This year’s World Endurance Championship started with what the motorsport press quickly called a sensation: the Sebring qualifying ahead of the first round of the season was won by Italy’s AF Corse team #50, driving the latest Ferrari 499P hypercar.
In 2023, the factory Ferrari team returned to the top WEC category after a half-century break, and judging by the pole position taken by Antonio Fuoco the day before, they have the most serious intentions. We have spoken more than once about how Maranello worked on a sports prototype of the LMH class, also mentioning that the creation took into account the richest experience gained in Formula 1. Behind intensive testing, and now a kind of moment of truth has come.
Fuoko completed the circuit in Sebring, USA, in 1 minute. 45.067 seconds, it was before sunset, and his result is said to have simply amazed the Toyota factory team, usually considered a favorite before qualifying. Both during the official prologue and during practice, Japanese hypercars set the tone.
By the way, thanks to yesterday’s performance, AF Corse became the first team in WEC history to manage to win pole positions in all categories of this championship.
“Now I’m in a good mood and I want to thank the whole team,” said Antonio. “Winning pole position for Ferrari after a 50-year break is an incredible achievement. The team has done an excellent job and things are starting to take shape.
But it was not easy for me: the sun was already setting and in the last corners of the circle the visibility was not good. However, the car worked perfectly and we are happy to start from the most favorable position. The main task of the race is to check tire wear, but we will do our best, although this will be our first experience. But we are determined to succeed.”
The second result in qualifying was shown by Toyota racer Brandon Hartley: 1 min. 45.281 seconds; the third was for Kamui Kobayashi, who also plays for the Japanese team, and the second Ferrari hypercar will start from fourth position. Car #51 was driven in qualifying by Alessandro Pier Guidi, but he made a small mistake at the start of the lap.
Next on the 1000 Miles of Sebring launch pad is the factory team Cadillac hypercar, which is also making its debut in the most prestigious WEC category. This result for her was achieved by Alex Lynn, who once became champion of the GP3 series, but is best known for his achievements in Formula E and endurance racing: in particular, he won the 2020 24 Hours of Le Mans driving an Aston Martin in the LMGTE Pro category.
Things are not going well for the Porsche and Peugeot factory teams. Kevin Estre (6th) was the best of the racers driving the Porsche 963 sports prototype, but he lost two seconds to the pool owner. Loic Duval (8th), Peugeot’s fastest representative, lost even more.
The hypercars of the Glickenhaus and Vanwall teams, equipped with less sophisticated and less efficient power plants without hybrid systems, could not compete with the factory teams’ cars in qualifying, losing more than four seconds on them in a fast lap. However, in the WEC, speed in this mode, while important, is not the most important factor on which success depends. Here, stable race pace and equipment reliability are more important.
The LMP2 class was won by Oliver Jarvis of United Autosports, Zach Brown’s team. By the way, the third result in this category was shown by Robin Freins, who plays for the Belgian WRT team, which certainly deserves respect, as the Dutchman returned behind the wheel for the first time after suffering serious injuries during the January Formula E round .
It’s also worth noting that in the GTE-Am category Belgium’s Sarah Bovy, driving the Porsche 911 RSR of the Iron Dames women’s team, took pole position – she completed a lap four-tenths faster than the closest rival of the opposite sex .
The 1000 Mile Sebring race starts today at 19:00 Moscow time.
Source: F1 News
I am Christopher Clyde, an experienced journalist and content writer with a passion for sports. I have been writing about Formula 1 news for the past five years and am currently employed as an author at athletistic.com, one of the top sports websites in the US. My work has been featured in various publications such as ESPN and The Guardian, ensuring that I am up-to-date on all of the latest news and developments within this industry.