WEC: Sebring Prologue Hypercar after thoughts

This year’s rivals in the fight for overall victory in the World Endurance Championship are Ferrari, Toyota, Cadillac, Peugeot, Vanvall and Glickenhaus. The 1,000 miles of Sebring takes off next Friday (17 March) and opens the 2023 season. The very next day, round two of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship gets underway at the Sebring International Raceway. The tradition-steeped 12-hour race will be held for the 71st time on Saturday, 18 March.


TOYOTA GAZOO Racing is ready to take on an exciting field of Hypercar challengers for its FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) title defense following a productive two-day Prologue test in Florida ahead of Friday’s 2023 season-opening 1000 Miles of Sebring.

For the first time, the GR010 HYBRIDs shared the track with new Hypercar rivals from Cadillac, Ferrari, Porsche and Vanwall, as well as last season’s competitors Peugeot and Glickenhaus, to open an exciting new era for endurance racing.

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing. World Endurance ChampionshipWEC PrologueSebring Circuit Florida, USA11th – 12th March 2023

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing kicked off preparations at Sebring by setting the Prologue pace with the GR010 HYBRID #7 of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López.

José’s Saturday morning lap of 1min 48.208secs was the fastest of the weekend, while Brendon Hartley was second on the combined results, just 0.008secs behind, in the #8 GR010 HYBRID he shares with Sébastien Buemi and Ryo Hirakawa.

A combined 587 laps of trouble-free running, covering more than 3,500km, was of much greater importance for this test. It gives engineers crucial data to accelerate set-up development prior to race week, when the challenge to become World Champions for the fifth successive season and win a sixth straight Le Mans 24 Hours begins in earnest.

The 2023-specification GR010 HYBRID, which benefits from a lower weight and revised aerodynamics, was making its first visit to Sebring. Drivers and engineers took full advantage to assess set-ups and tire behavior on the unique 6.019km circuit which is famous for its bumpy surface.

Testing began on Saturday in sunny, hot conditions with air temperatures hitting a high of 31°C. José set the fastest time of a morning session interrupted by a single brief red flag while Ryo put the #8 car second.

Lap times were marginally slower in the afternoon session, which featured three red flags. Sébastien recorded the #8 GR010 HYBRID’s quickest lap, ending the session second, just 0.014secs behind the pace-setting Cadillac. José set the best time in the third-placed #7 car.

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing was the busiest of all the Hypercar competitors on track on the opening day, completing a combined 278 laps, covering 1,673km, emphasizing a successful team effort over the winter to be ready for the new season.

Strong cooperation between team members in Higashi-Fuji and Cologne has been complimented by valuable contributions from technical partners. DENSO supplies spark plugs and contributes to the front motor alongside AISIN, while RAYS delivers lightweight alloy wheels, Akebono provides brake calipers and Mobil 1 is the lubricant of choice.

Sunday followed a similar pattern to Saturday, with drivers, engineers and mechanics again working flawlessly despite challenging heat and humidity. Almost 30 minutes were lost due to three red flag periods, but between the stoppages, Mike clocked the quickest morning lap, with Sébastien 0.008secs back in second.

The fourth and final session of the weekend again saw the GR010 HYBRIDs set the standard. This time Brendon put the #8 on top, setting the car’s fastest lap of the Prologue in the process, slightly quicker than Mike’s best effort in the #7. Three red flags disturbed progress but the team again reached the checkered flag after completing more laps than its Hypercar rivals.

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will use the next two days to rebuild the cars, as well as fine-tuning set-ups and strategies before the first two free practice sessions on Wednesday. Qualifying, the first competitive session of the new season, will take place on Thursday and the 1000 Miles of Sebring begins on Friday at midday local time (5pm CET).

Kamui Kobayashi (Team Principal and driver, car #7): “Things have gone smoothly so far here in Sebring. Testing went quite well and the lap times look good but obviously this was only a test; the race week will be different. We need to look at where we can improve. We have new competition this season, but in reality the task does not change during testing and practice. We need to find our own speed and focus on preparing the car by improving the balance and set-up. This year the biggest difference comes in qualifying and the races, when we cannot afford to make any mistakes because of the potential to lose a lot of positions. So, our target for the next days is clear; we want to find more speed to be in the best position for the race.”

