Toyota begin WEC season with one-two as Ferrari reach podium on return

World Endurance Championship

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Toyota’s number seven crew of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez have started the 2023 World Endurance Championship season with victory in the Sebring 1000 Miles.

The eight-hour race ran 29 laps short of its scheduled distance, and Toyota were on top for almost the entirety of it.

Ferrari were faster in qualifying with their debuting 499P, but chose to pit both of their hypercars during an early Safety Car period caused by a crash for one of their GTEAm class machines, surrendering track position. Any hope of reclaiming the lead was lost after their number 50 car got a penalty for overtaking under Safety Car conditions and their 51 had a crash which led to lengthy repairs and also a penalty.

The Toyotas were split by less than a second through the first quarter of the race, with the number eight crew of Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa leading. But by the halfway point the positions had changed thanks to an on-track pass by Kobayashi, and that car tended to have a pace advantage over the remaining stints.

Following the final pit stops, the gap between them grew from 11 seconds to 23 due to a slow stop and even slower out-lap for Hartley, who had taken over from Buemi. But by the finish, perhaps under instruction from the team, there was just 2.168s between the two Toyotas.

Ferrari’s early pit stop cost them the lead
The Team Penske-run Porsches showed flashes of pace, but neither of their cars were ever serious contenders for the podium. Glickenhaus were compromised by an engine start-up problem.

Peugeot’s day was over almost before it began due to a gearbox problem on lap one for their number 94 9×8 car which led to it spending several hours in the support paddock and outside of the race track. The sister number 93 car lasted a little longer before unreliability struck, and they were classified 31st and 32nd behind the sole Vanwall which remained with the Hypercar pack at first but then had a suspension issue that led to a spin and then a race-ending trip to the pits.

The Cadillac driven by Earl Bamber, Alex Lynn and Richard Westbrook rivalling the Toyotas briefly emerged as a threat to Ferrari’s hopes of scoring a podium finish. However the number 50 Ferrari 499P of Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina and Nicklas Nielsen had enough in hand to claim the final place on the rostrum 10 seconds ahead of their pursuers. Bamber had a two-lap gap to the Porsches in fifth and sixth.

Jota Sport won the LMP2 class in seventh overall with a car driven by David Beckmann, Will Stevens and Yifei Ye, triumphing by just 2.863s over the number 22 United Autosports entry. Five other cars finished on the same lap as the class winner, but dropped out of victory contention with their final pit stops.

Corvette’s number 33 Corvette led the GTEAm class for the vast majority of the race, and ended up winning by two laps in 17th overall.

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2023 Sebring 1000 Miles results

