Fuoco claims debut Hypercar pole for Ferrari at Sebring

JEP/Motorsport Images

Fuoco claims debut Hypercar pole for Ferrari at Sebring

Le Mans/WEC

Fuoco claims debut Hypercar pole for Ferrari at Sebring


History was made in the first FIA World Endurance Championship qualifying session of the season, as AF Corse’s No. 50 Ferrari 499P snatched pole position for tomorrow’s 1000 Miles of Sebring.

A stunning performance from Antonio Fuoco means the Italian brand will lead the field across the line at the start for its first race in the Hypercar category and its first top-class sports car race for 50 years.

Fuoco’s 1m45.067s with the sun setting over the pit straight stunned the Toyota personnel behind the pit wall, who would have been confident of securing pole position after setting the pace in the Prologue test and Free Practice.

The Italian’s lap was by far the quickest time of the meeting so far, and means AF Corse has become the first team to score pole position in each FIA WEC category.

“I feel really good at the moment, I want to thank the guys,” said Fuoco. “Getting pole for Ferrari after 50 years is amazing. The team has done an amazing job — we are putting everything together.

“It was quite difficult because the sun was setting, and visibility was low in the final corners. The car felt really nice though. It’s good to start from a nice position.

“The key tomorrow will be managing tires — we will try to do our best in our first experience. We are really motivated and will do our best.”

The best a Toyota could muster was a 1m45.281s from Brendon Hartley in the No. 8, two-tenths off the pole time. The No. 7 of Kamui Kobayashi ended up third, almost half a second adrift.

“Today we did our best but Ferrari was a bit quicker in qualifying; they did a great job,” conceded Kobayashi. “We knew they were competitive after the Prologue and free practice sessions, and everyone could see their performance in qualifying. We are definitely part of a fight, and I am enjoying it.

“We have worked hard over the past days to get our cars set up for the race, because obviously this is endurance racing so Friday is the most important day for us. I think we have prepared well and we’re in a promising starting position so we have a great chance. It is going to be an exciting race.”

The sister No. 51 AF Corse 499P slotted in fourth and was the final car to set a time under 1m46s, Alessandro Pier Guidi managing a 1m45.874s after regrouping from an early error, kicking up the dust at the exit of Turn 1.

Best of the rest was the Cadillac Racing V-Series.R following a 1m46.082s from Alex Lynn who secured a top-five spot on the grid for Cadillac’s debut race as a WEC manufacturer.

It was a tough session for Porsche and Peugeot. The No. 6 was the fastest of the two 963s, Kevin Estre setting a lap time two seconds off.

Loic Duval was the fastest driver for Peugeot. The French team’s struggles for speed continued here after a lackluster showing since arriving in Florida, its two 9X8s 2.3 and 3.1 seconds off the pace.

Glickenhaus and Vanwall were also nowhere on pace, both non-hybrid LMHs over four seconds back.

In the LMP2 class, it was Oliver Jarvis who snatched pole position. The Briton in the No. 23 United Autosports ORECA overcame challenges from JOTA, WRT and Alpine and set the fastest time, which was a 1m49.974s.

“I wouldn’t say it was a perfect lap, there was a bit left on the table, but I am really pleased with the lap we got. Delighted to start on pole after a great week of running,” Jarvis said.

His time was just 0.093s quicker than the No. 28 JOTA ORECA of Pietro Fittipaldi, who sat atop the timing screens briefly before Jarvis responded with his flyer with five minutes to go.

Robin Frijns, who told DailySportsCar the team had been struggling with the setup and balance of the No. 31 prior to the session, ended up third. It was a strong performance from Frijns here, to give the Belgian team a spot on row two. A late improvement from Matthieu Vaxiviere put the No. 36 Alpine fourth.

Sarah Bovy saw off the challenge from Ben Keating to take GTE AM pole with the Iron Dames Porsche. JEP/Motorsports Images

The first of the three sessions saw the Bronze-rated drivers battle it out in GTE AM.

After a thrilling 15 minutes, it was Iron Dames’ Porsche 911 RSR 19 that emerged as the polesitter. It was achieved after a superb performance in the first qualifying session of the season from Sarah Bovy.

It was a shootout between Bovy and Corvette Racing’s Ben Keating after their tires got up to temperature, Bovy setting the best time and with two minutes to go, a 1m58.949s. After multiple improvements by both drivers throughout the session, the pair trading the provisional pole position, her time bettered Keating’s best effort in the C8.R by four-tenths.

“It’s amazing, Sarah is doing very well,” said Bovy’s teammate Rahel Frey. “She loves it, but the time to celebrate is tomorrow.”

Third in the running was the ORT by TF Aston Martin, which made it three makes in the top three.

Ahmad Al Harthy, in his first WEC qualifying session will be full of confidence ahead of his world championship race debut tomorrow. It also marked a significant improvement for the Vantages, which had struggled to find pace until today’s track action.

Making it four in the top four, in fourth, was Luis Perez Companc in the Richard Mille AF Corse Ferrari.

UP NEXT: Friday’s 1000 Miles of Sebring is set to get underway at 12:00pm local time.