a final rehearsal in 2022 before the massive arrival of builders
Ferrari, Porsche, Audi, Peugeot, BMW, Cadillac are preparing their return to the discipline which is about to experience a new golden age from 2023.
The World Auto Endurance Championship (WEC) opens with the 1000 Miles of Sebring (Florida), for six races including the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans; but everyone already has their eyes fixed on 2023 and the return of prestigious manufacturers.
Ferrari, Porsche, Audi, Peugeot, BMW, Cadillac… Before bringing together all these manufacturers from 2023, the premier category of the world championship, called Hypercar since 2021, is setting off again for a year of transition with Toyota in the role of big favourite, Alpine as an outsider and Glickenhaus as Tom Thumb.
In the LMP2 category, we will also follow the endurance debut of Frenchman Sebastien Ogier, eight-time world rally champion, also in transition to the Richard Mille Racing team.
The year 2023 will be that of the centenary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, legendary event and flagship of the young WEC. For its 10th anniversary, the championship also offers in 2022 the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium, May 7), those of Monza (Italy, July 10), Fuji (Japan, September 11) and the 8 Hours of Bahrain ( November 12).
At a crossroads before the hoped-for return of a golden age, endurance racing begins 2022 at Sebring, from Wednesday for free practice, Thursday for qualifying and Friday for the race (departure at 12:00 p.m. Florida time, 5:00 p.m. French time).
In Hypercar, we will of course find Toyota. The Japanese team has been hegemonic in recent years, winning the last three championships and the last four editions of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. She won all the races last year with her two cars.
Toyota has two more crews on board: Argentinian José Maria Lopez, Japanese Kamui Kobayashi and Briton Mike Conway will set off to regain their title in the championship and at Le Mans with the N.7. In the N.8, the Swiss Sébastien Buemi and the New Zealander Brendon Hartley come back, accompanied by the Japanese Ryo Hirakawa.
Hirakawa replaces Kazuki Nakajima, three-time Le Mans winner who will now be vice-president of Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe. As for Kamui Kobayashi, he will be, in addition to his role as driver, the Team Principal of the team.
The balance of performance still decisive
Facing the big favorite, very little competition, still in 2022. The French Alpine team will line up for the second year in a row in the premier category, still authorized to compete with Hypercars with an old adapted non-hybrid LMP1 prototype.
A two-thirds tricolor crew will still be there for the Blues, in the Alpine N.36, with Nicolas Lapierre and Matthieu Vaxiviere associated with the Brazilian André Negrão.
The third participant in the WEC Hypercar will again be the small American manufacturer Glickenhaus, named after its owner, former film director James Glickenhaus. Two other Frenchmen will drive in this team: Olivier Pla and Romain Dumas, accompanied by the Australian Ryan Briscoe.
Expected this year, Peugeot will arrive during the championship, having given up the 24 Hours of Le Mans 2022. Peugeot will launch its 9X8 this summer, in Italy or Japan. The French brand did not want to take any risks since once its Hypercar has been approved, it cannot be modified until 2025, with some exceptions.
Pending increased competition in 2023, the WEC still hopes for more battle thanks to the balance of performance (BoP). This handicap system (heavier car for example) should make it possible to balance the level of the three teams with different technologies (Toyota only hybrid).
In addition, the championship will use from this season a 100% renewable fuel which should allow a 65% reduction in CO2 emissions on the track, promises the organizer.