«Difficult» for WEC Hypercar newcomers «to win straight off»

The Italian constructor this year returns to top-flight prototype racing with a fully-fledged factory programme for the first time in 50 years, fielding a pair of 499Ps in the WEC after being lured by its new Le Mans Hypercar regulations.

Ferrari’s track record of nine outright wins at Le Mans 24 Hours, coupled with its success in Formula 1 and the WEC’s now-defunct GTE Pro category, means it faces a lot of pressure to replicate its success on its step up to the top division.

To prepare for its first factory assault at the Circuit de la Sarthe since 1973, Ferrari has put the 499P through strenuous conditions at a wide variety of race tracks, including the Sebring International Raceway that will host the opening round of the season on 17 March.

However, Calado believes it is hard to gauge where Ferrari stands just yet, and it is unrealistic to expect it to be in a position to fight for outright success in 2023 given the kind of competition it is going up against in the 13-car Hypercar field.

“Everything is a bit of unknown,” said the Briton, who will share the #51 car with Alessandro Pier Guidi and Antonio Giovinazzi.

“We don’t know where we are, but I think the expectation is to see where we are from the first race, see what is all about.

“It would be difficult to say we are going to win straight off, we don’t know.

“It’s a brand-new car. Although we’ve done a lot of laps, there are still maybe a lot of niggles in the race situations, so I think the biggest goal for us as a team is to learn as fast as we can to improve the car all the time.

Ferrari 499P at Sebring

Ferrari 499P at Sebring

Photo by: Ferrari

“The outright goal is obviously to get wins, to get championships, to get Le Mans, but we don’t know when this is going to happen. You can’t expect it probably in the first year.

“It would be nice, but we know the competition is strong. We know that, everyone knows that.

“We are going into it with the hope that we will do well, but you just don’t know. We just need to learn and see where we stand.”

Ferrari is one of the two Hypercar manufacturers that has no race experience with its Hypercar contender heading into Sebring, with the ByKolles-run Vanwall the only other machine yet to make its competitive bow.

Hypercar incumbents Toyota, Peugeot and Glickenhaus have all varying experience from the last two WEC seasons, while Cadillac and Porsche also got to race their respective LMDh challengers in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-opener at Daytona last month.

Asked if a lack of race mileage puts Ferrari at a disadvantage for the 1000-mile contest at the Florida venue, Calado said: “Of course, it is a disadvantage. They have got the upper hand in terms of experience already, especially some of the manufacturers. We know that.

“But there is nothing we can do. We have a new car. We are new into this after so many years of being away from top class. So, it goes down to the expectations again, we just don’t know.

“Of course, the team have been working day and night, it’s been flat-out work, work, to try and get the car into a position where it is raceable and reliable but we don’t know [where we stand] until we actually race the car.

“We can’t say what is going to happen. We just don’t know, but we are just looking forward to the challenge, looking forward to the learning process and ultimately, hopefully that brings us results in the future.”

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