Toyota Gazoo Racing completed its 2023 FIA WEC Prologue running with a third 1-2 from four sessions over the two days of track action.
The final session of the day, and event, was topped by Brendon Hartley in the No. 8 Toyota GR010 HYBRID. His 1m48.216s was just 0.008s off the fastest time of the Prologue test, which came from Jose Maria Lopez (No. 7) in the first session Saturday.
Notably, all six Toyota drivers featured in the top seven of the combined fastest lap by driver chart. There was just over 0.4s between Lopez and Kamui Kobayashi who bookended the Toyota times.
Cadillac Racing’s Earl Bamber spoiled a Toyota clean sweep with his session-topping time Saturday afternoon, just 0.1s off the fastest time in the test.
During the final session, Toyota completed 145 laps across its pair of GR010s — significantly more than the other manufacturers. Over the two days, Toyota completed 3,533 kilometers of running across 587 laps.
At the other end of the scale, it was a frustrating end to the Prologue for Peugeot Sport. Its 9X8s managed just 69 laps combined, with 65 of them coming from the No. 94.
The No. 93 car completed just four laps, spending most of the session in the garage for mechanical repairs. It wasn’t a clean session for the No. 94 either, as the car had an off at Turn 3, damaging the front end, and was forced into the pits for some replacement bodywork.
The fastest non-Toyota was Cadillac, with a 1m48.890s from Richard Westbrook, buoyed by the team’s performance in its first FIA WEC event.
“What a start we’ve made and there is so much more to come,” he said after the session.
The Briton was 0.4s clear of Nicklas Nielsen in the sole (No. 50) Ferrari that took part in the session — the Dane moving up the order after a late effort. The No. 51 sister car missed the entire session, the team spending all afternoon assessing the integrity of the chassis following James Calado’s hefty off at Turn 1 during the morning session on cold tires.
We await further information from AF Corse concerning the extent of the damage.
Elsewhere in class, the two Penske Porsches ended up fifth and sixth, 1.5s and 1.6s off the fastest Toyota time.
The fastest car in LMP2, the No. 41 WRT ORECA, ended up with a 1m50.827s from Robert Kubica. The Pole ended up in amongst the Hypercars in eighth overall, his time faster than the best tours from the No. 94 Peugeot, Vanwall and Glickenhaus.
Completing the top three in class was the No. 48 JOTA ORECA, with the No. 22 United Autosports example that topped the first three sessions in third.
Further down the order, there was significant drama for JOTA’s other ORECA. The No. 28 of David Heinemeier Hansson had an off at Turn 14 just 10 minutes before the end of the session, damaging the front end of the car following a hit to the wall on driver’s right. This brought out the third and final red flag in the session, which ended prematurely as a result of the stoppage.
1.6s separated the entire field in LMP2.
GTE Am’s pace was set by GR Racing’s Ben Barker to conclude the test. He reeled off a 1m59.253s to go 0.01s faster than the impressive Lilou Wadoux in the Richard Mille AF Corse Ferrari 488 which slotted in second.
The Project 1 Porsche completed the top three. Corvette’s single C8.R ended up seventh, and yet again the three Aston Martin Vantages occupied the bottom three positions in the times.
Corvette Racing may not have had the ultimate pace of the leading Porsche and Ferraris, but Nicky Catsburg says it was a successful test for the team, which is still getting up to speed with its new driver combination and competition.
“We’re all getting used to each other and getting up to speed,” he said. “Ben (Keating) definitely showed his performance today. That’s very good. Nico (Varrone) got a lot of laps today and showed what he could do. We are getting to grips with each other and where we want the car to be. It’s a good starting point for the race week. We still have some little things to learn, get used to some driver changes and some procedural things that are normally all automatic. We still need to get a rhythm. But it’s all OK. This was a nice test.”
There was a significant drama in Am too. Stefano Costantini had an off into the barriers at Turn 17 towards the end of the session, resulting in substantial rear-end damage for the No. 21 AF Corse Ferrari.
With the FIA WEC Prologue now over, it’s time for a pair of rest days before the “Super Sebring” meeting gets fully underway on Wednesday. By then the full IMSA paddock will be set up and the first competitive sessions of the FIA WEC season will take place.