FIA WEC: Toyota, Ferrari score top class poles at Silverstone

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Toyota Racing secured the pole position for the FIA World Endurance Championship season opener at Silverstone. The team’s No. 7 Toyota TS040 Hybrid, driven by Alexander Wurz, Kazuki Nakajima and Stephane Sarrazin, edged the No. 1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro by just 0.005 of a second once average laps were taken into account.

“I am bit surprised with pole but we knew it was going to be close,” Wurz said. “The reason I am surprised is not that I didn’t believe in our performance, but we had a lot of discussion and debate about the set-up. Obviously our decision turned out to be a good one and worked really well. Kazuki’s lap was great; he was really on it. We worked hard to make the car consistent and so far it has paid off. But the focus is fully on the race because that is where the points are.”

The Toyota’s was a 1:42.774 to the Audi’s 1:42.779. The best of the new Porsche 919 Hybrids, the No. 14 car (Romain Dumas, Neel Jani, Marc Lieb), clocked in third.

Mark Webber’s FIA WEC debut will occur from P6 in the sister No. 20 Porsche, which he’ll co-drive with Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard.

The lone Morgan Nissan in the reduced four-car LMP2 class, entered by G-Drive Racing and run by the OAK squad, took that class pole. The No. 26 of Oliver Pla, Julien Canal and Roman Rusinov headed a trio of ORECA 03 Nissans.

In GTE, Ferrari took both the Pro and Am class poles with the venerable F458 Italia. The No. 51 AF Corse entry has the top spot in the hands of veterans Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander; the “young gun” second car of Davide Rigon and James Calado is fourth on the grid, with the two factory Porsche 911 RSRs sandwiched in-between.

AF Corse’s 2013-spec Am class car, the No. 81 driven by Stephen Wyatt, Michele Rugolo and 2013 GP2 runner-up Sam Bird (like Calado an ex-open-wheeler), has the top spot in that class ahead of one of the Prodrive-run Aston Martin Vantages, as Aston Martin Racing celebrates its 10th anniversary this season.

More information on this weekend’s race can be found on the official FIA WEC website.

Qualifying times

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing
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Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.