Метка: Imola

Toyota weighs up third Hypercar for WEC

The Japanese manufacturer has revealed that it could take a leaf out of arch-rival Ferrari’s book and run a third car on a satellite basis in the future.

But Toyota WEC race director Rob Leupen has revealed that it is already too late to put such a plan into place for next season and that an extra full-season entry in the Hypercar class could not come on stream before 2026.

«We see what Ferrari is doing with its customer or satellite car, and we like that,» Leupen told Motorsport.com.

«Clearly running an extra car gives you more possibilities, so it is something we are looking into. We are reviewing it.»

The lead time involved in building an additional car and setting up the infrastructure to run it would make it impossible for a third GR010 to arrive in the WEC in 2025, explained Leupen.

«If we were going to do it next year, we would have had to have made the decision already, and at the moment nothing is decided,» he said.

#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 - Hybrid: Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, Nyck de Vries

#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 — Hybrid: Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, Nyck de Vries

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

«It cannot be a short-term decision because we know what the lead times for all the components would be in the current circumstances.»

Toyota favours going the Ferrari route: the factory AF Corse team runs the additional 499P LMH for this year driven by Robert Kubica and works drivers Yifei Ye and Robert Shwartzman on a customer basis.

«We are not at the stage yet where we say this is how we want to do it, but if you ask me, the way Ferrari does it, I like that,» said Leupen.

He stressed that the complexities of running a four-wheel-drive LMH would mitigate against the direction Porsche has taken by selling its 963 LMDh to privateer teams.

An additional Toyota would not be able to accrue WEC manufacturer’s points and instead would compete in the World Cup for Teams in which the extra AF Ferrari and the Jota and Proton Competition Porsches currently participate.

What is unclear is if there would be room for an additional Toyota the year after next.

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Photo by: Emanuele Clivati | AG Photo

The WEC grid is on course to expand to 40 cars next year at the same time as manufacturers look certain to be obliged to run two cars.

With the arrival of Aston Martin with two Valkyrie LMHs, an expansion of the current one-car Cadillac, Lamborghini and Isotta Fraschini Hypercar programmes would potentially mean the grid is oversubscribed.

Asked if there would be room for an additional Toyota with a continued expansion of the Hypercar field, Leupen replied: «How many cars does Porsche run? How many cars does Ferrari run? So why should we not run three?»

Leupen added that there could be an overlap between the GR010 LMH and the hydrogen combustion prototype it is planning to develop after the reveal of the GR H2 Concept at last year’s Le Mans 24 Hours.

The new hydrogen class is not set for an introduction into the series until at least 2027.

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Schumacher confident Alpine can optimise WEC tyre warming procedures

The timing of a red flag in qualifying, triggered following a spin for Dries Vanthoor’s BMW, contributed to Alpine’s two A424 LMDhs lining up 17th and 18th for last weekend’s second round of the championship at Imola.

But speaking ahead of a difficult race for the French marque, which was compromised by both cars being embroiled in a first corner incident, sportscar rookie Schumacher stressed that the new-for-2024 cars run by the Signatech team are «improving with each event» and expressed confidence in the growing knowledge it has in working with Michelin tyres.

Asked for his impressions of bringing the tyres up to temperature as he adapts to the WEC, former Haas Formula 1 driver Schumacher noted that while he had previously raced without the luxury of tyre warmers in Formula 2 and Formula 3, the rear-axle hybrid Alpine «is a lot heavier».

«That means you have a tyre sensation which feels like it gives you a lot of grip and then suddenly it might snap on you and you don’t actually quite grasp why,» the German said. 

«That’s what we’re trying to understand right now, is where is the cut-off line between how much do you push on each set. 

«Frankly, for us being in the second event and to already have an understanding of being able to, after a couple of laps, be able to switch the tyres on – maybe not as fast as some other teams, but we’re still able to switch them on – I think we’re in a very good position. 

«At the end of the day, Imola is quite a bit different compared to Qatar, but I think it’s already a step forward. 

