FIA WEC: One-two honors for Toyota/Michelin at Sebring
Racing on the latest MICHELIN Pilot Sport tires developed for the Hypercar prototypes contesting the 2023 FIA World Endurance Championship, Toyota Gazoo Racing dominated this year's 1000 Miles of Sebring, opening round of the series. Ferrari celebrated its return to the sport's headlining class with a podium finish, while Corvette Racing/Michelin topped the LMGTE Am order on home soil.
The 2023 1000 Miles of Sebring marked the beginning of an exciting new era for endurance racing as the field of no fewer than seven manufacturers - Toyota, Ferrari, Porsche, Peugeot, Cadillac, Vanwall and Glickenhaus - kicked off their bid to win the year's title!
Michelin has been nominated by the ACO (Automobile Club de l'Ouest) and FIA (Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile) as the exclusive tire supplier for the exciting Hypercar prototypes and the weekend in the USA provided the French firm with several new challenges. In addition to having to deliver their trademark cocktail of durability, high performance and consistency at the fast and bumpy Floridian circuit, the latest-generation MICHELIN Pilot Sports also needed to provide flawless warm-up performance following the outlawing of tire warming systems by the championship's organizing bodies.
"We succeeded in ticking all these boxes," reports Pierre Alves, the manager of Michelin Motorsport's endurance racing programs. "The Hypercars successfully double-stinted and we had every reason to be pleased with the consistency and warm-up performance of the latest MICHELIN Pilot Sport range. Four different manufacturers finished in the top-five places and I would like to thank all our partners and technical staff who worked so hard to prepare for the season's opener."
With the exception of qualifying, which was topped by the new Ferrari 499P/Michelin in the hands of Antonio Fuoco, the weekend was dominated by Toyota Gazoo Racing whose #7 and #8 Michelin-equipped GR010 Hybrids lost no time pulling clear of the pack in Friday's race. Aided by the car's formidable reliability, Conway/Kobayashi/Lopez took a comfortable win in the #7 prototype, 2.168s clear of the team's #8 sister car (Buemi/Hartley/Hirakawa).
Running two laps behind towards the end of the race, Hypercar newcomers Cadillac, Ferrari and Porsche battled hard for the third step of the podium which ended up going to the #50 Ferrari 499P/Michelin (Fuoco/Molina/Nielsen). The #2 Cadillac V-Series.R/Michelin (4th, Bamber/Lynn/Westbrook) and #5 Porsche 963/Michelin (5th, Cameron/Christensen/Makowiecki) were only seconds behind the American car, however.
The two Peugeot 9X8s were delayed by technical issues early on, while the Glickenhaus failed to finish.
The LMGTE Am class - which attracted a field of 14 cars, all on Michelin tires - saw Corvette Racing pocket the top prize with the Corvette C8.R of Keating/Varrone/Catsburg. The #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche/Michelin and #57 Kessel Racing Ferrari/Michelin took sliver and bronze respectively. Swiss lady Sarah Bovy claimed the category's pole-position once again in the #85 Iron Dames Porsche/Michelin.
Next round: Portimão, Portugal (April 16).
2023 1000 Miles of Sebring - Final Positions:
- Conway/Kobayashi/Lopez (Toyota GR010 Hybrid/Michelin),
- Buemi/Hartley/Hirakawa (Toyota GR010 Hybrid/Michelin)
- Fuoco/Molina/Nielsen (Ferrari 499P/Michelin)
- Bamber/Lynn/Westbrook (Cadillac V-Series.R/Michelin)
- Estre/Lotterer/Vanthoor (Porsche 963/Michelin)