17Hypercar (Hybrid)ToyotaToyota GR010 HybridMike Conway/Kamui Kobayashi/Jose Maria Lopez239
28Hypercar (Hybrid)ToyotaToyota GR010 HybridSebastien Buemi/Brendon Hartley/Ryo Hirakawa239
350Hypercar (Hybrid)Ferrari AF CorseFerrari 499PAntonio Fuoco/Miguel Molina/Nicklas Nielsen237
42Hypercar (Hybrid)CadillacCadillac V-Series.REarl Bamber/Alex Lynn/Richard Westbrook237
55Hypercar (Hybrid)Porsche PenskePorsche 963Dane Cameron/Michael Christensen/Frederic Makowiecki235
66Hypercar (Hybrid)Porsche PenskePorsche 963Kevin Estre/Andre Lotterer/Laurens Vanthoor235
748LMP2JotaOreca 07 – GibsonDavid Beckmann/Yifei Ye/Will Stevens230
822LMP2United AutosportsOreca 07 – GibsonFrederick Lubin/Philip Hanson/Filipe Albuquerque230
963LMP2PremaOreca 07 – GibsonDoriane Pin/Mirko Bortolotti/Daniil Kvyat230
1034LMP2Inter EuropolOreca 07 – GibsonJakub Smiechowski/Fabio Scherer/Albert Costa230
1141LMP2Team WRTOreca 07 – GibsonRui Andrade/Robert Kubica/Louis Deletraz230
1228LMP2JotaOreca 07 – GibsonDavid Heinemeier Hansson/Pietro Fittipaldi/Oliver Rasmussen230
1331LMP2Team WRTOreca 07 – GibsonSean Gelael/Ferdinand Habsburg/Robin Frijns230
149LMP2PremaOreca 07 – GibsonFilip Ugran/Bent Viscaal/Andrea Caldarelli229
1551Hypercar (Hybrid)Ferrari AF CorseFerrari 499PAlessandro Pier Guidi/James Calado/Antonio Giovinazzi228
1636LMP2AlpineOreca 07 – GibsonMatthieu Vaxiviere/Julien Canal/Charles Milesi228
1733LMGTE AmCorvetteChevrolet Corvette C8.RBen Keating/Nicolas Varrone/Nicky Catsburg221
1877LMGTE AmDempsey-ProtonPorsche 911 RSR 19Christian Ried/Mikkel Pedersen/Julien Andlauer219
1957LMGTE AmKesselFerrari 488 GTE EVOTakeshi Kimura/Scott Huffaker/Daniel Serra219
2021LMGTE AmAF CorseFerrari 488 GTE EVOStefano Costantini/Simon Mann/Ulysse de Pauw219
2154LMGTE AmAF CorseFerrari 488 GTE EVOThomas Flohr/Francesco Castellacci/Davide Rigon219
2260LMGTE AmIron LynxPorsche 911 RSR 19Claudio Schiavoni/Matteo Cressoni/Alessio Picariello219
2386LMGTE AmGRPorsche 911 RSR 19Michael Wainwright/Riccardo Pera/Benjamin Barker218
2485LMGTE AmIron DamesPorsche 911 RSR 19Sarah Bovy/Michelle Gatting/Rahel Frey218
2510LMP2Vector SportOreca 07 – GibsonRyan Cullen/Matthias Kaiser/Gabriel Aubry218
2625LMGTE AmORT by TFAston Martin Vantage AMRAhmad Al Harthy/Michael Dinan/Charlie Eastwood217
27777LMGTE AmD’StationAston Martin Vantage AMRSatoshi Hoshino/Casper Stevenson/Tomonobu Fujii217
2898LMGTE AmNorthwest AMRAston Martin Vantage AMRPaul Dalla Lana/Nicki Thiim/Axcil Jeffries216
2956LMGTE AmProject 1 AOPorsche 911 RSR 19PJ Hyett/Gunnar Jeannette/Matteo Cairoli215
304HypercarFloyd VanwallVanwall Vandervell 680Tom Dillmann/Esteban Guerrieri/Jacques Villeneuve215
3193Hypercar (Hybrid)PeugeotPeugeot 9X8Paul di Resta/Mikkel Jensen/Jean-Eric Vergne213
3294Hypercar (Hybrid)PeugeotPeugeot 9X8Loic Duval/Gustavo Menezes/Nico Mueller141
3335LMP2AlpineOreca 07 – GibsonAndre Negrão/Memo Rojas/Oliver Caldwell139
3423LMP2United AutosportsOreca 07 – GibsonJoshua Pierson/Tom Blomqvist/Oliver Jarvis91
35708HypercarGlickenhausGlickenhaus 007Romain Dumas/Ryan Briscoe/Olivier Pla62
3683LMGTE AmAF CorseFerrari 488 GTE EVOLuis Perez Companc/Lilou Wadoux/Alessio Rovera4

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Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching Photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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11 comments on “Toyota begin WEC season with one-two as Ferrari reach podium on return”

  1. Congrats to Toyota and my fellow countryman José María López

    1. @mariano
      It’s great to have you back, all the best for you and the entire Argentinian nation. Many Congratulations for the world cup victory !

      1. Thank you very much. Looks like Ferrari has managed to assemble a good team to compete in the WEC. Let’s see how they do the rest of the season. Many thanks for your kind words.

