Spa-Francorchamps, 27 April 2023 - The Ferrari 499Ps took the top two spots in the second free practice session at Spa-Francorchamps, the venue for round three of the FIA World Endurance Championship. Antonio Giovinazzi posted the fastest time of 2’01”871 in the number 51 Hypercar, followed by Miguel Molina with 2’03”149 in the number 50 car.
The session held on Thursday afternoon in dry track conditions and an air temperature above 14°C featured two red flags. In the 66 minutes available, the fastest Ferrari was the 499P of Pier Guidi, Calado and Giovinazzi. The latter stayed behind the wheel for 13 laps of the 30 completed by the crew, recording the best time on the ninth lap. Second place went to the number 50 “sister” car: Fuoco and Molina were at the wheel of the Hypercar, respectively, for four and 10 laps, while Nielsen did not drive in the afternoon. The Spanish driver set the benchmark time on lap five.
A record grid of 13 Hypercars will do battle in the last race before the centenary edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours in June, and the action got underway at Spa with two 90-minute practice sessions on Thursday.
World Championship leaders Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa, who won round two in Portimão earlier this month, set the second fastest time of the day in their #8 GR010 HYBRID, 1.111secs behind the pace-setting #51 Ferrari.
On a day when race preparation took priority over single lap speed, last year’s Spa winners Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López, in the #7 GR010 HYBRID, were fifth fastest overall.
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing won the opening two races of the 2023 WEC season and is aiming for its seventh victory in a row at the legendary 7.004km Spa circuit in the face of strong competition from Hypercar rivals Cadillac, Ferrari, Peugeot and Porsche.
After hot conditions for those events in Sebring and Portimão, practice at Spa brought cooler weather; the air temperature was only 9°C when the morning session began. Both cars spent time in the garage for adjustments during a disrupted session, which included a 12-minute red flag period halfway through.
Mike and José shared the wheel of the #7 GR010 HYBRID, while Sébastien and Ryo drove the #8 car, for a programme of mechanical and aerodynamic set-up evaluation. Sébastien recorded the quickest lap of the session shortly after the red flag ended. Mike’s first flying lap of the day was enough for third place.
Focus in second practice switched to analysing the characteristics of the different compounds of Michelin tyre, with priority on maximising performance for Saturday's race. TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s victories in the first two races of the season were built on a foundation of strong tyre management and consistency.
Having sat out first practice, Kamui and Brendon were the busiest of the team’s drivers in another session featuring several interruptions. Three full course yellow periods and two red flags reduced the productive time available for all teams.
The #8 was top GR010 HYBRID in second practice, ending it fourth thanks to Ryo’s best lap. Kamui set the quickest lap for the #7 car, which was seventh in that session.
A third free practice on Friday morning provides the last opportunity for adjustments prior to qualifying in the evening, which will set the 38-car grid for Saturday’s race.
The track programme will continue on Friday, 28 April, with the third free practice session from 11 a.m. and Hypercar qualifying from 5.50 p.m. This will decide the starting grid for the race, which sets off on Saturday, 29 April, at 12.45 p.m. (all times are local).
6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps - Free Practice 1
1st #8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing 2min 2.982secs 19 laps
2nd #50 Ferrari AF Corse (Fuoco/Molina/Nielsen) +1.650secs 29 laps
3rd #7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +1.660secs 18 laps
4th #51 Ferrari AF Corse (Pier Guidi/Calado/Giovinazzi) +1.734secs 29 laps
5th #6 Porsche Penske (Estre/Lotterer/Vanthoor) +1.888secs 25 laps
6th #2 Cadillac Racing (Bamber/Lynn/Westbrook) +2.365secs 27 laps
6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps - Free Practice 2
1st #51 Ferrari AF Corse (Pier Guidi/Calado/Giovinazzi) 2min 1.871secs 30 laps
2nd #50 Ferrari AF Corse (Fuoco/Molina/Nielsen) +1.278secs 14 laps
3rd #2 Cadillac Racing (Bamber/Lynn/Westbrook) +1.467secs 31 laps
4th #8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +2.509secs 30 laps
5th #93 Peugeot TotalEnergies (Di Resta/Jensen/Vergne) +3.309secs 11 laps
6th #708 Glickenhaus (Dumas/Pla/Mailleux) +3.674secs 29 laps
7th #7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +3.858secs 28 laps
Source - Ferrari & Toyota Press