Mike Conway (Driver, car #7): “We had a pretty solid two days. We had a big list of tasks to get through, comparing set-ups, tires and testing different things. I feel like we achieved a lot, we learned a lot and it all went quite smoothly. We have just been focusing on our program

me and everything seemed to go well in terms of our pace. It’s hard to say how the competition is looking at the moment. We’re looking only at ourselves and it has been positive across the two cars. It has been an important two days and we are as ready as we can be.”

José María López (Driver, car #7): “Things have started well in general. As a team we showed good pace but this is not necessarily a reflection of what could happen in Friday’s race. We saw everyone else improved a lot today and the lap times are much closer. We need to keep working on the car because we know the competition will continue to improve, so we need to find more speed to stay in front. But it is positive to start like this; we showed strong speed, and it was nice to see the two cars at the front so I am looking forward to next week.”

Sébastien Buemi (Driver, car #8): “It has been a good Prologue and it was obviously fun to be back in Sebring and fighting with the new Hypercar competitors. It is nice to look at the timing sheets and see so many Hypercars; this is a great moment for endurance racing. We looked competitive over the two days and we showed good reliability on a challenging track and in hot conditions, which is all positive. But we don’t know how hard everyone is pushing, and how much more potential they have. We will see for sure in Friday’s race. We got some good data to look at in the next days so hopefully we can fight for a strong result next week.”

Brendon Hartley (Driver, car #8): “It’s been great to see all the Hypercars on track together for the first time. We have had a trouble-free Prologue and managed to tick off most of our test items, thanks to two smooth days and a lot of hard work from the team. As drivers we have all felt comfortable in the car and we’re all up to speed; it feels like we have made a nice step in terms of car balance compared to last year. We look competitive but we only know our run plan and not what the others are doing. We will keep working to get more out of our package and be ready for race week.”

Ryo Hirakawa (Driver, car #8): “I am very happy to be back in Sebring and pleased with two productive days at the Prologue. It is positive to see the results but it’s too early to say much about the performance because we don’t know the program of our competitors. But I’m happy so far and I appreciate the hard work of the team to bring an updated car which worked so smoothly this weekend. Now I will take a bit of rest over the next couple of days and then focus fully on the race weekend.”

Prologue Day 1 – Morning Session
#7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing 1min 48.208secs 70 laps
#8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +0.085secs 64 laps
#2 Cadillac Racing (Bamber/Lynn/Westbrook) +1.045secs 44 laps
#5 Porsche Penske (Cameron/Christensen/Makowiecki) +1.442secs 69 laps
#51 Ferrari AF Corse (Pier Guidi/Calado/Giovinazzi) +1.516secs 61 laps
#6 Porsche Penske (Estre/Lotterer/Vanthoor) +1.661secs 54 laps
Prologue Day 1 – Afternoon Session
#2 Cadillac Racing (Bamber/Lynn/Westbrook) 1min 48.429secs 58 laps
#8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +0.014secs 74 laps
#7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +0.124secs 70 laps
#50 Ferrari AF Corse (Fuoco/Molina/Nielsen) +0.973secs 35 laps
#51 Ferrari AF Corse (Pier Guidi/Calado/Giovinazzi) +1.144secs 55 laps
#5 Porsche Penske (Cameron/Christensen/Makowiecki) +1.228secs 41 laps
Prologue Day 2 – Morning Session
#7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing 1min 48.473secs 71 laps
#8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +0.008secs 93 laps
#5 Porsche Penske (Cameron/Christensen/Makowiecki) +0.484secs 45 laps
#2 Cadillac Racing (Bamber/Lynn/Westbrook) +0.709secs 63 laps
#6 Porsche Penske (Estre/Lotterer/Vanthoor) +0.812secs 65 laps
#94 Peugeot TotalEnergies (Duval/Menezes/Müller) +0.829secs 58 laps
Prologue Day 2 – Afternoon Session
#8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing 1min 48.216secs 70 laps
#7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +0.117secs 75 laps
#2 Cadillac Racing (Bamber/Lynn/Westbrook) +0.674secs 53 laps
#50 Ferrari AF Corse (Fuoco/Molina/Nielsen) +1.084secs 58 laps
#5 Porsche Penske (Cameron/Christensen/Makowiecki) +1.500secs 71 laps
#6 Porsche Penske (Estre/Lotterer/Vanthoor) +1.640secs 48 laps


Porsche Penske Motorsport’s WEC squad have wrapped up preparations for the maiden outing of the new 963 hybrid prototype in the World Endurance Championship. During the FIA WEC prologue at the Sebring International Raceway, the two ca. 500 kW (680 PS) racing cars from the new top hypercar class covered more than 2,600 kilometers. The priority during the two test days was on tire testing and finding the best possible setup for the upcoming season opener, which will be held at the same venue on 17 March. In the GTE-Am category, customer teams performed impressively with the Porsche 911 RSR, setting fast lap times over long distances.

