The FIA World Endurance Championship is gearing up for the biggest event in the 2023 endurance racing calendar: the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans (10-11 June).
Round four of this year’s FIA WEC marks the centenary of the 24-hour French classic which was first staged in 1923. Le Mans also represents the half-way point for the seven-round WEC season, with a total of 62 cars shared by 186 drivers (including 37 full-time WEC entries), set to tackle the 13.6-kilometre circuit, where Hypercars reach speeds in the region of 330kph and nearly 70% of the lap is travelled with fully-opened throttle. During each tour of the circuit, Hypercar drivers will shift gears 74 times.
This year’s event has been sold-out for several months with around 300,000 fans expected to descend on Le Mans in northeast France to soak up the special atmosphere for the 100 year celebration of the world’s oldest endurance race.
16 HYPERCARS REPRESENTING SEVEN MANUFACTURERS
The Hypercar line-up for Le Mans is set to be the biggest yet with a total of 16 entries in the headline category. Sixteen is the highest number in the top class of Le Mans since 2011 due to an influx of interest from manufacturers in the WEC’s premier class including the likes of Ferrari and Porsche. There will be a further 24 entries in LMP2, 21 in LMGTE Am plus the Innovative Car entry [a modified NASCAR Chevrolet Camaro ZL1].
Twelve of the Hypercars listed will be eligible to score WEC points which includes current championship leaders Toyota Gazoo Racing and its pair of Toyota GR010 Hybrid Hypercars. The manfuacturer is yet to be defeated this season, but has faced stiff competition from Ferrari AF Corse, Porsche Penske Motorsport and Cadillac Racing for podium positions.
Both Porsche Penske Motorsport and Cadillac Racing will field three Hypercar entries for Le Mans, with Ferrari returning to the fray after a 50 year absence from the top class with two Ferrari 499P Hypercars.
Thirty years after Peugeot took an overall win at Le Mans, Peugeot TotalEnergies will contest Le Mans with two Peugeot 9X8 Hypercars. After a strong debut at Spa-Francorchamps last month, Hertz Team JOTA in a privately-run Porsche 963 will once again bolster Porsche’s Hypercar-class presence.
Completing the entry list in Hypercar will be American-flagged Glickenhaus Racing with two Glickenhaus 007 Hypercars, as well as Floyd Vanwall Racing and the Vanwall Vandervell 680.
The overall entry list sees strong local representation across all three classes with a total of 33 French drivers on the driver entry list with two drivers from Le Mans itself including Sebastien Bourdais [No. 3 Cadillac Racing] and Julien Canal [No. 36 Alpine Elf Team].
TOYOTA AND CORVETTE LEAD THE POINTS; UNITED ON TOP IN LMP2
Out of the 37 WEC entries, it’s Toyota that lead overall with a hat-trick of wins already this season. Ferrari are currently 33 points behind, with Porsche 15 points adrift of Ferrari. However, with 50 points available for Le Mans, this is the race where everything could change!
Among drivers, it is the crew of the No. 8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid (Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley, Ryō Hirakawa) that has a slender five point lead over the sister No. 7 Toyota of Jose Maria Lopez, Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway.
In LMP2, just eight points split the two front-runners: United Autosports and Team WRT. Behind the class leaders, five points separate the No. 23 United Autosports crew, Prema Racing (No. 63) and Inter Europol Competition in the fight for third position.
Meanwhile, in LMGTE Am, Corvette Racing lead the way with a total of 82 points after three rounds (thanks to two victories and a runner-up spot at the previous round in Spa). Richard Mille AF Corse is currently second, the crew buoyed following their victory at Spa-Francorchamps last month which included the first ever win for a female driver in WEC.
The all-female Iron Dames crew will be hoping their luck will change after showing some excellent pace already this season but have been unable to convert this to a win.
Two scrutineering sessions were held at Place de la République in the city centre on Friday and Saturday for pre-race checks for all the cars and drivers. – By Melissa Warren