Formula 1 Racing

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

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

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…

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