A 1m45.783s from Kamui Kobayashi during a qualifying simulation for the No. 7 Toyota Gazoo Racing GR010 HYBRID topped the third and final practice session for the FIA WEC teams at Sebring ahead of qualifying.
With each session, Toyota continues to find pace and looks to be the favorite for pole position this evening. Just what sort of time will be possible in qualifying? It’s going to be fascinating to find out.
The headline from this final 60 minutes of track time wasn’t just the blistering pace of the No. 7, though, it was the repair work that needs to be undertaken by the team ahead of this evening’s fight for grid positions.
Jose Maria Lopez, who had a huge shunt in last year’s event at Sebring, again found himself in the wars during FP3. The Argentinian (who complained that the engine cut out earlier in the lap at Turn 13 on the radio) lost the rear of the No. 7 at high speed on the entry to Turn 17, sending him backwards into the tires and damaging the car’s right-rear corner. This brought out red flags and the session to a premature end.
Here is what happened to Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 in FP3's final minutes.#WEC #1000MSebring pic.twitter.com/ZCmOVprgIZ
— FIA World Endurance Championship (@FIAWEC) March 16, 2023
“It’s not ideal, it’s tough for mechanics. But the good thing is that Jose seems to be OK,” said Kazuki Nakajima, vice president of Toyota Gazoo Racing. “We can recover from here. The car is fast so let’s take something positive.”
It was once again a Toyota 1-2 at the top of the times, with the No. 8 six-tenths back.
Third, just under a second off was the No. 50 AF Corse Ferrari 499P, which ended with a 1m46.777s. Like the No. 7, the No. 50 had an off in the session too, moments after Lopez’s hit, Nicklas Nielsen complained that he lost traction control, which sent the car veering off the track after the rear snapped at the exit of Turn 10. The car ended up beached in the gravel, though with no significant damage.
Fourth in the times was the Cadillac Racing V-Series.R, which the GM brand hopes will be in the mix for a strong grid position later.
“Not sure we have quite the pace to match the Toyotas, but I think we’ve got the pace to fight Ferrari for that final place on the podium,” Earl Bamber said after the session. His teammate Alex Lynn is set to drive in qualifying tonight.
Completing the top five was the No. 93 Peugeot, with a best time 2.1s off the No. 7. The No. 5 Porsche made it five makes in the top six positions.
Further down the order, it was a disastrous session for Vanwall Racing. The car stopped at pit-out at the start of the session, unable to find power. It completed zero laps — not ideal ahead of the car’s first qualifying session.
In the other classes, JOTA led United Autosports in the LMP2 pack. Pietro Fittipaldi’s 1m50.128s was under a tenth quicker than Phil Hanson who reeled off a 1m50.218s.
GTE Am, meanwhile, saw a huge change in fortune for Northwest AMR. The trio of Vantages have propped up the bottom of the timing screens throughout the running at Sebring so far, but in this session the pace improved. Nicki Thiim set the fastest time in the class, a 1m59.030s in the No. 98.
GR Racing’s Porsche ended up second, with the Kessel Racing Ferrari third.
UP NEXT: Qualifying follows at 6:30pm.