Let’s leave predictions aside, even if the whole Le Mans paddock knows who will be starting the 24 hours number 100 as the favorite team. Beyond what will be the outcome of the French marathon, a historic scene will be witnessed on Saturday at 16 o’clock.
When Richard Strauss’ ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’ (made famous nowadays as the soundtrack to ‘2001 A Space Odyssey’) fades away to the sound of engines, two Ferraris will sprint ahead of everyone. It will probably be the symbolic photo of the centenary Le Mans.
The history of the most famous 24-hour race in the world is certainly not made up of the results of qualifying, but the front row conquered yesterday by the two 499Ps has a different flavor than usual, something that goes beyond conquering the front row of the starting grid. Ferrari returns to Le Mans after 50 years, and leaves its first mark.
The joy in the Scuderia garage at the end of qualifying was understandable, when it became clear that no opponent would overtake poleman Antonio Fuoco and Alessandro Pier Guidi. Hugs, handshakes and pats on the back, and the manager of the Ferrari programme, Antonello Coletta, took a while to let off the adrenaline before commenting on a historic day.
#50 Ferrari AF Corse Ferrari 499P of Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina, Nicklas Nielsen
Photo by: Nikolaz Godet
“An incredible moment, arrived after months of hard work. Occupying the front row of the most iconic race in the world after returning to racing for the absolute after 50 years is something special, a moment that we savored above all considering the effort that was made by everyone, mechanics, technicians, logistics and all the staff who work in this program – says the manager of Endurance and Corse Clienti activities – And obviously, let’s not forget what our drivers have done, an absolute and consistent performance”.
You will start in front of everyone. Do you think you can keep the top positions for a long time?
“We got Pole Position at Sebring and just missed out on Spa, and here at Le Mans we grabbed the entire front row. We have a good car, but at the same time we know that the situation awaiting us in the race will be very different from qualifying, so we are aware that we have taken a good first step but we still have a very long way to go, and right now the reference it’s Toyota. This doesn’t take away from the satisfaction with what we achieved in qualifying, but we also want to fight in the race, that’s for sure.”
Is monopolizing the front row a result you expected?
“No, it’s more than we expected. Toyota is at home at Le Mans, they have a great deal of experience, and I think the result we got is important precisely because we confirmed ourselves in front of great rivals. Let’s not forget that our program kicked off last July, and this gives an idea of the work we’ve done”.
#50 Ferrari AF Corse Ferrari 499P of Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina, Nicklas Nielsen, #33 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C8.R of Nicky Catsburg, Ben Keating, Nicolas Varrone, #48 Idec Sport Oreca 07 – Gibson of Paul Lafargue, Paul Loup Chatin, Laurents Horr
Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images
Isn’t there a temptation to start thinking big?
“We know that Toyota will do very well, but there are other opponents as well, and for this reason I think caution is a must. We believe we can have a good race, but we know how much experience Toyota has gained over the years, and for this reason too I think it’s important for us to take a breather and enjoy this moment”.
On the eve of this away match, you declared that the goal is the podium, without however specifying the step…
“The podium remains our goal, but as I said we have to be careful. I think you can imagine the dream, but I repeat, a different challenge awaits us which will be played on reliability, and we know how strong Toyota is on this front, and it is the key factor in a 24-hour race”.
Worried about tire management in the race?
“It is another important aspect. We received the first tire specifications last February, so even on this front our knowledge is not comparable to that of our rivals. In the inaugural race at Sebring we didn’t manage the tires well in the race, in the following races it went better but we never used them at night, so there will be work to do here too”.
#50 Ferrari AF Corse Ferrari 499P of Antonio Fuoco
Photo by: Alexander Trienitz
If the rain comes, will it be a favorable or penalizing scenario for you?
“We’ll see, it would be an extra variable but at the moment it’s difficult to make predictions. We will have to deal with many situations, including with regard to the safety car there will be new rules that could have an important impact. We will try to stay focused, in the end if there is a problem, it will be the same for everyone.”
In Portimao you accused a problem with the braking system. Is it a concern or has everything been resolved?
“From the analysis carried out it emerged that the cause was an electronic component, we hope that everything has been resolved in the best way. We mustn’t forget the complexity of these cars, and that’s why the real challenge will be on the reliability front.”
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