Porsche 963, Porsche Penske Motorsport (#5), Dane Cameron (USA), Michael Christensen (DK), Frederic Makowiecki (F)

The tests on Saturday and Sunday took place under perfect weather conditions. The sun shone over the notoriously bumpy racetrack in the middle of the US state of Florida, with summery air temperatures reaching around 30 degrees Celsius. Porsche Penske Motorsport’s WEC team used the ideal conditions to gather as much information as possible about the two Michelin tire compounds, the setup and the race strategy. In the combined results of the four test sessions, the two Porsche 963 with the starting numbers 5 and 6 finished fourth and fifth.

“Our FIA WEC team is brand new and very strong. The squad did an excellent job. At our tests in Portugal last month, this crew came together and used the new equipment for the first time. Everything clicked perfectly. Then we went straight to Florida,” states Urs Kuratle. The Director of Factory Motorsport LMDh adds: “All in all, the prologue was extremely busy and tough for us. We didn’t have any major problems with the cars, but we did encounter a few minor ones. That meant we had to work late into the night. We still managed to cover a lot of distance and gain important insights for the race. We still have to work on the finer details of our car. While we can be quietly confident about the test times, I don’t think anyone was chasing top times in the prologue.”

In the GTE-Am class, in which the successful 911 RSR will be campaigned for the last time this year, Porsche’s partner teams performed impressively on both days. On Saturday, the new Iron Dames customer squad turned heads with top times in both sessions thanks to drivers Rahel Frey (Switzerland), Michelle Gatting (Denmark) and Sarah Bovy (Belgium). Scoring positions three and five on Sunday, the swift trio collected important insights for the season-opening round at Sebring. The sister car fielded by Iron Lynx achieved P5 in the combined results. The 911 RSR entries from GR Racing and Project 1 topped the timesheets in the GTE-Am classification in both sessions on Sunday. At the wheel of Project 1’s 911 RSR, the former Porsche Junior Matteo Cairoli from Italy clocked the best lap time of the weekend. Proton Competition’s two 911 racers also achieved top positions.

During the two-day test, the Porsche 963 vehicles faced the competition in the hypercar class for the first time.

Drivers’ comments on the prologue
Frédéric Makowiecki (Porsche 963 #5): “It was great to get an idea of the competition in the hypercar class. We learned a lot about our new car during the prologue. With this information, we now have to make the most of what’s possible. In the FIA WEC, the best tire use is often the key to success. Let’s see how well we can do in this area. We have collected a vast amount of data that we now need to analyse before the start of the race.”

André Lotterer (Porsche 963 #6): “It’s exciting for me to be back in the FIA WEC. Finally back to the old familiar paddock. I recognise a lot of faces. However, the competition is very different. The new hypercar era begins with many cars contesting the top class. During the prologue, we prepared for the first race. Not everything ran perfectly, but we’re making progress. We still have a lot of work ahead of us. The competition is very strong and the opening round won’t be easy for us.”

Sarah Bovy (Porsche 911 RSR #85): “We’re very pleased with the car. It suits us really well. Michelle, Rahel and I worked on improving our performance systematically. We also attempted to maintain a steady pace on the long runs. We have a lot of fun in the Porsche 911 RSR and we’re really looking forward to this coming weekend. Let’s see how the competition looks. Our expectations are high. We aim to bring home our first class win this year.”

Matteo Cairoli (Porsche 911 RSR #56): “We still hadn’t worked out the right setup for our Porsche 911 RSR on Saturday, but everything went much better on Sunday. We scored first place in the morning. That doesn’t mean much but it still feels good. I’m sure everyone is playing their cards close to their chests. This was just a test. Race week begins on Wednesday. We’ll do our very best and we want to kick off the season with a class win.”


The next chapter in Cadillac Racing’s dual series of competition will be written this week with the No. 2 Cadillac V-Series.R making its FIA World Endurance Championship debut in the 1000 Miles of Sebring.

#2 Cadillac Racing

Its sister racecars – the No. 01 Cadillac V-Series.R and the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac V-Series.R – on Saturday will seek to give the iconic brand three consecutive victories in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in the second race of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.