  2. Good start for Ferrari who showed real pace though if they want to seriously challenge Toyota they need ta raise their game and work like a Swiss watch. Too many mistakes, Fuoco alone got a silly drive though for overtaking I think under FCY and then a silly incident lapping a backmarker.

    1. That accident with the backmarker looked more unfortunate than silly with the GT car looking like wanting to enter the pitlane just as Pier Guidi wanting to go by him on the pit entrance – going too fast with the puncture and damaging the car was a bigger problem though. But the reliability was good, and they still have two more races to work out any issues, get some experience of running at the front.

      Cadillac looked promising and that V8 sound is cool, I was a bit surprised by Porsche’s lack of pace but the commentators suggested the car should be better when run by Jota. Hopefully Peugeot will be better on a less bumpy surface, but that was very disappointing.

      1. @hunocsi
        I said silly because Fuoco was really pushing. If I recall correctly, he was the fastest man on the track at that point. That’s the issue lapping backmarkers. It’s a balance between getting through as fast as possible without the risk of a collision.

    2. RandomMallard
      18th March 2023, 11:49

      @tifoso1989 They were saying at one point on the broadcast that Toyota’s biggest advantage in WEC this season is that they never left, and I think this race was the perfect example of that. There pace appeared broadly similar to that of the Ferrari’s, but Toyota’s race ran much smoother and with far fewer drama’s, leading them to a very comfortable victory in the end.

      On the other hand, Porsche, Peugeot and Ferrari have been out of top class endurance racing for 5, 11 and about 50 years respectively, so a lot of knowledge and expertise about how to run and endurance race – as opposed to just build a fast car – has likely been lost, while Toyota’s team have been consistently involved in these races for over a decade now.

      As @hunocsi mentions, it is going to be interesting to see how Jota (a team with plenty of experience in WEC) will do running those Porsches, because I thought the Porsche-Penske entries both here and in Daytona were rather disappointing, although I also wouldn’t be entirely surprised if them or Peugeot are trying to game the BOP a bit before Le Mans, although the latter’s reliability is surely a bigger concern for them at the moment.

      Cadillac seemed to have a decent race, nice to see them in WEC for sure. Glickenhaus and Vanwall continue to seem to be a bit of an enigma. However, after a few rather barren years, it is great to see the top class in WEC start have a decent number of entries once again, and with the potential of more entries from Acura/Honda and BMW who already have LMDh cars ready, and Alpine and Lamborghini set to launch them in time for next season, it should be a very exciting future for WEC!

      1. RandomMallard
        Couldn’t agree more. I was switching between the French and the Spanish commentary of Eurosport and they were saying the exact same thing. Having the car is the first ingredient of success in endurance racing but it’s not enough because it must be coupled with having an experienced team who know what to do and when to do it.

      2. It was indeed a very smooth run for Toyota, but it’s also easy to overvalue their experience. They weren’t newbies when they made quite the mess last year at Sebring; and the Monza race later on wasn’t much better. Any 8 hour race is a challenge, and these days it’s all very much on the limit so any small issue means a team loses significant ground.

        Also, the AF Corse team is not new to endurance racing, nor are the drivers. It’ll take some adjustments for sure to become a proper and full-fledged LMH-team, but they’re already quite close.

        Cadillac was definitely nice to see do decently, and Porsche is indeed a bit of a disappointment after all the hype around them being so well prepared with all these big and early long tests. With more teams coming, there’ll no doubt be some BoP drama and shenanigans, but so far so good.

  3. I like WEC, but what do they average, like 30,000 viewers a race?

  4. some racing fan
    19th March 2023, 17:44

    I was at this race. It was not too bad on the Friday WEC race day but on the 12 Hours IMSA race day (Saturday), it was damned hot- 88 degrees F (31C). There were also 236,000 people at this race- a 40 percent increase from last year. It was also quite dusty there- it hasnt rained in 2 1/2 months there.

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