started every WEC round since 2013. The 2017 GTE Am world champion remains the most decorated ‘Bronze’-rated entrant with 17 class victories, the most recent of which came at Sebring last year. He is again joined by two-time FIA WEC GTE Pro world champion Nicki Thiim (DEN) and new team signing, the ‘Silver’-rated Axcil Jefferies (ZWE).
Japanese team D'station Racing returns for its third season in WEC alongside Aston Martin with its dark green Vantage GTE. The Fuji-based squad, which receives assistance from TF Sport, has shown great potential recording podiums in each of the past two seasons, and is looking to go further in 2023. Team-owner Satoshi Hoshino (JPN), will be joined by regular co-driver Tomonobu Fujii (JPN) and promising rookie Casper Stevenson (GBR).
Vantage heads into an extended 2023 FIA WEC season with two GT world titles from the past three campaigns, but it will need to be on its best game to bring home a third in a packed 14-car field featuring strong competition from Corvette, Porsche and Ferrari, particularly as the LMGTE Am class now constitutes the only GT competition within the WEC. Moreover, the season will be longer this year thanks to the addition of the 6 Hours of Portimão in Portugal on 16 April, which runs before the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps (BEL) race on 29 April. The centenary edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans (FRA) takes place on 10-11 June, followed by the 6 Hours of Monza (ITA) on 9 July, the 6 Hours of Fuji (JPN) on 10 September and the now traditional 8-Hour finale taking place in Bahrain on 4 November.
The world championship opener forms one half of a mouth-watering endurance racing double-bill this weekend as the venue also plays host to the 71st running of the world-famous Sebring 12 Hours – round two of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship – on Saturday. Hot off the back of its maiden class win in the Rolex 24 at Daytona with the Heart of Racing (HoR) team, Aston Martin aims to celebrate the 70th anniversary of its first Sebring class victory (racing a DB3 driven by Reg Parnell and George Abecassis), with an inaugural 12-Hour class success for the current Vantage.
In fact, the Sebring 12 Hours is one of the few endurance classics Vantage – derived from Aston Martin’s critically-acclaimed road car, sharing the same aluminium body-frame and a specially tuned version of the four-litre V8 turbo-charged production engine – has left to conquer. In all its variants (GTE, GT3 and GT4), Vantage has proved to be phenomenally successful, and is currently the reigning Rolex 24 at Daytona and 24 Hours of Le Mans class winner as well as defending champion in the GT Am class of both the world’s leading endurance series – the FIA WEC and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
That’s an accolade that works driver and reigning LMGTE Am world champion Marco Sørensen is also pursuing. The Dane, who won his class in the 24 Hours of Le Mans last June, was part of the victorious Heart of Racing crew, alongside Darren Turner (GBR), Ian James (GBR) and Roman De Angelis (CDN) at Daytona. He once again share the #27 GTD Vantage with team principal James and IMSA champion De Angelis at Sebring.
Works driver Ross Gunn (GBR), Alex Ribeiras (ESP) and David Pittard (GBR), were long-time race leaders in the #23 GTD Pro class Vantage during the Rolex 24, and they hope to carry this form into Sebring and get their IMSA title challenge on track before the early-season endurance races are done with.
Magnus Racing, with the #44 Aston Martin Vantage, whose driver crew of John Potter (USA), Andy Lally (USA), Spencer Pumpelly (USA) and guest star Nicki Thiim (DEN) finished second in GTD and third GT car home at the Rolex 24, return for Sebring as part of their endurance race 2023 campaign. With two second places in the bag since switching to Vantage in 2022, the team is chasing its first Aston Martin race win in Florida.
Huw Tasker, AMR Head of Partner Racing, said: “It’s been a tremendous start to the season for Vantage in the US. An outstanding showing for the Vantage GT3 at the Rolex 24, was followed up by a clean sweep of poles and wins at St Petersburg for the Vantage GT4 in the GT America series. Now it’s the GTE’s turn to show its class as we look to defend its championship-winning pedigree. Across WEC and IMSA we have five world-class partner teams all capable of winning with Vantage, and we’ll do all we can to support them in this endeavour on an amazing weekend of endurance racing.”
Official practice for the WEC 1000 Miles of Sebring begins on Wednesday 15th March at 1055 EST, with the race beginning at noon on Friday. Follow details of the event via the official WEC website and App. The Sebring 12 Hours begins with free practice at 1010 on Thursday with the race starting at 1010 EST on Saturday. Go to the IMSA website for details of how to follow the race.