Toyota also wins the second race of the World Endurance Championship (WEC) 2023. After the #7 (Conway/Kobayashi/Lopez; 11th) won the Sebring 1,000 miles, the #8 Toyota (Buemi/Hartley/Hirakawa) won this time . It is the twelfth triumph for the Toyota GR010 Hybrid in the 14th race since 2021.
Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa drove an easy race, especially as the only competitors struggled with problems. The #7 led the race for the first 50 minutes. Buemi, who had fallen behind the #51 Ferrari (Pier Guidi/Calado/Giovinazzi) at the start, took the lead before the first stop.
The Toyota duel for victory was decided when the #7 had to pit after 80 minutes. First Mike Conway complained about a loss of power, then the vehicle was brought into the pits with the “Fried Egg” flag, the black flag with an orange dot.
Ex-Formula 1 driver Villeneuve with accident
The reason was a defective sensor on a drive shaft. Because this meant that no real-time data could be supplied to monitor compliance with the maximum output, the drive shaft had to be replaced. That lasted about ten minutes, so all chances of another double win were gone.
The #8 car was already comfortably on the way to victory when a safety car phase came in one hour before the end: the brake disc on Vanwall #4 (Dillmann/Guerrieri/Villeneuve) exploded and catapulted Jacques Villeneuve into the tire wall.
The ex-Formula 1 world champion was unharmed. The Toyota had already lapped all of its competitors, so there was no need to fear a wave-by.
Ferrari paves the way for Porsche to the podium
While the #8 was cruising to victory in the last hour, things got exciting again behind it. In terms of speed, Ferrari was again the second strongest force and proved this with second place for the #50 (Fuoco/Molina/Nielsen).
But Ferrari didn’t get over the distance without problems either: The #51 (Pier Guidi/Calado/Giovinazzi; 6th) had problems with the brake-by-wire system. Braking with the electric motor no longer worked as desired. Ferrari then switched off the hybrid system completely, which led to increased fuel consumption and brake wear.
Despite this, the team fought its way back up. The hypercar regulations allow the internal combustion engine to compensate for the power lost by the hybrid system – at the price of higher fuel consumption.
Pier Guidi saves his Ferrari in sixth place
The Ferrari almost got through, but half an hour before the end the right front brake failed. As in the previous year, Alessandro Pier Guidi then drove home in the GTE Pro at the finale in Bahrain on raw eggs with a wounded car. He saved sixth place and thus important points.
This gave Porsche its first podium finish in the hypercar era. The #6 Porsche (Estre/Lotterer/Vanthoor) managed the distance without any major problems and was even chasing the #50 Ferrari in the end. However, they hadn’t refueled enough at the last stop, so Andre Lotterer had to go in again – P3 was still safe.
The Penske team also had to make a sacrifice. The #5 Porsche (Cameron/Christensen/Makowiecki; 10th) lost 30 laps due to a problem with the power steering. Even before that, the car didn’t have the pace of sister car #5 by a long shot. You saved the last point.
Peugeot without problems but too slow
Fourth place went to the Cadillac #2 (Bamber/Lynn/Westbrook). The Ganassi team had to change its entire strategy when Richard Westbrook believed during the first pit stop that the Peugeot #94 (Duval/Menezes/Müller; 5th) in front of him was braking harder than necessary. He blocked the wheels intended for a double stint.
Since there were no tires to be had quickly, Westbrook had to drive half a stint on square tires before he was released. After that, the Cadillac was “off sequence” until the safety car. Eventually, the US manufacturer at least managed to beat Peugeot.
The French again struggled with the reliability of the 9X8. On the Peugeot #93 (di Resta/Jensen/Vergne; 7th), the power steering had to be changed before the start. That meant a re-start from the pits a lap down, which compromised the race from the start. In the end, the #51 Ferrari was 15 seconds behind.
Vanwall with technical problems
The #94 finished a trouble-free race for Peugeot. The problems at Toyota, Ferrari and Porsche at least flushed the Peugeot up to P5.
The #93 car also had no further problems after the early setback.
But even without technical problems, the speed was simply missing to at least keep up with Ferrari, Porsche and Cadillac, not to mention Toyota.
The same applies to the non-hybrid Le Mans hypercars. Even before the failure, the van wall had technical problems and stopped on the track. The Glickenhaus #708 (Dumas/Briscoe/Pla; 8th) got through without any problems, but ended up behind the Peugeot #93, which had started a lap behind, and the Ferrari #51, which wobbled around the track.
United stands out in close LMP2
The LMP2 race was a wild affair, which was spiced up by the late safety car. Only the Vector-Oreca #10 (Cullen/Kaiser/Aubry) was out of the decision early because the throttle actuator motor had to be replaced by the electronic accelerator pedal.
The safety car couldn’t change it either, United Autosports were a tiny step ahead of everyone. Josh Pierson, reserve driver Giedo van der Garde (Tom Blomqvist was active at IMSA) and Oliver Jarvis in the #22 car clinched victory ahead of their teammates from the #22 car (Lubin/Hanson/Hanley; 2nd). United had led much of the race. The #23 took revenge for the lost Sebring victory.
For a long time, the Prema-Oreca #63 (Pin/Bortolotti/Kwjat; 4th), which started from pole position, was the only vehicle that could reasonably keep up with United. But after the SC phase, Team WRT was there and snatched the podium place away from Prema with the Oreca #41 (Andrade/Kubica/Deletraz; 3rd) – the vehicle that had an accident on Friday.
Prema was a frustrated fourth, followed by Jota-Oreca #48 (Beckmann/Ye/da Costa; 5th). The two Signatech Alpines were disappointing again, coming in ninth and eleventh.
Thrilling final battle in the GTE Am
The LMGTE Am was also brought together again closely by the safety car. Until then, the protagonists were the AF Corse Ferrari #21 (Alessi/Mann/de Pauw; 5th), the Corvette #33 (Keating/Varrone/Catsburg; 1st), the AF Corse Ferrari #83 (Perez Companc/Wadoux/Rovera; 2nd) and the Iron Lynx Porsche #85 (Bovy/Gatting/Frey; 3rd).
After the safety car period, Nick Catsburg was leading in the Corvette. It looked like a sure second win for Corvette Racing, but then Alessio Rovera launched the final attack.
The Corvette and the Ferrari fought a tough but fair duel on an equal footing. In the end, Catsburg, with all his experience, was able to fend off Rovera’s attacks.
Nevertheless, second place for the #83 after the serious accident at Sebring should be a great relief. Behind them, the “Iron Dames” celebrated their first podium finish of the season in third place. Meanwhile, the complete lack of a chance for the Aston Martins should cause discussions.
The WEC continues on April 29 with the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps – the dress rehearsal for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. 13 hypercars are expected in the Ardennes.