Preview: FIA 2018-19 World Endurance Championship: 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps


The WEC is ready to embark on the first race of its 15-month season: the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps
Credit: World Endurance Championship

Thirty-seven cars representing twenty-five teams are due to hit the iconic Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps this weekend to take part in the first round of the FIA World Endurance Championship 2018-19 Super season. 104 drivers will sign on to the first race of the year, where Hybrids race against non-Hybrid cars in a straight battle, and BMW join the LM GTE class to stamp their mark on endurance racing at the top level. It is a highly anticipated season with everyone is on the edge of their seats to see who will be crowned the first winners in class for the ‘Super Season’, spanning fifteen months.

This year marks the longest season in the history of the WEC and will include two editions of both the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps and the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans. The ‘Super Season’ also sees the endurance circus head over to America, not to race at the frequented Circuit of the Americas, but to take on the 1000 Miles of Sebring which coincides on the same weekend as IMSA‘s 12-hour race around the same circuit. The calendar is bigger and better this year, with the racing only promised to be exciting.

The biggest change this season is that fact that only one hybrid-powered car is taking part in the championship. After Porsche LMP1 Team‘s departure from the sport at the end of 2017, only Toyota Gazoo Racing holds the torch for the hybrid-powered machines. They’re coming in for the fight, reinforced by their decision to sign current McLaren Formula One driver Fernando Alonso for the full season. Toyota are looking to secure the elusive Le Mans victory that arguably they should have won at the last two renditions of the famous race. They have two chances to take this crown with their relatively unchanged drivers’ line up.

The LMP1 class, however, does not shrink but grow. With the regulations freezing development on LMP1 cars until 2021 and the rules having been opened up to make it easier for privateers to compete, the LMP1 numbers have jumped to ten full season entries. Six teams make up this number, with eight of the cars being non-hybrids. The new Equivalency of Technology (EoT) will be in full effect fro Spa in a bid to keep racing as fair as possible between the hybrid and non-hybrid machinery (in a similar way to how BoP plays a part in the LM GTE classes).

Rebellion Racing TVR make their return to LMP1 after securing the LMP2 trophy last year having been racing in the class just one season. ByKolles Racing Team also make their comeback to the WEC after their early departure from the championship after the 2017 Le Mans, along with vacant from 2017 SMP Racing. SMP has confirmed that from Le Mans Jenson Button will be joining their full season line up, but the Brit will be vacant in Spa.

CEFC TRSM Racing, formally know as Manor Racing, make the step up to LMP1 from LMP2, along with European Le Mans Series graduates DragonSpeed.

LMP2

This leaves the LMP2 field a little lighter than it was last year, but given Championship runners up Jackie Chan DC Racing a brilliant chance to claim the LMP2 championship. The only team in LMP2 bringing two cars to Spa, they will battle against LMP2 regulars Signatech Alpine, TRS Racing and G-Drive Racing as well as new to the class Racing Team Nederland and Larbre Competition. DragonSpeed also bring their LMP2 ELMS challenger to the WEC this year, with Roberto Gonzalez, Pastor Maldonado and Nathanaël Berthon on board. This is the car that Anthony Davidson will join after the 24 Hours of Le Mans to compete in the rest of the full WEC season.

GTE Pro

BMW will be looking to impress in their first season of the WEC, but Porsche GT Team were favourites after the 30-hour Prologue at Paul Ricard. The eight-car field grows to ten with the edition of BMW this season, but Ferrari, Ford and Aston Martin will be back on track to fight for manufacturers and drivers glory in the World Endurance GT Championships. Each manufacturer brings two cars to the full season entry list, with most of the driver line-ups remaining the same.

James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi will be looking to bring the glory back to Maranello as they battle to retain their World Endurance GT Drivers’ Championship this season. It was a close fight at the final race of the season in 2017, with three team holding a mathematical chance to win. Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx were favourites throughout last year, until a shortened race at the 6 Hours of Fuji left them unable to recover from an early race incident and dropped them out of the points battle. Both teams will have the bit between their teeth as they fight for glory over the 15-month championship.

Aston Martin Racing can also not be written off, with the 2017 Le Mans winning line-up coming back for another year of racing. They will be keen to recover from their forgettable end to last season, with the Dane Train back in full force in the sister car. The LM GTE Pro class always delivers an exciting season full of wheel-to-wheel, down to the wire racing and it is a class we are very much looking forward to keeping an eye on this year.

GTE Am

Where they had troubles in one class, they succeed in the other as Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda claimed the LM GTE Am Championship on their fourth year of trying. They return to the track this year as no longer the only Aston Martin in the Am class, looking to retain their title. ELMS successful TF Sport make it two Aston Martin’s in Am as they join the WEC as a full season entry. Team Project 1 join in a Porsche 911 RSR along with MR Racing in a Ferrari 488 GTE as the new kids on the grid. The remaining entries follow over from 2017, with Dempsey-Proton Racing, close runners up in class last year, add an additional car to their garage.

The first race of the season gets underway this week, with first practice taking place on Thursday 3rd May 12:00 BST. The race takes place on Saturday, getting underway at 13:30 BST and running for 6-hours. Keep up to date with all the action as it happens with TheCheckeredFlag.co.uk.