Ferrari dominated the Le Mans 24 Hours by locking out the front row in hyperpole qualifying, taking their first victory in the historic race in fifty years.
Antonio Fuoco gave the #50 Ferrari pole position for the 2023 Le Mans 24 Hours to mark their comeback to the top division 50 years after their previous appearance in the series.
Fuoco turned in a 3:22.982 lap around the Circuit de la Sarthe during a red-flagged session after Sebastien Buemi’s #3 LMP2 car caught fire. The former Formula 2 driver was able to outrun the sister #51 Ferrari, piloted by Alessandro Pier Guidi, by 0.773 seconds to secure a Ferrari one-two.
The #8 Toyota, driven by former Formula 1 driver Brendon Hartley, starts third on the grid, barely ahead of the #75 Porsche Penske. Kamui Kobayashi, who will make his NASCAR Cup debut in Chicago in July, had the #7 Toyota in third place but missed a lap, dropping it to fifth.
All classes were on the track at the same time for the 30-minute hyperpole time frame, unlike earlier World Endurance Championship events. Following Wednesday’s qualifying session, there were eight hypercars competing: two Toyotas, two Ferraris, two Cadillacs (the number two and number three), two Porsche Penske cars (the number five and the number 75), and two Cadillacs.
The Toyotas went onto the grid first to start the session’s first flying laps on the medium compound tyres, with Brendon Hartley’s number eight Toyota leading Kamui Kobayashi’s number seven car and the Ferraris trailing behind.
As Hartley crossed the finish line to record the first benchmark time of a 3’26.398, Earl Bamber’s first push lap in the second Porsche was canceled owing to violating track limits at Tertre Rouge.
The second Toyota quickly outpaced Hartley by less than a tenth of a second, but the Ferrari duo easily outpaced them. The number 51 Ferrari, piloted by Alessandro Pier Guidi, posted a 2’23.897, just ahead of the number 50 sister Ferrari in the hands of Fuoco.
On their second laps, both Toyotas improved, but they were still roughly a second slower than the Ferraris. With just under 15 minutes left, the Toyotas and Ferraris returned to the pits to make tweaks for their last runs.
Pier Guidi improved his own provisional pole time by four tenths of a second, but he lost the lap when it was eliminated for exceeding track limits at the Karting exit. This gave the sister Ferrari, driven by Fuoco, the opportunity to gain almost a full lap and move up to the provisional pole position.
Sebastien Bourdais moved the No.3 Cadillac into the second row, but he immediately had to stop at the first chicane on the Mulsanne due to a technical problem. After coming to a stop, the Cadillac suddenly caught fire, with flames shooting from the ground. With 5’15 left on the clock, the session was immediately red-flagged.
Cars waited in line at the end of the pit lane for the Cadillac to be cleared with enough time for drivers to begin a final flying lap before the chequered flag was raised. The session immediately restarted with both Toyotas, both Porsche Penske cars, and the number two Cadillac joining the circuit, while the Ferrari duo settled in the front row decided not to go back out for another lap.
Paul-Loup Chatin’s IDEC Sport ORECA #48 secured the LMP2 pole position, while Ben Keating’s #33 car clinched the LMGTE AM pole.
The race is scheduled to start on Saturday afternoon 16:00 local time.