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Porsche Expects Toyota, Ferrari “Back on Form” at Imola

Porsche Penske managing director Jonathan Diuguid not expecting repeat of Qatar dominance this weekend at Imola…

Photo: James Moy/Toyota

Porsche Penske Motorsport managing director Jonathan Diuguid says he is expecting FIA World Endurance Championship rivals Toyota and Ferrari to be “back on form” in this weekend’s second round of the season at Imola.

The Stuttgart marque is heading to the Italian venue fresh off a dominant display in the curtain-raising Qatar 1812km last month, where it scored its first WEC victory with the 963 and locked out the podium with the help of customer squad Hertz Team JOTA.

By contrast, the best of the Toyota GR010 Hybrids could only manage a best finish of fifth, one place behind the highest-placed Ferrari 499P, the third-string No. 83 car, with both entries gaining a place following Cadillac’s post-race disqualification.

Porsche gained experience of Imola, another new venue to the WEC, in a recent test outing, but Diuguid believes that the characteristics of the track will not be as favorable to the 963 as the ultra-smooth Lusail International Circuit was.

“I think the characteristics of Imola are quite a bit different to Qatar in general,” Diuguid told reporters. “It’s an older circuit with big curbs and it’s bumpy, so it will be quite a different dynamic.

“Qatar is probably the smoothest racing circuit I’ve been to in my career, it had a fresh repave last year, so it was extremely smooth and we were able to run the cars quite low.

“If I had to compare Imola to another circuit, I’d say it’s not far off Monza in terms of bumpiness and things like that. It sort of falls in the middle of circuits. It’s not extremely smooth, but it’s not as bumpy as Sebring or Long Beach.

“Getting the car in the right operating window is something we are focusing on and that’s why the test was pretty valuable.”

Diuguid added he expects Toyota and Ferrari to be back in the mix for victory, especially with the Balance of Performance revision made under the new-for-2024 system that gives race-by-race adjustments based on average pace.

“The BoP has a major effect and I do expect the cars to be a lot closer, because the setup window is a bit larger at Imola just based on the track characteristics,” he said.

“I feel it will return closer to a normal order with Toyota and Ferrari fighting for the win, but I expect us to be there too, so I think it will be a good race.

“They are good, solid teams so I expect them to be back on form at Imola.”

Kevin Estre, one of the drivers of the winning No. 6 Porsche in Qatar alongside Andre Lotterer and Laurens Vanthoor, is likewise expecting to the marque to have a more difficult time at Imola following its dominant start to the season.

The Frenchman explained that the unique demands placed on the tires by Lusail are unlikely to be replicated this weekend.

“Definitely Qatar was also different than many of the tracks we go to in WEC,” said Estre.

“The tire situation was different. Normally you have to take care of the tires and really make sure you go through your double stint and don’t push too much and don’t slide.

“Qatar was a bit the other way around that you had to push to get the tire to work. This is definitely very different to the other tracks.”

He added: “I still think the others will be a lot closer and stronger as Qatar was so special, and the team did a mega job in the winter to understand what we needed with the tires.

“It depends a lot on the temperature. I think we are on the soft side of the Michelin allocation at Imola, so we have to find our way to build a car that saves the tire. Hopefully we can still have a strong out lap and hold the tires for a double stint.

“We definitely can’t tell if we are going to fight for victory or fight for P5. We are there to win, but the competition is very strong.”

Davey Euwema contributed to this report

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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