more French than ever!
The 24 Hours of Daytona not only launches the 2023 season of the North American IMSA championship, but also marks the beginning of a new era for endurance, according to a technical regulation common to that of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
When it comes to motorsport, America has never been so close to Europe! The IMSA and WEC (World Endurance Championship), one of which starts this weekend at Daytona and the other in March at Sebring, will indeed put on the track hybrid cars (petrol/electric) designed either entirely by the manufacturer , or from a common base. They will be called GTP in America and Hypercar in Europebut it will be the same cars, which will meet in June in the Sarthe to compete on the occasion of the centenary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Among them, Frenchman Sébastien Bourdais’ Cadillac V-LMDH, who did not think he would one day have the chance to line up again at Le Mans (his hometown) in the premier category. A real boon for this former F1 driver with an impressive track record, exiled for many years in the United States.
« Honestly, I had a bit of a line on this possibility »entrusted to us he has won almost everything in Champcar (4 titles), Indycar and Endurance on the other side of the Atlantic. “At my age (43 years old this Saturday), opportunities like this, there aren’t too many anymore. This required Cadillac and Ganassi (the racing team that operates his car) to trust me. Here, the experience is more valuable! » concludes the man who finished second at Le Mans three times (2007, 2009, 2011) in a Peugeot 908, and who will be keen to try to climb to the top step of the podium in 2023.
15 tricolor pilots at the start!
Bourdais will not be the only Frenchman on the starting grid for the “Rolex 24”. In the premier category GTP there will also be Mathieu Jaminet (Porsche 963), and Simon Pagenaud, aboard the Acura ARX-06 which achieved pole position here in the hands of Tom Blomqvist.
In LMP2, a category made up of identical Oreca chassis with a 100% thermal engine, there will be six French : François Hériau (TDS Racing), Nicolas Lapierre and Paul-Loup Chatin (PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports), but also François Perrodo, Mathieu Vaxivière and Julien Canal in an AF Corse team car.
In GT Daytona Pro, Patrick Pilet will drive a Porsche 911GT3. R, Romain Grosjean a Lamborghini Hurracan GT3 EVO 2, and Jules Gounon a Mercedes AMG GT3 EVO.
Kevin Estre will be in a Porsche in the GTD category, as will Julien Andlauer. Franck Perrera will drive a Lamborghini, as will Frenchwoman Doriane Pin, who will share her car with three other female drivers. They will also be the only 100% female crew out of 61 competitors.
Michelin is heavily invested in Endurance
The French manufacturer is one of the main partners of both IMSA and WEC. As the cars of the premier category are identical on both sides of the Atlantic, it was logical that a single manufacturer would equip all the cars.
In IMSA, Bibendum also supplies the other categories of the championship, which represents more than 130 cars with support races. North American Endurance thus represents the number 1 sports program of the French manufacturer.which sells tens of thousands of competition tires during the season, and develops its image thanks to this exhibition.
IMSA will again be very « French » this year, as evidenced by the 16 French drivers entered at Daytona and the technical rapprochement with the WEC, of which the 24 Hours of Le Mans is a part. In the United States, “motorsport” sports marketing is on a much higher level than in Europe, and Michelin’s support is stronger there than anywhere else.
At the end of the season, the final race will even take place on the « Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta », a circuit renamed in 2018 on the edge of which Bibendum had a four-storey tower built to accommodate his guests, the race management and the press room.
No manufacturer has ever done so much in France or even in Europe, a sign that motorsport is still all-powerful in the USA, where the public is always present. At Daytona, eleven major car brands will be on the starting grid tomorrow. That’s more than any FIA World Championship.