Ferrari 499P’s maiden pole position was secured by Antonio Fuoco ahead of the Italian Hypercar’s FIA World Endurance Championship debut at Sebring International Circuit.
Ferrari marked its return to the top of the premier endurance class after fifty years with the 499P number 50 piloted by Antonio Fuoco at the 1000 Miles of Sebring, the first round of the FIA WEC 2023. Alessandro Pier Guidi, driving the number 51 Hypercar, finished fourth overall for the Ferrari AF Corse team in qualifying.
The Maranello marque entered a new racing era by setting the benchmark time among the Hypercars as the Florida sky at dusk lighted the track at the storied Sebring International Raceway.
The 26-year-old Italian finished the race in 1:45.067, 0.214 seconds faster than the #8 Toyota, giving the 499P number 50 crew, which also included Miguel Molina and Nicklas Nielsen, the lead. The 312 PB driven by Arturo Merzario and Carlos Pace in the 1973 24 Hours of Le Mans was the final Ferrari to start from the first grid box in the top class.
Toyota was stunned by Fuoco in qualifying after the Japanese manufacturer had dominated the Prologue test and all Free Practice sessions over the previous weekend. Brendon Hartley in the No. 8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid was edged out by the Italian by 0.214 seconds, and Kamui Kobayashi qualified third in the #7 Toyota with a time of 1:45.548.
Alessandro Pier Guidi finished fourth with a time of 1:45.874, sandwiching the two Toyotas in the sister AF Corse Ferrari.
Alex Lynn moved Cadillac team Chip Ganassi Racing up to fifth place marking the highest-placing LMDh car, ahead of the two Porsche 963s built to LMDh specifications from Porsche Penske Motorsport.
Peugeot qualified eighth and ninth, with the 9X8 LMH, the French manufacturer’s best hybrid-powered car, finishing 2.3 seconds behind the benchmark time.
Olivier Pla finished slightly ahead of Tom Dillmann by less than two tenths of a second and Glickenhaus Racing edged off Floyd Vanwall Racing Team in the race between non-hybrid LMH constructors.
Oliver Jarvis, driving for United Autosports, broke the 1:50 mark to finish top in LMP2. With six and a half minutes remaining, the current IMSA DPi champion set a time of 1:49.974 and maintained the lead until the very end.
The No. 23 Oreca 07 Gibson and the No. 28 JOTA Oreca locked out the frontrow after Jarvis edged out the previous pacesetter Pietro Fittipaldi by 0.093 seconds.
Drivers Robin Frijns of Team WRT and Matthieu Vaxiviere of Alpine Elf Team, which won the 1000 Miles of Sebring outright as a Hypercar team the previous year, were in second and third place behind Fittipaldi, respectively.
Sarah Bovy of Belgium won the GTE-Am pole for Iron Dames ahead of the Italian team’s debut race with Porsche after a back-and-forth duel with Ben Keating. Throughout the 15-minute practice allocated for Bronze-rated drivers, Bovy and Corvette Racing’s Keating alternated the fastest lap multiple times. With a time of 1:58.949, the Iron Dames driver ultimately prevailed, beating Keating’s best performance by four tenths.
Aston Martin team ORT by TF Sport was placed third by Ahmad Al Harthy, ahead of Luis Perez Company’s Richard Mille AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo.
Stefano Costantino, who finished fifth in the GTE-Am category driving the No. 21 Ferrari of AF Corse, was the other driver to break the two-minute mark.
The 1000 Miles of Sebring gets underway on Friday noon.