#36 Alpine Endurance Team Alpine A424: Mick Schumacher

#36 Alpine Endurance Team Alpine A424: Mick Schumacher

Photo by: Andreas Beil

«We’re improving with each event and we’re improving with each test in the knowledge that we’re grasping.

«I don’t have a real concern there that we’ll be able to get on top of it and at some point be able to put in the lap whenever we want to put in the lap.»

Alpine is returning to the top class of the WEC this year for the first time since 2022, when it used a grandfathered ORECA LMP1 chassis rebadged as an A480, having raced in the LMP2 class last year as the ban on tyre warmers in the WEC came into force.

Schumacher’s team-mate Paul-Loup Chatin explained that «there is a big step» between the procedures involved with bringing the Michelin used in Hypercar up to temperature and what the team experienced on the Goodyear tyre in LMP2 last season.

«It’s much more difficult,» noted Chatin, who took a class pole at Le Mans last year in IDEC Sport’s ORECA-Gibson 07 before rejoining the Signatech squad he’d last raced for in 2015 for its Hypercar programme.

«If you push, you can be a hero, but in one tenth you can be a zero because you lost the car. 

«And right now, it’s one of the most important topics, to be better on that. 

It was a bruising start for Alpine at Imola

It was a bruising start for Alpine at Imola

Photo by: Paul Foster

«We saw some teams like us, some teams are maybe a bit better than us right now, so there is a big way to improve. 

«It’s not an easy part of the job for the driver.»

Alpine’s frustrating race at Imola was capped when both cars were issued post-race penalties, as Hypercar debutant Jules Gounon and Nicolas Lapierre didn’t complete the minimum driving time.

Watch: BrrrakeF1 — How IMSA use Advanced Data to Enforce the Rules

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Alpine confident for ‘good news’ in Habsburg injury recovery

The French manufacturer dropped hints at last weekend’s Imola WEC race that it expects the Austrian to retake his place alongside Charles Milesi and Paul-Loup Chatin in the #35 Alpine A424 LMDh at the Spa 6 Hours on 11 May.

“We are expecting good news from Ferdy this week,” said Philippe Sinault, boss of Signatech squad that runs the factory Alpines.

“We hope he can be with us as soon as possible. His environment, the personal one and the medical one also, is very good.”

Asked specifically about the chances of Habsburg being back in the cockpit at the Belgian WEC round, Sinault suggested that a decision could be imminent.

“We will have a clearer view at the end of this week,” he stated.

The entry list for Spa will be published this week, although Habsburg’s presence on it would not necessarily mean he will be in the car for round three of the WEC.

He is still awaiting sign-off from his doctors to get back in a racing car after fracturing two lumbar vertebrae while testing for Alpine at the MotorLand Aragon circuit at the end of March.

Photo by: Alpine

It is understood that he will have a series of scans in the run-up to Spa to assess his recovery from the injuries, which were sustained in a head-on impact at Turn 7 of the Spanish venue.

There is no expectation that Habsburg will be ready to race one week before Spa at the Paul Ricard round of the European Le Mans Series, in which he is contracted to the Cool Racing LMP2 team.

He was replaced by Chatin in the Cool ORECA-Gibson 07 LMP2 in the ELMS opener at Barcelona earlier this month and then by Jules Gounon, Alpine’s official reserve driver, in the A424 at last weekend’s Imola 6 Hours WEC round.

Sinault confirmed that Habsburg’s accident was the result of a problem with the car and not driver error.

“We continue to investigate, but we had a technical issue,” he said. “Everything is under control; we have worked very hard after this accident, but now it is okay.”

Habsburg’s accident curtailed an endurance test, but Sinault insisted that it wasn’t a major problem for Alpine as it builds towards the Le Mans 24 Hours in June.

He revealed that the solo car present at Aragon had already completed 26 of the planned 30 hours and that the test was still a productive one.

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Toyota not “getting over excited” over WEC Imola triumph

David Floury, technical director at Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe, made the claim after Kamui Kobayashi, Nyck de Vries and Mike Conway took victory in the Imola 6 Hours after Ferrari made two key strategic errors.

