An irresistible headline as two of sportscar’s most famous manufacturers chase the current Kings of sportscar endurance racing – Toyota – who like Red Bull, in Formula 1 – are on another planet in FIA WEC.
Brendon Hartley powered around the tricky rollercoaster Autodrome Internacional do Algarve, in southern Portugal, to claim pole position for Toyota Gazoo Racing, with the sister car second fastest.
It’s pretty much the same old story in WEC, even in this Hypercar era, but one expects the gap they have to Ferrari, in their second race back in the top tier of prototype racing, will reduce as the Reds find their rhythm.
Ditto with Penske Porsche, they too have enormous pedigree, the German manufacturer by far the most successful outfit in Le Mans and endurance racing. Neither of the great teams are close at this stage if the game, but it’s early days. Toyota have a big target on their backs.
On Saturday in Portimao, Hartley led a Toyota qualifying one-two over teammate and Toyota team boss Kamui Kobayashi on Saturday. The Japanese cars had also topped all three official practice sessions as they sealed off the front row of Sunday’s grid ahead of the best of the rest Ferraris.
“We put a bit more effort into qualifying this time,” Hartley revealed after qualy. “We were a bit annoyed at Sebring, but I knew the lap was good, also knowing that Kamui was right behind me. We’re expecting a big fight tomorrow, especially with the red cars.”
Ferrari just half a second off the pole-winning time
Hartley’s number eight Toyota GR010 Hybrid Mans Hypercar ended three-tenths of a second clear of Kobayashi’s 7 car, with Nicklas Nielsen just another tenth of a second off the pace in the best of the Ferrari 499P LMHs. Teammate James Calado ended fourth in the sister Ferrari as the returning Italian team continues to impress. Ferrari was on pole for the Sebring 1000 mile season opener and finished best of the rest third there, behind the Toyotas.
Kevin Estre was the better of Porsche’s two 963 LMDh entries, over two seconds off pole position in fifth. He pipped of what appeared to be a much improved Peugeot 9X8 to sixth following Nico Muller’s effort. The Peugeot was just a tenth of a second slower than the Porsche. Frederic Makowiecki was seventh in the second Porsche, ahead of Richard Westbrook’s Cadillac V-Series.R LMDh, the second Peugeot, Romain Dumas in the Glickenhaus and Tom Dillmann’s Vanwall.
Mirko Bortolotti took Prema’s first LMP2 pole position by all of a thousandth of a second from Vector Sport driver Gabriel Aubry, Phil Hanson for United Autosports and Jota driver Yifei Ye. Bortolotti’s pole position is however under threat after his team worked on the Gibson in the pit fast lane early in the session in Portimao.
Corvette beats Iron Dames to GTE Am pole
Ben Keating took a late GTE Am pole for Corvette Racing from lady racer Sarah Bovy’s Iron Dames Porsche 911 RSR and Diego Alessi in the best AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo, The second round of the 2023 World Endurance Championship. The Portimão 6 Hour starts midday Portugal local time Sunday.