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2300067-hypercar-6H-portimao-pre-ferrari drivers

WEC Portimao: Ferrari reignites illustrious sportscar legacy

WEC Portimao: Ferrari reignites their illustrious sportscar legacy 2300067-hypercar-6H-portimao-pre-ferrari drivers

“Ferrari back in the top tier of long-distance prototype racing” is music to the ears of those who remember the golden era of what is now the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) which runs Round 2 of its championship at Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, in Portugal this weekend.

Why? Because Ferrari for many years (from the fifties through to the early seventies) were a mainstay of endurance racing, their sportscar programme as important as their Formula 1 effort. In fact, their drivers of the time dovetailed between Grands Prix and the longer races as part of their deals with Maranello.

Apart from providing an ideal test bed for F1, endurance racing provided Scuderia drivers with immensely useful track time, which is always a good thing. Such was Ferrari’s involvement that in the early 1970s, Enzo considered withdrawing from F1, where fortunes had withered, to focus on endurance sportscar racing. However, a young Luca di Montezemolo convinced him otherwise, as F1 history books show.

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Since around that time, F1 became and remained Ferrari’s priority, endurance racing remained a low-key part of the programme in the GTE and GT3 categories. But the top tier, now Hypercar, was off their radar – for half a century – allowing Porsche, Audi and Toyota to ‘own’ the LMP aka endurance prototype championships since they departed.

But now the Scuderia are back where many believe they always belonged – the top tier of endurance sportscar racing  – their sleek traditional Red 2023 Ferrari 499P Hypercar, with the bright yellow flash, tips its hat to a storied ancestry, as another chapter in sportscars begins for the most supported racing team in the world.

A new era that began last month, fittingly, with an unlikely pole position at the WEC season opener in Sebring, the first race of their return was promising and did the series an enormous PR boost. Ferrari are back in WEC. It’s still early days but, nevertheless, that top spot start will be a proper boost for their ambitions while triggering an awakening for Boomers [like some of us on this site!] and no doubt all Tifosi starved of F1 success.

Antonio Giovinazzi amid Ferrari’s potent WEC driver line-up

Notably this year, Ferrari have one ex-F1 driver in their line-up, Antonio Giovinazzi (also the Scuderia’s F1 reserve) who found refuge in endurance racing after failing in the top flight with Alfa Romeo. History shows that the likeable Italian simply crashed too often when needing to give 110% (as required of F1 drivers) during a career in the top flight that included 62 F1 starts with no notable results, other than fifth being his best placing.

Thus Ferrari’s WEC programme provides Giovinazzi with a chance of redemption, to alter his crash-happy reputation and establish himself as a useful endurance driver, where 100% is required rather than the 10% extra he never found in an F1 cockpit.

100% you ask? Yes, the WEC of today, no matter the length of the race (6-hours, 12-hours, or 24) are sprints from start to finish, with a playing field packed with pedigreed sportscar marques such as Porsche, Peugeot, Toyota, Cadillac in action, real racing is on the cards at all rounds this season.

And, for the near future, it will only get better as manufacturers are lining up to contest WEC and the road to Le Mans, the crown jewel of the campaign, that comes with the package.

Ahead of his second WEC race weekend, Giovinazzi said in the team preview: “After an excellent start for Ferrari at Sebring, in Portugal, the goals are to continue to improve without repeating the mistakes of the debut and try to put maximum pressure on Toyota, who, as we saw in America, is currently favourite.” Forza Antonio, we are watching.

Speaking of watching this weekend’s WEC action from Portugal, their YouTube channel will be streaming live action of practice, qualifying and the race, as will teams, with onboard live streams on their respective YT channels.

Furthermore, fans can watch all FIA WEC races via the new app. To download visit: https://discover.fiawec.tv/
[Note we have not tested the App intensively as yet.]

According to the blurb the app features qualifying, race sessions and live timing as well as live on-board cameras during the race. There will be world-feed commentary in both English and French plus replays of all sessions and the race should you miss the action live.