«I don’t think we should be over-excited because it was a race decided on a tyre call, not on pure pace,» he said.

«If you look at pure pace on fastest lap time, Ferrari is four tenths faster than us. We won without being fastest, so it was won on strategy and team execution.»

He added that the lack of pace of the GR010 in comparison with Ferrari’s 499P LMH was «not something we are happy with».

Floury paid tribute to Kobayashi’s drive over the final two hours to seal the victory when rain started to fall.

The Japanese driver, who is also team principal of the TGR WEC squad, had to go into extreme fuel-save mode over his final stint to avoid the need for a late splash-and-dash stop at the same time as fending off a challenge from the factory Porsche 963 LMDh with Kevin Estre at the wheel.

«When we started the final stint we were scratching our heads a bit, wondering how we were going to manage it,» explained Floury.

#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 - Hybrid: Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, Nyck de Vries

#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 — Hybrid: Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, Nyck de Vries

Photo by: Emanuele Clivati | AG Photo

«Kamui did a fantastic job-saving energy while staying in front.

«We did the job today: the team did the perfect execution and Kamui was brilliant at the end.»

Ferrari was in the ascendency for nearly four hours in Sunday’s race before delaying the change from slicks to wet-weather tyres on both factory cars and the customer or satellite AF Corse entry when it started to rain.

The Italian manufacturer admitted to making tactical mistakes after the race, saying that it misinterpreted its weather forecast.

It also revealed that a plan to split its strategies on the two factory cars was not executed as a result of what it described as a communication problem.

The victory for Toyota on Sunday follows a disappointing performance in the Qatar 1812Km WEC season-opener in March, in which it scored a best result of fifth, a lap in arrears of the winning Porsche Penske Motorsport entry.

A Balance of Performance change helped shake up the order at Imola, although Floury hinted that he believes that the playing field has yet to be fully levelled in the Hypercar class yet.

He talked about the discrepancies in straightline speed between the cars after both qualifying and the race.

#50 Ferrari AF Corse Ferrari 499P Hypercar of Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina and Nicklas Nielsen

#50 Ferrari AF Corse Ferrari 499P Hypercar of Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina and Nicklas Nielsen

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Floury described the 5-6km/h difference in top speeds between the 499P and the GR010 as «big in a BoP world» after qualifying and then suggested that Ferrari was «out of sight» post-race.

A new component in the BoP known as «power gain» is set for introduction in the Hypercar class of the WEC this year with the aim of levelling the performance profiles of the cars down the straights.

A plus or minus figure will be applied to the maximum power figure for each car above 210km/h (130mph) to more accurately match their acceleration and top speeds.

The system was trialled by some manufacturers during the pre-Qatar Prologue test and had looked set for an Imola introduction.

The FIA and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, which jointly run the WEC, have yet to reveal to the manufacturers when it will be introduced.

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Ferrari admits to two strategic errors after losing Imola WEC race

The Italian manufacturer revealed in the aftermath of round two of the 2024 WEC that it had misinterpreted the weather forecast it received and that there was also a  breakdown in the chain of command within the team at the crucial point of the six hours when rain arrived. 

The reason why Ferrari pitted for wet tyres four laps after the majority of the rest of the Hypercar field two thirds of the way through the race was that it believed the rain was “just temporary”, said race and testing manager Giuliano Salvi. 

Salvi explained that Ferrari had been expecting the rain earlier and that it had started to distrust the forecast. 

“Sometimes you look at the radar and you think it should rain and it doesn’t, and you stop relying on the signal,” he said.  

“We thought it was the kind of situation where you don’t need to rely on the radar too much.

“We misjudged the situation, this is clear.

“We are not trying to hide anything because it was a clear mistake.”

Salvi also revealed that it had been planning to split the strategies on the two factory Ferrari 499P Le Mans Hypercars, with one going onto wets earlier and one staying on dry-weather slick tyres.  

“We need to understand this way to split didn’t go through,” he said. 

“At the moment there has not been the time to see and understand [what happened].

“We need to revise our chain of communication, because we missed certain scenarios — we need to revise our procedures.”

