Shock performance at Fuji: Ferrari’s unexpected rival revealed!

In the recent World Endurance Championship’s Fuji 6 Hours, Ferrari maintained its stance that it was no further behind Toyota than it was during the previous race at Monza. Despite Ferrari’s two 499P Le Mans Hypercars finishing fourth and fifth, a full lap behind Toyota’s GR010 HYBRIDs, the racing team remains undeterred.

Ferrari 499P –

Giuliano Salvi, Ferrari’s race and test team manager, asserted, “There is a status quo; our position has remained consistent since the Le Mans 24 Hours.” Comparing the recent performance with Toyota, Salvi stated, “Our position compared with Toyota is more or less as expected.”

The #50 Ferrari’s close second-place finish at Monza in July, driven by Antonio Fuoco, Nicklas Nielsen, and Miguel Molina, painted an optimistic picture of the 499P’s prowess. However, Salvi noted that this was an outlier due to the post Le Mans Balance of Performance adjustments. When quizzed about any increased gaps since Monza, he confidently responded, “No, in the end that wasn’t the case.” He also anticipated finishing a lap down in a straightforward race without significant interruptions.

Highlighting the differences between the two races, there were three full safety cars deployed during the Monza 6 Hours, as opposed to a single quick-fire safety car and one Full Course Yellow in Japan. This factor, Salvi suggests, is why the #50 car lagged only 16s behind the triumphant Toyota at Ferrari’s home turf in Monza.

However, the Fuji race did spring a surprise on Ferrari: the impressive speed of Porsche’s 963 LMDh. With Laurens Vanthoor, Kevin Estre, and Andre Lotterer at the helm, the car secured third place. Salvi admitted, “What was unexpected was how quick Porsche was. We were the third team here.”

On the strategy side, Salvi acknowledged that AF Corse, running the Ferrari Hypercar team, opted for caution when it came to tyre strategy at Fuji. They commenced on the hard compound Michelin slick and only switched to the medium in the final stint for the #50 car. In contrast, Porsche ran on mediums throughout, while Toyota began with a mix of hard and medium tyres.

Salvi further elaborated on their conservative approach, “We have never been here before, we didn’t know the track. Our approach to the tyres was conservative because we didn’t have many productive practice sessions due to rain interruptions.”