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Fuoco Insists Porsche Still Favorite at Imola

Antonio Fuoco feels Imola won’t suit Ferrari 499P and expects Porsche to still be strong despite BoP tweaks…

Photo: Porsche

Ferrari driver Antonio Fuoco believes Porsche goes into this weekend’s Imola round of the FIA World Endurance Championship as the favorite, despite the favorable Balance of Performance changes the Italian marque has received for this weekend.

Porsche opened its campaign with a lockout of the podium in the Qatar 1812km, with the 963 LMDh proving the class of the field around the ultra-smooth, high speed Lusail International Circuit, while Ferrari endured a weekend to forget with its three 499Ps.

Fuoco and his teammates Miguel Molina and Niklas Nielsen were classified sixth in the best of the factory-entered cars, the No. 50, two places behind the third-string No. 83 AF Corse entry of Yifei Ye, Robert Shwartzman and Robert Kubica.

Imola features a bumpier track surface and more low-speed corners compared to Lusail, while the Hypercar BoP has also undergone a raft of adjustments since the Qatar opener, with Ferrari and Toyota getting the largest weight breaks.

But Fuoco believes that the 499P isn’t ideally suited to the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, and that he is not expecting a drastic change in form for Ferrari’s home race.

“Looking at the characteristics of the track, I think it’s going to be a bit tough for us,” Fuoco said. “There are a lot of hairpins and low-speed corners, so this is a bit different compared to what we have for the rest of the year.

“We never raced here, so we don’t know what to expect, also with the GTs. We tested here in November, but it was different conditions, because in Italy, November is cold and rainy. Now, we are at the time of year where the weather can change quite quickly, where the sun can come out and the temperature goes up quickly.

“It’s difficult to know what to expect. I think it’s the type of track that is very tricky, a small mistake can cost you a lot with the traffic. I think it will be fun to watch for the tifosi but tricky for us.”

On who he sees as having the best chance to take victory at Imola, Fuoco added: “Porsche was quite strong, even through the year last year, they kept improving race by race and then won in Qatar. For sure they arrive here as favorite.

“But also Cadillac and for sure Toyota, they will be there. And then we need to see who can do the job better.”

This weekend’s weather forecast suggests a strong possibility of rain during qualifying on Saturday, although the prospects of a wet race appear to have receded.

Asked if he felt Ferrari would be more competitive relative to its rivals in the rain, Fuoco said: “It’s quite difficult to say now.

“The last time it rained was at Le Mans in the night, and many things have changed since then. I’m not sure if we will be more competitive in the dry or wet.”

For its part, Toyota is expecting a more competitive showing at Imola compared to the season opener, but the Japanese marque’s Hypercar project leader John Litjens feels that a first victory of the season could still be a tall order.

“The circuit layout itself, we feel fits the car a bit better than Qatar, although for sure we were hoping for warmer temperatures here,” Litjens told Sportscar365.

“A new BoP was issued, so the cars have been shuffled a bit. I still think it will be a hard fight to win here but, it’s what we’re here for.”

Asked if he expected a significant change in terms of competitiveness compared to Qatar, Litjens replied: “I don’t think so, it will be similar. [Porsche] should be a bit closer to us, not as far ahead, but I still think they are ahead.” 

Jamie Klein is Sportscar365's Asian editor. Japan-based Klein, who previously worked for Motorsport Network on the Motorsport.cоm and Autosport titles, covers the FIA World Endurance Championship and SUPER GT, among other series.

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