Ferrari dominated at Imola for more than half the duration of the six-hour race after claiming a 1-2-3 in qualifying with the two factory cars split by the customer satellite team also run by AF Corse. 

The race turned at the end of the fourth hour when the rain came and AF Corse opted to leave James Calado and Miguel Molina in the factory cars and Yifei Ye in the independent entry out on track on slicks. 

It only reacted when it became clear that the cars on the wet-weather Michelin tyre were much quicker: Kamui Kobayashi was upwards of 10s a lap faster than the three Ferraris in the race-winning Toyota GR010 HYBRID LMH. 

The best of the Ferraris at this point of the race, the #51 car with Calado at the wheel, was nearly 90s behind the race-leading Toyota after its delayed pitstop. 

Salvi tried to stress the positives of the Imola weekend for Ferrari, which recovered to take a best result of fourth with its #50 factory entry shared by Nicklas Nielsen, Molina and Antonio Fuoco. 

He said that the team had made real progress since its uncompetitive showing at the Qatar season-opener in March. 

“For sure we developed the car in a proper way — the car was behaving very well,” explained Salvi. 

He also insisted that there would be no blame apportioned within Ferrari for the mistakes at the weekend: “We are not pointing the finger in any way. 

«We are the same group that won the Le Mans 24 Hours last year as beginners — we win together and we lose together.»

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Toyota holds off Porsche to win rain-hit thriller

Mike Conway, Nyck de Vries and Kamui Kobayashi won by 7.081s in their #7 Toyota GR010 HYBRID Le Mans Hypercar over the #6 Penske Porsche Motorsport 963 LMDh of Laurens Vanthoor, Andre Lotterer and Kevin Estre, both crews taking advantage of a timely switch to wets when the previously dominant Ferraris attempted without success to keep its dry tyres working.

Starting sixth, Conway overtook Fred Makowiecki’s PPM 963 at the restart following an early safety car, then gained two places at the first round of stops by overcutting Robert Kubica’s customer AF Corse-run Ferrari 499P LMH and benefitting from a slow stop for early leader Nicklas Nielsen’s factory #50 Ferrari — which required a fresh left-rear tyre. 

Running third, Conway tracked Vanthoor to the next round of stops before handing over to de Vries, who swiftly leapfrogged Lotterer.

Nielsen had vaulted back to second behind team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi’s #51 Ferrari by the time the pair finally stepped out of their respective cockpits approaching half-distance, with de Vries by this time close behind.

James Calado (in for Giovinazzi) had to defend hard against Miguel Molina (in for Nielsen) when he climbed aboard with new right-hand tyres, but held off the Spaniard’s determined attacks and had pulled away by the time De Vries then took second. 

The Dutchman responded quickest to the end of a full course yellow, required when Carl Wattana Bennett crashed the Isotta Fraschini at Variante Alta. 

Conditions were becoming tricky, and when Callum Ilott beached his Jota Porsche in the gravel at the first Rivazza, having gone slightly off-line passing the Iron Lynx Lamborghini, it brought out a virtual safety car that would turn into a full safety car.

This came moments after Calado had pitted under green — and once others had made their stops under the caution, he rejoined fourth with Kobayashi now leading Molina and Estre.

Molina immediately pounced on Kobayashi when the race went green amid worsening rain, with the hypercars struggling to warm their tyres to the extent that both cars were overtaken by Joel Sturm’s GT3 class-leading Porsche. 

Crucially, Kobayashi immediately dived into the pits for wets, as did Estre, while all three Ferraris stayed out. It proved the wrong call, with Kobayashi and Estre multiple seconds faster per lap and the track especially treacherous in the final sector.

This prompted the trio of Ferraris to follow Matt Campbell (in the second PPM Porsche) in bailing on the slicks and switching to wets, Calado passing the newly-inserted Antonio Fuoco (in for Molina) for sixth — although they would later swap places again. 

The time the Ferraris had lost could not be recovered to pose a challenge for the podium, although it gambled by keeping Alessandro Pier Guidi (in for Calado) on wets shortly before the remainder of the Hypercar runners pivoted back to slicks. 

