Ferrari stormed to a surprise pole position for the opening round of the World Endurance Championship in Sebring on their return to top level sports car racing.
The new 499P Hypercar secured pole ahead of the two Toyotas courtesy of the number 50 car driven by Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina and Nicklas Nielsen. The second Ferrari, number 51, will line up fourth on the grid, ahead of the number two Cadillac and two Porsches.
The sun was already setting over the Florida horizon as the 15 minute session began to decide Hypercar and overall pole position for tomorrow’s 100 Miles of Sebring. As many of the cars took to the track, there were early concerns for the number 93 Peugeot which stopped briefly on track, and appeared to go through a power cycle before carrying on its way.
The first team to set a lap time was the number five Porsche driven by Michael Christensen, with the number 708 Glickenhaus jumping into second place courtesy of Oliver Pla, six tenths behind. But the times were not close to the ultimate pace and the number 94 Peugeot went easily fastest of all with Loic Duval’s first effort of a 1’51.858.
The number eight Toyota was the next to lower the benchmark to a 1’49.090 with Brendon Hartley at the wheel. But that was easily beaten by Christensen in the number five Porsche, who lopped 1.7 seconds off the benchmark.
Ferrari’s first representative flying lap was good enough to put the number 51 499P on provisional pole, but only for a matter of seconds as Hartley improved to break into the 1’45s for the first time in the session. Kamui Kobayashi could not match his team mate in the number seven Toyota and moved into second, but both Ferraris were improving on their second efforts and Antonio Fuoco stormed to the top of the times with a 1’45.067, two tenths quicker than the two Toyotas.
The Toyotas returned to the pit lane but Kobayashi and Hartley climbed out of the cars, content with not heading back out for a final attempt. With no other cars improving in the final minute, Ferrari’s pole position was all but assured.
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When the chequered flag flew, the number 50 Ferrari of Fuoco, Miguel Molina and Nicklas Nielsen had secured the first pole of the season on the 499P’s racing debut. The number eight Toyota of Hartley, Sebastien Buemi and Ryo Hirakawa were second ahead of Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez in the second Toyota.
The second number 51 Ferrari of Alessandro Pier…
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