The 2023 FIA World Endurance Championship got underway last week with the 1000 Miles of Sebring. The race was significant for two main reasons. First, the new LMDh category of cars competed for the first time in the premier Hypercar class alongside cars from the existing LMH category. Second, Ferrari made its return to top-level endurance racing after 50 years with the new 499P LMH.
Reigning champion Toyota dominated the race with its updated GR010 Hybrid LMH. It was a one-two finish for the Japanese team, with the number 7 GR010 Hybrid of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, and José María López finishing first, and the no. 8 GR010 Hybrid of Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley, and Ryo Hirakawa coming in just 2.168 seconds behind.
While it wasn’t the dream start Ferrari would have wanted, the Italian team’s third-place finish with the no. 50 499P was impressive nonetheless. Drivers Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina, and Nicklas Nielsen crossed the line two laps behind the Toyotas.
Despite losing the pole position to Ferrari and its no. 50 499P, Toyota kept the pressure on the leader through the opening laps. An accident by a GT car on the fifth lap brought out the safety car and led to the race stopping for 25 minutes. The Ferrari stopped for fuel during this period, which gave the Toyotas the lead spot. The two Toyotas then built up a gap that would grow to two laps.
Toyota at the 2023 1000 Miles of Sebring
There was some drama with the no. 51 Ferrari 499P. Two hours from the finish line and in fifth place, with Pier Guidi behind the wheel, the car came into contact with a Ferrari 488 GTE driven by Francesco Castellacci. The 499P managed to return to the pits for some repairs, but could only manage to come in seventh at the end. Ahead was the no. 2 Cadillac V-Series.R in fourth, followed by the no. 5 and no. 6 Porsche 963 LMDhs in fifth and sixth places.
The next race on the calendar is the 6 Hours of Portimão (Portugal) on April 19. The all-important 24 Hours of Le Mans runs the weekend starting June 10.