WEC Preview: 1000 Miles of Sebring
Written by Evan Veer, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri
The FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) is getting ready for its ‘Super Sebring’ season opener down in Florida. Sebring has been the venue for one of the most prestigious and historic endurance racing events in the United States, in the form of the Sebring 12 hour, which will run alongside the IMSA on the same weekend. Due to both championships running long races on the same weekend, the WEC event will take place on Friday, followed by IMSA on Saturday.
Sebring is infamous for its rough surface, often seeing cars bounce as they make their way around the track, and an important lesson from the past is to respect the bumps, otherwise it can prove to be very costly.
These rough conditions always take a toll on reliability, making it a challenging, yet valuable experience for those bringing new cars to the championship, such as Ferrari and Vanwall.
Luckily, they have already had the chance to put their cars to the test at Sebring over the past weekend during the WEC’s two day pre-season test also known as the ‘Prologue’.
The race comes to an end when the leader has completed 1000 miles (1.613 kilometers), meaning 268 laps, or after eight hours have passed. Looking at previous races of the series, it looks highly unlikely for the lap count to be achievable, especially with numerous yellow-flag interventions.
The qualifying format has also been modified slightly, with each of the classes getting their own 15-minute session, compared to last season’s format, wherein the grid would only be divided between prototype and GT sessions.
Additionally new specifications of tyres have been introduced, as tyre warmers are banned, starting from the 2023 season.
This race marks the first of what many have already described as a new golden era in top class sports car racing for the WEC, with a total of 11 entries already for Sebring, with many more to come in the near future.
Toyota has been steadily leading last week’s testing timesheets with its revised GR010, on both lap times as well as total laps driven, and with their experience being a massive advantage, they will likely be the team to beat come the race on Friday, though of course, testing gives no guarantees.
The weekend was perhaps disappointing for Peugeot, as the French outfit steadily ran just below the laptimes of any of its fellow hybrid Hypercar teams, while Glickenhaus fell closer to the LMP2 times, having seemingly run without Traction Control as the system had trouble adapting to the new tyres for the season, combined with the bumpy track surface.
The controversial Vanwall Vandervell 680 LMH looks set to be racing this weekend, despite its parent company having lost their claim to use the Vanwall name on its race cars within the EU, leaving some major question marks over their presence in the upcoming European rounds. Although their lap times looked decent in testing, star driver Jaqcues Villeneuve still seems to be having trouble getting up to pace, following a long break from top tier motorsport.
The #51 Ferrari suffered a crash on an out lap during the prologue, leading to concerns over the chassis and its replacement, and after initially opting against this, the Italian team has since decided to make the switch, as a precautionary measure.
The Balance of Performance (BoP) for all Hypercars has been set for all races, up to and including Le Mans, in the hopes that none of the manufacturers will be sandbagging, in an attempt to get an advantage for the series’ flagship 24-hour event at the Circuit de la Sarthe. There is still room for minor adjustments, which will be applied to all cars in the same category, for instance, in a case where all LMDh models will receive the same weight adjustment.
JOTA decided to run a second LMP2 entry until the delivery of their Porsche 963 LMDh around the 6 Hours of Spa, the #48 sporting a livery derived from the one on their upcoming #38 Hypercar.
The #63 Prema’s driver line-up has been confirmed, with former F1 driver Daniil Kvyat making his WEC debut, despite his plans for the series being compromised due to the war in Ukraine. The Russian will be joined by upcoming female talent Doriane Pin, and Lamborghini factory driver Mirko Bortolotti, anticipating a combined effort between Prema and Iron Lynx for their 2024 Lamborghini LMDh concept . This car will definitely be one to keep your eyes on, especially as Doriane Pin in particular, was significantly above the pace of her fellow silver-rated drivers in last week’s prologue test.
Their competition certainly isn’t anything to scoff at either, as the driver line-ups are as strong as ever across LMP2, with famous names like Robert Kubica, Robin Frijns, Tom Blomqvist, and Will Stevens headlining the strong contingent of drivers in the class.