WEC: 2023, the beginning of a new golden age for endurance

The atmosphere is incredible on the Sebring circuit in Florida this Friday, March 17

WEC: 2023, the beginning of a new golden age for endurance

The atmosphere is incredible on the Sebring circuit in Florida this Friday, March 17. It must be said that the line-up of manufacturers taking part in this first round of the world endurance championship is exceptional. It seems that a new golden age is beginning for the discipline with the arrival of Ferrari, Porsche and Cadillac in Hypercar, the new premier category of endurance introduced in 2021. Alongside Peugeot and two private teams – the American Glickenhaus and the Austrian Vanwall, all will try to thwart the domination of Toyota, hegemonic in recent years (the Japanese brand has won the last five championships). Faced with the legitimate favorite of this 11th edition of the championship, the competition has greatly increased compared to 2022 since the number of entrants in the Hypercar category has more than doubled, going from six cars to thirteen this season. A craze driven in particular by the new regulations which now allow the same cars to run in the WEC and in the American IMSA championship.

In order to counter the two Toyota crews, including the number 8 with the Swiss Sébastien Buemi, the New Zealander Brendon Hartley and the Japanese Ryo Hirakawa who will go to regain the title in the championship, Vanwall and Glickenhaus will each field a car, like Cadillac for his first season in the WEC. For its arrival in the premier category, Vanwall will also call on the services of a former F1 world champion, the Canadian Jacques Villeneuve, alongside the Frenchman Tom Dillmann and the Argentinian Esteban Guerrieri.

Porsche, which had withdrawn from the WEC after winning it in 2017, also recording its 19th victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans that year, arrives in Hypercar with two 963 prototypes (and two privateer Porsche 963s expected later in the season under the colors of Hertz Jota and Proton Competition). Fifty years after its last appearance in the premier class, Ferrari will make its return to the highest level of endurance racing at Sebring, also with two prototypes, one of which will be driven by the Italian Antonio Giovinazzi, reserve driver for the Scuderia in Formula 1. Finally Peugeot, which has already raced in the WEC in 2022 but after the 24 Hours of Le Mans, will once again install the Frenchman Jean-Éric Vergne, double Formula Electric world champion in 2018 and 2019, in one of his two racing cars.

The year 2023 will also be that of the centenary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the flagship event of the young WEC, on June 10 and 11. One hundred years after the first edition in 1923, the mythical Sarthe race is already guaranteed to be sold out with "surprises" on the way, promises Frédéric Lequien, boss of the WEC. Among the drivers expected for the high point of the season, the Frenchman Simon Pagenaud, winner of the 500 Miles of Indianapolis in 2019 and the Indycar championship in the United States in 2016, will return to the lower category LMP2, twelve years after his last appearance in the event.

In the meantime, for the start of the season, the prototypes will start their first laps on Wednesday, during free practice at Sebring, before qualifying the next day. The race will start Friday at 12:00 p.m. Florida time (5:00 p.m. Paris time), with the hope for fans to see (finally) more rivalry on the track… before seeing the field grow even bigger in 2024, thanks to the return of Alpine and the arrival of BMW and Lamborghini in Hypercar.

WEC 2023 schedule:

1. 1,000 Miles from Sebring (USA) – 17 March

2. 6 Hours of Portimao (POR) – April 16

3. 6 Hours of Spa (BEL) – April 29

4. 24 Hours of Le Mans (FRA) – 10/11 June

5. 6 Hours of Monza (ITA) – July 9

6. 6 Hours of Fuji (JPN) – September 10

7. Bahrain 8 Hours (BAH) – November 4