The second round of the FIA World Endurance Championship sees the grid making their way to Portugal for the first time in WEC’s history. This weekend should have been the 89th 24 Hours of Le Mans, but due to the continued COVID crisis the blue-ribband event has been postponed to August. After the promise the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps offered that ultimately faded away, this race has a lot to live up to.
Last time out, practice sessions had suggested that the LMP2 cars would be in the fight for overall wins as the new Hypercars looked to be completely off the pace. However, as the weekend progressed, the fight faded, leaving Toytoa Gazoo Racing and Alpine Elf Matmut to lock out the podium, finishing ahead of the LMP2 cars by over a lap. It is to be expected that the Hypercars will, again, lead the way, with the LMP2s looking to grab an overall podium if the Hypercars fall to technical difficulties.
With their 007 LMH car now homologated, the Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus team join the grid for this weekend’s race, making it four Hypercars on the grid. The team suffered delays through their homologation program, causing them to miss the first round. They took the decision to take their time getting their cars ready as the homologation of the car is fixed for five years. The team will likely be aiming to finish their first race, trying to complete the eight hours trouble free and come to Portugal with only one of their two LMH cars.
After taking home maximum points from Spa-Francorchamps, looking unbeatable all weekend, United Autosports will be trying to continue that strong performance at Portimao. Paul di Resta takes over from Filipe Alberquerque in the class-leading car, and will look to help the team complete another perfect weekend. The LMP2 grid remains pretty much the same as it was for the opening round with the additions of Lous Deletraz and Oli Webb to the grid. 2020 Formula 2 regular and Le Mans Virtual winner Deletraz replaces Renger van der Zande at Inter Europol Competition, whilst Webb takes over from fellow Brit Darren Burke in the ARC Bratislava. The rest of the 11-strong grid remains the same, with the two JOTA entries going into the weekend as strong favorites after their two-three finish at Spa-Francorchamps.
GTE Pro drops to the four championship-contending cars as Corvette Racing will not take to the track this weekend. The battle between Ferrari and Porsche was relatively balanced at Spa-Francorchamps, with the German manufacturer coming out on top thanks to a stellar performance by Kevin Estre and Neel Jani. The duo currently lead the championship over James Calado and Allesandro Pier Guidi in the second-placed AF Corse, but at the shorter Algarve Circuit it remains to be seen which car will have the advantage.
The Porsche GT Team entries have opted for three-man teams at the eight-hour event, whilst AF Corse remains with the two-man line-ups they had at the opening round. Frederic Makowiecki joins the duo in the #91 Porsche, whilst Estre’s team mate from 2020, Michael Christensen, will make a trio with championship leaders Estre and Jani.
Nickalas Nielsen, Francois Perrodo and Alessio Rovera will be looking for another good performance this weekend to help build on their lead in the GTE Am championship. Aston Martin and Ferrari led the way in Am last time out, with Porsche runners suffering some issues that took them out of podium contention. The extra points available this weekend will have all the teams and drivers looking to optimise and get some great advantages in the championships.
The 8 Hours of Portimao starts this afternoon with the first practice session, ahead of an action-packed Saturday with practice two and three, along with qualifying. The eight-hour race starts at 11:00 BST / 12:00 CEST on Sunday, offering hours of hopefully wheel-to-wheel action.