Campbell vaulted ahead of the second Toyota driven by Brendon Hartley with a later switch of rubber, after the New Zealander went into the gravel on the exit of the Villeneuve chicane.

Kobayashi also straightlined the Tamburello chicane following his own change of tyres, but kept his lead intact over Estre. 

The Frenchman dipped into the Rivazza gravel while pursuing Kobayashi, and again exiting the Villeneuve chicane, but managed to get within a second entering the closing stages. 

However, a five-second penalty for overtaking under safety car meant he needed to both overtake the Toyota and pull out a gap, which proved an insurmountable task.

Campbell, Makowiecki and Michael Christensen secured third ahead of Nielsen, Molina and Fuoco, the latter passing Hartley on the final lap when the Toyota he shared with Sebastien Buemi and Rio Hirakawa locked up into the Tamburello chicane.

A late drive-through penalty for a pit infringement ultimately had little bearing on the result for the leading WRT-run BMW M Hybrid V8 LMDh of Rene Rast, Robin Frijns and Sheldon van der Linde, who recorded the Bavarian marque’s best finish of its return to the WEC so far in sixth. 

After ditching his aged wets, Pier Guidi repassed the third Ferrari of Yifei Ye, which had earlier served a penalty for a full course yellow infringement during Kubica’s stint, to finish seventh.

The much-revised Peugeot 9X8 LMH recorded points in ninth on its first appearance, courtesy of the #93 car driven by Nico Muller, Mikkel Jensen and Jean-Eric Vergne, while Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn completed the top 10 in the Chip Ganassi Racing-run Cadillac V-Series.R LMDh.

Alpine’s hopes of a strong result were thwarted at the first corner, when Matthieu Vaxiviere clashed with Paul di Resta’s Peugeot and the BMW of Marco Wittmann, whose spinning car forced the second Alpine of Charles Milesi to take avoiding action in the gravel.

Vaxiviere was given a one-minute stop-go penalty for the incident, which followed his damaged car understeering into the barriers on the exit of the Tamburello Chicane and collecting an advertising hoarding.

Wittmann’s car later rejoined after repairs, but spun off in the hands of Raffaele Marciello at the treacherous second Rivazza.

Milesi’s car also found the gravel a second time later on when Paul-Loup Chatin was caught out at the Acque Minerali, the same spot where Julien Andluer rotated the Proton Porsche that later retired to bring out another FCY.

BMW scores 1-2 in LMGT3

#31 Team WRT BMW M4 LMGT3: Darren Leung, Sean Gelael, Augusto Farfus

#31 Team WRT BMW M4 LMGT3: Darren Leung, Sean Gelael, Augusto Farfus

Photo by: Paul Foster

The WRT team enjoyed a day to remember in the LMGT3 class by recording a 1-2 finish with its BMW M4 GT3s.

Darren Leung, Sean Gelael and Augusto Farfus beat the sister car of Ahmad al Harthy, Valentino Rossi and Maxime Martin by 22.838s.

Key to its victory was the timing of its first driver changes, as Leung exceeded his minimum bronze time of 1hr45m by just five seconds, while al Harthy completed only 80 seconds more than was necessary.

Polesitter Alexander Malykhin controlled the early phases of the race in his Pure Rxcing Porsche, but crucially had to get back into the car later after ending his double stint just short of the minimum.

The extra pit visit to cycle back to its silver driver, Sturm, meant he was in turn driving for half an hour longer than WRT’s silvers Gelael and Rossi.

When Sturm came in to hand over to Klaus Bachler, the BMWs then duelled for the lead between them, Martin unable to hold off the attentions of Farfus.

Moments after straightlining Tamburello, Martin got sideways exiting Acque Minerali and the Brazilian pounced to take the lead into the Variante Alta chicane.

A drive-through penalty for not respecting VSC procedure ended any hopes of victory for the #46 BMW, but did not cost it third place to the Manthey-run Porsche of Malykhin, Sturm and Bachler.

The Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage of Ian James, Daniel Mancinelli and Alex Riberas finished fourth on the road ahead of the AF Corse-run Ferrari 296 of Francois Heriau, Simon Mann and Alessio Rovera, but was due to have a pit infringement investigated after the race.

Rovera attempted to wrest fourth place on the road away from Riberas in the closing stages, but the Spaniard firmly shut the door entering the Tamburello chicane and resulting contact prompted both to take to the gravel, the Aston emerging still ahead.

WEC Imola — Race results

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Porsche and Toyota believe Ferrari «out of reach» for WEC Imola race

The two manufacturers that will line up behind the Ferrari top-three block-out on the grid believe the Italian marque will maintain its qualifying advantage in the six-hour race.

“We are trying to be optimistic but, on pure pace, we are not there with Ferrari,” said Porsche driver Kevin Estre, who took fourth position aboard the #6 963 LMDh in Saturday’s Hyperpole qualifying session.

“Of course, it’s a long race and there is strategy to come into play and the chance of contact, but to race with them will be difficult and passing them will be very difficult.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe technical director David Floury was even more despondent about his team’s chances in the Imola 6 Hours.

“I don’t see how we can be hopeful for the race,” said Floury. “Ferrari is strong on long runs, a little bit less than we have seen in quali in terms of the gap but still out of reach.

“I think they will go 1-2-3 in front, and then probably the Porsche and ourselves, Porsche a little bit better than us.”

Kamui Kobayashi was the best-placed Toyota driver in sixth position with a time aboard the #7 GR010 HYBRID Le Mans Hypercar that left him nine tenths off Antonio Fuoco’s pole-winning Ferrari 499P LMH.

#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 - Hybrid: Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, Nyck de Vries

#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 — Hybrid: Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, Nyck de Vries

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Floury suggested that the second Toyota would have been “in the same ballpark” but for Brendon Hartley’s spin, which resulted in the New Zealander completing only one push lap on the way to eighth position in Hyperpole.

“That was more or less where we could be,” said Floury. “We will do the best we can in the race and try to get two cars in the points.”

Estre, who ended up six tenths off the pace and another couple of tenths up on team-mate Matt Campbell, expressed satisfaction with the performance of the factory Porsche Penske Motorsport team so far at a circuit on which it was expecting to struggle.

“If you look at the calendar, this track looked the most scary for us,” he explained. “This track is so different to anywhere else we race; it is definitely not suiting our car best.

“When we came testing here a month ago the car wasn’t good, but the team has done a really good job in putting the car in a better place.”

The Imola 6 Hours, round two of the 2024 WEC, starts at 13:00 local time.

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Fuoco explains secret behind «special» WEC Imola pole lap

The Italian explained how completing two warmup laps in the decisive Hyperpole session in his factory #50 Ferrari 499P Le Mans Hypercar allowed him to set two laps good enough to earn his first pole position since last year’s Le Mans 24 Hours. 
He improved on his 1m29.735s lap time with a 1m29.466s that put him 0.419s clear of the field and 0.635s faster than the best non-Ferrari, the factory Penske Porsche Motorsport-run Porsche 963 LMDh that Kevin Estre qualified fourth.

«I think today this made a bit of a difference compared to the other competitors because we saw that the Porsche was pushing earlier than us and maybe stressed a bit more tyres,» said Fuoco. 

«This was our strategy from FP3 that we tried earlier. It was working quite well and we did it again in the quali, and it was okay. So I think today we understand a bit more than the others on how to manage the tyres.»

Fuoco explained that Ferrari had «already planned this morning» that it would do two warmup laps «to bring the tyres into the temperature quite easily» and avoid overstressing the tyres.

WEC rookie Robert Shwartzman in the customer AF Corse-run 499P adopted an identical approach to secure second, while Alessandro Pier Guidi completed a Ferrari lockout of the top three in the second factory machine.
#50 Ferrari AF Corse Ferrari 499P: Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina, Nicklas Nielsen

#50 Ferrari AF Corse Ferrari 499P: Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina, Nicklas Nielsen

Photo by: Emanuele Clivati | AG Photo

Explaining his lap, which followed setting the fastest time in final practice on Saturday morning, Fuoco said: «The feeling was already good from this morning in FP3, so I just tried to keep the concentration high, tried to put everything together. 

