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Le Mans 24 Hours of Le Mans

Ferrari didn’t expect lap time for Le Mans 24 Hours pole

Ferrari has admitted to surprise at the lap time with which it topped the Hyperpole qualifying session for the Le Mans 24 Hours.

#50 Ferrari AF Corse Ferrari 499P of Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina, Nicklas Nielsen

Ferdinando Cannizzo, Ferrari’s sportscar racing technical director, explained that the 3m22.982s lap with which Antonio Fuoco claimed the pole for this weekend’s blue riband round of the World Endurance Championship exceeded expectations.

Fuoco ended up seven tenths quicker than team-mate Alessandro Pier Guidi as the two Ferrari 499Ps Le Mans Hypercars blocked out the front row starting positions.

The pole-winning time was 1.5s quicker than last year’s qualifying mark set by Toyota driver Brendon Hartley.

“To be honest we did not expect this lap time,” said Cannizzo.

“We just prepared the car as best we could, but we have to say that Antonio made one of his best laps.

“We are very happy that we gave him a good car.”

Cannizzo also expressed satisfaction with the AF Corse-run Ferrari team’s strategy over the course of the 30-minute final qualifying session fought out by the top eight cars in each class from the first timed period on Wednesday.

He explained that Fuoco gave Pier Guidi a tow on their first runs, before the order was reversed when the Ferraris went out again on a second set of new tyres.

“I am very happy with our strategy in Hyperpole,” said Cannizzo.

“We decided to go out behind the Toyotas to get a tow and our cars were also helping each other one to the other.”

#50 Ferrari AF Corse Ferrari 499P of Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina, Nicklas Nielsen, #51 Ferrari AF Corse Ferrari 499P of Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado, Antonio Giovinazzi

#50 Ferrari AF Corse Ferrari 499P of Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina, Nicklas Nielsen, #51 Ferrari AF Corse Ferrari 499P of Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado, Antonio Giovinazzi

Photo by: Rainier Ehrhardt

Pier Guidi was quickest after the first runs with a 3m23.897s on his first flying lap, which compared with Fuoco’s 3m23.905s set on his second lap.

Fuoco’s found more than a second when he had the tow after the cars pitted.

Pier Guidi also improved, ending up with a best lap of 3m23.755s after losing a time that was three tenths quicker to a track limits violation.

Ferrari sportscar racing boss Antonello Coletta heralded the Italian manufacturer’s front-row lock-out as an “unbelievable moment”.

But he stressed that the hard work remained ahead of the team.

“This is just the first step on the long road at Le Mans,” he said.

“We know the situation in the race will be very different: qualifying is one matter and the race is another story.

“The key to the race will be reliability: this is the real game of the race.”

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He reiterated Ferrari’s position that its target remains a podium finish on its return to Le Mans with a factory-run prototype after an absence of 50 years.

He also pointed out that the marque lags behind Toyota in terms of experience at the French enduro.

“We have to respect Toyota, who have more experience than us,” he said. “Toyota remains the pinnacle at this moment.”

WEC track action resumes at 12:00 local time on Saturday with the pre-race warm-up and then the start of the centenary running of the 24 Hours at Le Mans at 16:00 local time.

Additional reporting by Benjamin Vinel

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