Also available will be live timing and data information plus all the latest championship news and driver/team information. There will also be several hours of race archive footage to watch. The app will allow one unique customer account with a subscription to watch on any of (your) chosen devices.

Ferrari preview Round 2 of the 2023 WEC, in Portimao:

Round two of the FIA World Endurance Championship 2023 at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve in Portimão features two Ferrari 499Ps in the top Hypercar class.

The Ferrari – AF Corse team arrives in the Algarve after a positive debut at Sebring, where the number 50 car of Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina and Nicklas Nielsen claimed third, and teammates Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado and Antonio Giovinazzi took seventh in the number 51.

Here are the other drivers’ comments ahead of the 6 Hours that will kick off on Sunday 16 April, at 12 p.m. (local time) at the Portuguese track.

Antonio Fuoco, #50 499P driver: “Expectations are high after the pole position and third place in the Sebring race. We will also try our best in Portugal, where we will work to get the most out of our Hypercar. Portimão is a highly technical track that challenges the tyres. Tyre management will be a key factor considering the temperatures we will encounter. As the crew of 499P number 50, I believe we are doing a good job as part of a team effort where the group shares the same goals. We will try to continue along this path in Portugal too”.

Miguel Molina, #50 499P driver: “At Sebring, we achieved an excellent result that boosted our confidence. However, at Portimão, we start again with humility, knowing there is still much work to do to keep improving. We will follow this direction by staying focused and avoiding any mistakes on a track I like very much. It is a technical track with some challenging points, such as the last turn, where traffic could provide an additional element of difficulty”.

Nicklas Nielsen, #50 499P driver: “We come to Portimão confident about the race at a track where we organised successful tests in the run-up to the season. We have a good starting point, although the race conditions differ from the test ones. It will be interesting to see the progress we have made. Like Sebring was at the beginning, the Portuguese track is very demanding for the cars. The goal will be to complete a race with no problems while continuing to make progress”.

Alessandro Pier Guidi, #51 499P driver: “I like Portimão a lot. It is in third place on my FIA WEC calendar podium after Spa and Le Mans. The track is medium-fast, attractive and fun to drive in the Hypercar. There are many “blind” spots, with combined braking, a feature that makes this track challenging for drivers and cars. After Sebring, the team’s goal will be to finish on the podium again. Maybe this time, we in the 499P number 51 will achieve that. Our opponents? Right now, I think Toyota is favourite. We have to work to close the gap and take a further step forward in the Portuguese race”.

James Calado, #51 499P driver: “The track is very challenging, considering the continual ups and downs and a few “blind” corners, but at the same time, it is fun to drive. The last sector of Portimão is the most difficult, with a final turn that we tackle almost at full throttle. Tyre management, particularly on the left side, will be one of the main keys to doing well in the 6 Hours in Portugal. After the first race in America, in the second weekend we will try to achieve a better result with our Hypercar. We are confident”.

Antonio Giovinazzi, #51 499P driver: “The trickiest spots at Portimão? Turn 1, which is really fast, and the penultimate turn, which is very long and ‘slippery’ and requires extreme driving precision before entering the main straight. After an excellent start for Ferrari at Sebring, in Portugal the goals are to continue to improve without repeating the mistakes of the debut and try to put maximum pressure on Toyota, who, as we saw in America, is currently favourite”.

Antonello Coletta, Head of Attività Sportive GT: “After the excellent debut in America, we come to Portimão to continue on our path of evolution of the car and its management. We want to pursue this path with patience and humility, knowing we are only at the beginning of a long and complex sporting chapter. Obviously, we go to Portugal to achieve the best possible result on a highly demanding and challenging track for the car, particularly regarding reliability, a variable we will need to factor in”.

Ferdinando Cannizzo, Head of GT and Sports Race Cars: “During the 6 Hours of Portimão, the first focus will be on reliability, a crucial aspect for our Hypercar as it is still a new car, which is a key factor for the race result. We also hope to take a step forward in terms of competitiveness compared to Sebring, where we gained a positive result. We are working hard to reduce the gap with our main competitors”.

2023 fia wec calendar