«It’s always tricky when you go on qualifying with the traffic and everything, but I think the gap was really good and I just put a really good lap together. 

«It was quite a special lap as always, but I think today in front of our Tifosi, our home race, I have an extra boost and I just push 100% from the beginning until the end of the quali.»

He added: «The feeling was good already from inside the car, it was a good lap already the first one, but then I found some small details on the second push and I gained another two-tenths.» 

Shwartzman was competing in Hyperpole for the first time after fellow Ferrari factory driver Yifei Ye took on qualifying duties in the WEC’s Qatar season-opener.

He told Autosport that he was pleased to make the front row given his inexperience.

«Really only the last lap was a decent one, but it was not good enough for pole,» said Shwartzman. «For my first quali, I think the front row is quite good. 

«Antonio did a really good clean lap, but i didn’t manage to do that. That is the difference between P1 and P2. 

#50 Ferrari AF Corse Ferrari 499P: Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina, Nicklas Nielsen

#50 Ferrari AF Corse Ferrari 499P: Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina, Nicklas Nielsen

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

«He has the experience of how this car behaves on new tyres after doing all the qualifying last year, so he has quite a big advantage in that sense. 

«So for him, it was much easier, but I believe I can improve that.»

Pier Guidi said he had «struggled a bit» on the push lap but reckons «in race pace, we are still strong, we are stronger I think». 

«I am confident for tomorrow, P3 is a good starting place,» he added.

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Peugeot ‘scratching their heads’ after poor Imola WEC qualifying in new-look 9X8

Jean-Eric Vergne insisted that he and the Peugeot Sport team left nothing on the table on the way to 15th position in the opening qualifying session, five places off the cut-off for the Hyperpole final. 

He added that only a small improvement would have been possible without the red flag two minutes before the end of the initial period of qualifying. 

“As a team we did a very good job and we extracted the most from the car,” he told Autosport. 

“Without the red flag, we might have had two or three tenths, but nowhere near what we needed to be in Hyperpole.

“It was a kind of a moment where you exit the car and you are scratching your head on what to improve to go faster.

“The car balance was great, the team did a great job all weekend to give me a good car in quali — in terms of driving it felt very good.”

The two Peugeot 9X8 2024 Le Mans Hypercars were a second and a half off the pace of Antonio Fuoco in the pole-winning Ferrari 499P LMH in the opening 12-minute session. 

That gap grew to more than two seconds once Fuoco improved by seven tenths in the 10-minute Hyperpole session. 

Stoffel Vandoorne was slightly the quicker of the two Peugeot drivers, his 1m31.651s, a tenth up on Vergne’s, 1m31.748s, putting him 14th. 

The inference from Vergne’s comments is that there is still work to do on the Balance of Performance for the revised 9X8 making its debut this weekend in Italy. 

#93 Peugeot Totalenergies Peugeot 9X8: Mikkel Jensen, Nico Muller, Jean-Eric Vergne

#93 Peugeot Totalenergies Peugeot 9X8: Mikkel Jensen, Nico Muller, Jean-Eric Vergne

Photo by: Paul Foster

It follows an admission of surprise from Peugeot Sport technical boss Olivier Jansonnie at the BoP for the 9X8 at Imola. 

He described the BoP for the 9X8 as “tough”, while stressing that Peugeot trusts in the processes of the rule makers, the FIA and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest. 

Vergne stressed that Peugeot’s job in Sunday’s Imola 6 Hours will be to execute the perfect race. 

“Regardless of the performance we need to finish the race and say we have done everything right, made the right calls, had good pitstop strategy, and as drivers made no mistakes, been good on tyre management and aggressive when we needed to be,” he said. 

“We have to take this race very seriously because the day we have the car to win we need to be ready and we need to be perfect. 

“We are going to try to race perfection tomorrow regardless of where we end up.”

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