Porsche sweeps Friday’s WEC practice at Silverstone

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SILVERSTONE – Porsche picked up where it left off at the end of its triumphant 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship campaign on Friday at Silverstone by scoring a one-two finish in both practice sessions.

The champion trio of Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard arrived at Silverstone running with the no. 1 on their 919 Hybrid for the first time at a race weekend, and duly lived up to the hype by leading FP1 and FP2.

On a typically damp and dreary day at Silverstone, Bernhard set the early pace in the 919 Hybrid with a lap of 1:42.182 that was enough to give Porsche P1 in the first practice session in the afternoon.

Hartley then followed this up by recording a quickest lap of 1:39.665 in the evening on a drier track, giving Porsche an advantage of over 1.5 seconds over its rivals.

The no. 2 car shared by Marc Lieb, Romain Dumas and Neel Jani slotted into P2 in both sessions, but stopped out on track in FP2 and sparked a full course yellow. However, it was eventually able to return to the pits under its own power.

Behind Porsche, Audi and Toyota appeared to be embroiled in a close battle to complete the podium judging by practice. Both manufacturers have overhauled their cars in a bid to close the gap at the front this year, but neither could finish any higher than third on Friday at Silverstone.

In LMP2, defending champions G-Drive Racing and British outfit Strakka shared the practice spoils, but it was the debutant Manor team that caught the attention of most. The no. 45 car finished fourth in FP1 before the no. 44 ended FP2 second in class, suggesting the Formula 1 transfer team will immediately be competitive in WEC.

Ferrari led the way in GTE Pro as its AF Corse team swept to a one-two finish in both sessions with the new 488 GTE cars, while the GTE Am squad running last year’s 458 Italia also ran strongly in first practice before Aston Martin Racing topped FP2.

AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing
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Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title, and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”