Anthony Davidson’s Stars of Sebring
There were many standout performances during the first round of the 2023 FIA World Endurance championship at the 1000 Miles of Sebring last week.
WEC commentator and sportscar expert Anthony Davidson selects his favourites as 2023 got underway in Florida. Below is what he had to say.
Hypercar – Kamui Kobayashi
“Toyota - they definitely raised the bar this season. They've had a whole year to work on their car to figure out all of the pitfalls of the setup the balance, particularly at Sebring where the car looked pretty tricky to drive last year. It was very bouncy over the bumps and the front lacked a lot of grip. You could see every time we went on the onboard, the drivers were wrestling with the car.”
“The results speak for themselves. I think the way the team looked after its tyres during the race was excellent. I feel like maybe they didn't extract everything from the car in qualifying. But that's probably because they were focusing so much on the race balance that it naturally affected qualifying more.
“For me, the pick of the bunch from a driver’s point of view was Kamui Kobayashi. Kamui drove a really solid race every time he was behind the wheel. He was really fast, decisive through traffic and he looked after his tyres. I can't find any fault his performance at all, so for me he was the star.
“In fact, all of the Toyota drivers did a great job, and special mention for Jose-Maria Lopez too. After last year when he crashed, and then again in FP3 when he went off again - it takes some guts to then come back as he did, so fair play to him.
“You also have to mention AF Corse Ferrari’s Antonio Fuoco for that exceptional lap in qualifying. He backed that up with some stellar stints in the race also, so he deserves a strong mention for what he achieved on Ferrari’s Hypercar debut.”
LMP2 – Oliver Jarvis
“Oliver Jarvis at United Autosports was the star for me in LMP2. He did an exceptional lap in qualifying – he was hard to beat in the race and just all round excellent.
“He was flying the whole weekend. He was absolutely on top form but I feel so gutted for their No. 23 crew. The team that they were cruelly robbed of what I thought would be an inevitable victory. They were miles ahead. By the time Josh Pierson had done his thing behind the wheel as well, who I also think was by far the standout silver driver - even at that early stage of the race. With Tom Blomqvist to come, you couldn’t see anyone beating them…
“Pierson was also super good in the race - pulling away from gold and platinum drivers. I was thinking when he got in the car ‘oh, this will be be pressure for him’ but he pulled away from them! I haven't forgotten that performance by the team and that car crew.
“I think other performances that were also notable were Will Stevens, Yifei Ye and David Beckmann on his debut. They were all super strong and they deserved the victory of course.
“One other driver who really took the eye was Doriane Pin on her LMP2 debut with Prema. Her lap times were pretty phenomenal and as far as I saw she made zero mistakes.
“She was not fazed by performing in that heat in those physical cars. When she got out she looked like she hadn’t broken sweat and she was eloquent on camera - very analytical. It was absolutely clear she was loving it, which is great to see. It is really exciting to see such a talent coming in and being able to match a recent Grand Prix driver (Daniil Kvyat) in pretty the same car. That’s amazing when you think about it.
“A little mention too for Fabio Scherer at Inter Europol. I thought he drove really well, on the limit as usual, but very effective. His battle with Phil Hanson and Robin Frijns in mid-portion of the race was superb.”
LMGTE Am – Ben Keating
“So much was the same in LMGTE Am this season but then again there was so much different too!
“For me, Ben Keating and Sarah Bovy were the standout drivers. Both are bronze categorised drivers but both often show that they are exceptional at what they do.
“The qualifying period for the LMGTE Ams was easily the best and most entertaining. Keating, now in a Corvette, and Bovy, now in a Porsche, were still going at each other just like 2022. It was great to watch.
“Bovy’s fastest lap was brilliant and set the Iron Dames up for that elusive first category win. It was most unlike Rahel Frey to make that mistake exiting T1 but its easily done at Sebring. We’ve all done it.
“Keating drove super well and he deserved the win alongside teammates Nicolas Varonne and Nicky Catsburg. Fair play to them because winning in the USA in a Corvette has to be special.
“I thought Varonne was very strong too and made the difference in that mid-section of the race. I don’t know much about him but he is obviously really talented.
“Daniel Serra, Nicky Catsburg, Julien Andlauer and Nicki Thiim were also standout pros.
“I love this class and the racing it provides. It is the heart of endurance racing and I think we can look forward to some more amazing races this season.”
BY ANTHONY DAVIDSON