WEC Preview: 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps
Written by Evan Veer, Edited by Sasha Macmillen
The FIA World Endurance Championship continues its European campaign with the TotalEnergies 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, in the run up to its crown jewel event at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The fan-favourite Belgian circuit is known for producing unpredictable races in the past, with notable moments ranging from an LMP1 performing a bizarre backflip at the top of Eau Rouge/Raidillon back in 2018, to the race being run through a heavy downpour of rain and even snow in 2019. Although this year’s edition is unlikely to have quite such extreme weather, there is a chance of rain for Friday’s qualifying especially.
The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps contains a mix of both long straights and slower technical sections, which when combined make for a very balanced track with lots of elevation change, with the beautiful scenery of the Belgian Ardennes always serving as a great location to go racing.
The circuit went through some serious renovation work over the past few years, swapping out gravel traps for asphalt runoff and making several changes to the grandstands, including the addition of a massive grandstand at the top of the hill at Raidillon, providing a great view of the legendary corner for fans to enjoy up close.
As has become traditional for WEC rounds at Spa, the race will begin on Saturday at 13:00 local time(11:00 GMT), with qualifying on Friday afternoon.
A dominant showing in Portimaõ confirmed that Toyota is still the team to beat in the run up to Le Mans, as the Japanese squad would undoubtedly have been able to take home a 1-2 finish if not for a failure in a torque sensor which confined the #7 Toyota to spend several laps in the garage for repairs.
The reigning champions should be careful not to get too comfortable though, as their competitors are becoming increasingly familiar with their machinery and the championship as a whole, which should allow them to slowly close the gap and bring the fight to Toyota.
Despite the BoP (Balance of Performance) already having been set for the upcoming rounds at Spa and Le Mans, an expected adjustment to the performance of the LMDh cars compared to their LMH counterparts should boost the previously lacking raw performance from Porsche and Cadillac. Additionally a last-minute rule change should allow all cars to run at a higher power level than before, with Glickenhaus set to benefit the most while Ferrari and Toyota lose out in comparison.
Hertz Team Jota will be making their Hypercar Debut this weekend with their freshly delivered Porsche 963, though their complete lack of testing with the car means Spa will be all about getting familiar with the package before the 24 Hours of Le Mans. IMSA’s #01 Cadillac Racing crew will be making the trip to Europe with the same goal of getting used to the championship before its headline event. The team will be entering as #3, with their usual driver pairing of Sebastian Bourdais and Renger van der Zande being joined by fellow IMSA Cadillac driver Jack Aitken who fills in for Scott Dixon.
Down in LMP2, United Autosports will be looking to continue their winning streak, though certainly not without a challenge from Prema, WRT, and JOTA. Missing from this fight will be the #48 JOTA as its crew moves up to the aforementioned #38 Porsche in Hypercar.
Despite taking victory at both Sebring and Portimaõ, the #33 Corvette hasn’t gone without challenge. It has faced fierce competition, especially from the #83 Iron Dames Porsche and the #85 AF Corse Ferrari, and although both of these cars faced setbacks at Sebring causing them to fall behind in the championship, the fight is far from over.
Aston Martin GTE veteran Paul Dalla Lana has decided to retire with immediate effect this week, after a successful career as a bronze driver in the WEC’s GTE AM class. Him and his team Northwest AMR will be transferring their entry to this year’s 24 Hours of Daytona GTD winners Heart Of Racing, who will also be running and Aston Martin, though with an entirely new driver lineup.