This past weekend’s WEC Prologue, incorporating four free practice sessions totaling more than 12 hours on the 3.741-mile, 17-turn Sebring International Raceway course, was instrumental in the Cadillac Racing team’s preparation for the opening endurance race Friday starting at noon local and the season in general in the electrified Hypercar class.

#2 Cadillac Racing

The No. 2 Cadillac V-Series.R will compete in all seven rounds of the WEC calendar, including the centenary 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, and face 10 Hypercar competitors in the eight-hour kickoff event.

Evaluation, exploration and operational practice – key as there are notable differences in pit stop and race procedures compared to the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship — complemented drivers Earl Bamber, Alex Lynn and Richard Westbrook gaining pace through more than 200 laps on the bumpy circuit that originally was a World War II airbase.

The Cadillac V-Series.R topped the time chart in one session with a best lap of 1 minute, 48.429 seconds and was near the top in the others with no down time in its initial outing in WEC spec.

“It’s been a really positive two days. It’s a whole new program, the WEC, and it feels like it. But what a start we’ve made and there is so much more to come,” Westbrook said. “The whole team is just going to get stronger and stronger and I think everyone is excited. The Cadillac is really strong, but we knew that from Daytona, so we have a nice base to work with. There’s a lot to be positive about going into the race week.”

Bamber and Lynn co-drove a Cadillac DPi-V.R to victory in the 2022 Twelve Hours of Sebring to lead a Cadillac sweep of the podium. Lynn is a two-time overall winner (2017, 2022) in a Cadillac DPi-V.R and Bamber has an overall and class win in the Twelve Hours of Sebring. Westbrook co-drove a Cadillac DPI-V.R to the runner-up finish last March.

“I think we have a talented crew and we’re looking forward to going racing,” team manager and strategist Stephen Mitas said.

The 1000 Miles of Sebring will mark the second race for the trio in the new Cadillac V-Series.R powered by a 5.5-liter V-8 normally aspirated engine developed by GM’s Performance and Racing propulsion team paired with the spec energy recovery system. They co-drove to fourth place in the Rolex 24 At Daytona in January.

“Testing is limited so going to Daytona is a good way in race conditions to get the team and drivers aligned and prepared for the WEC season,” Mitas said. “The more experience you get, particularly with a new team, is only going to benefit you and reduce your learning curve.”



The Sebring circuit hosted the FIA WEC Prologue, two days of testing prior to the opening round of the championship, the Sebring 1000 Miles, scheduled to take place on the same track on Friday, 17 March. The two Ferrari 499Ps entered in the Hypercar class amassed a total of 313 laps, gathering valuable data ahead of the race, in spite of the fact that the program of the no. 51 499P was prematurely interrupted following damage sustained after crashing off-track on the first lap of the Sunday session.

#50 Ferrari 499P Hypercar

Day 1. A clear day with temperatures just under 30°C was the backdrop for the morning session. On the 6.019-kilometre American track, the no. 51 Ferrari 499P driven by Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado and Antonio Giovinazzi set the fifth fastest time, stopping the clock at 1’49”724, some 0’458 less than teammates Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina and Nicklas Nielsen, seventh in the no. 50 car.

In the afternoon, improving track conditions allowed the crews to shave a few tenths of a second off their best times. The Ferrari – AF Corse team finished in fourth place for the Fuoco-Molina-Nielsen crew with a 1’49”402 marker, ahead of the 499P of Pier Guidi-Calado-Giovinazzi, 0”171 adrift.

Day 2. Sunday morning’s session took place below clear skies and temperatures of 30°C. At the end of the 3 hours and 30 minutes on the track, the Ferrari 499P crewed by Fuoco-Molina-Nielsen had taken seventh place by virtue of a 1’49”558 lap time, produced by the Italian driver.

#50 Ferrari 499P Hypercar

The session was to end prematurely, however, for the no. 51 Hypercar following a collision into the barriers at turn 1 on the out-lap whilst Calado was at the wheel. The incident on the out-lap, exacerbated by tires still not up to temperature (thermal blankets are no longer allowed by the regulations), led to some damage to the bodywork and suspension. The Maranello engineers, having already collected plenty of data in the previous sessions, opted to not return the car to the track, thus allowing the mechanics to carry out repairs and check the integrity of the 499P.

In the second session, the no. 50 Ferrari 499P completed 58 laps to achieve the fourth best time, with a lap of 1’49’’300, produced by Nicklas Nielsen.