WEC 2023 race report and ramblings: the 6 Hours of Portimao

The second round of the World Endurance Championship ran at Portimao, Portugal in warm weather. It is relatively new to the WEC calendar and has recently received criticism for its kitty litter for MotoGP racers.

The FIA has promised another investigation after a Porsche in the support class
launched into a spectator grandstand in qualifying. Thankfully, the stand was empty at the time and the driver walked away unscathed.

The Hypercar class saw Toyota #7, in the hands of Mike Conway, blast into the lead at the start, passing its pole-sitting sister machine. The #8 Toyota, driven by Sébastien Buemi, lost a position to James Calado (Ferrari #50) soon afterward. The Swiss driver took his time, however, and regained the place by Lap 9.

Interestingly, Toyota management (Kamui Kobayashi) ordered their two
machines swap position. One must remember that the #7 machine led the championship standings going into this round. It became a moot point, though, as Toyota #7 suffered technical problems and first pitted to replace the left rear. They dropped to the tail of the Hypercar class and staggered home in ninth position.

This left the #8 machine to canter to victory. Ferrari #50 (Fuoco/Molina/Nielsen) finished a fine second, keeping Porsche #6 (Vanthoor/Lotterer/Estre) at bay. The sole Cadillac entry (Lynn/Westbrook/Bamber) finished a solid fourth ahead of Peugeot #94, piloted by Müller/Menezes/Duval. Ferrari #51 started well, but suffered brake-by-wire issues and brake caliper maladies and finished sixth.

Peugeot showed better reliability in this race, with #93 finishing seventh after losing two laps at the start. The sole Glickenhaus entry finished a lonely
eighth. The Vanwall entry had a brake caliper explode with Jacques Villeneuve at the wheel, which led to retirement.

The LMP2 qualifying session saw Mirko Bortolotti (Prema Racing #63) pip Gabriel Aubry (Vector Racing #10) by only 0.001 seconds! Neither team had a role to play in the fight for victory, however. United Autosport #23 (van der Garde/Pierson/Jarvis) had their revenge after retiring from the lead at Sebring. They won the class ahead of the sister machine #22 (Albuquerque/Lubin/Hanson),
despite having no radio for the final two hours. Team WRT #41 (Andrade/Kubica/Deletraz) finished third ahead of Prema Racing #63 (Pin/Bortolotti/Kyvat). Sebring winner JOTA #48 (Beckmann/Ye/Stevens) had to be content with fifth position.

The GTE Am class saw Corvette #33 (Catsburg/Keating/Varonne) grab pole position, but it didn’t manage to hold station. The AF Corse Ferrari #21 blasted into the lead at the start, but faded in the later stages. This left the Corvette trio to vie for victory with Richard Millé Ferrari #83 (Companc/Wadoux/Rovera). The two cars were side-by-side in places on the final lap, but Catsburg narrowly edged Rovera to the flag. The Iron Dames Porsche (Frey/Bovy/Gatting) finished third ahead of AF Corse Ferrari #54 (Flohr/Castellacci/Rigon).

The third round of the WEC world championship moves to Belgium for the 6 Hours of Spa on 29 April 2023. The circuit at Spa Franchorchamps is legendary for its changeable weather conditions, as well as its sweeping fast corners. It will be fascinating to see how Toyota’s rivals try to close the gap to the reigning champions.

Click here to see the results of the previous round at Sebring

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