FIA WEC

Analysis: 2022 FIA World Endurance Championship 1,000 Miles of Sebring

5 Mins read
Start of the FIA World Endurance Championship 1,000 Miles of Sebring
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

For the first time in the 2022 FIA World Endurance Championship the competitive order was revealed, Balance of Performance (BoP) weightings were put under scrutiny and the class favourites were highlighted. The WEC 1,000 Miles of Sebring showed it all, albeit coming to an anticlimactic end due to an electric storm, and TheCheckeredFlag looks at what that might mean for the upcoming season.

LMP1 On Top of the Hypercars

Hypercar Podium from the 1,000 Miles of Sebring
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

In a twist that will not please Hypercar runners, the grandfather LMP1 car raced by Alpine Elf Team took victory competitively. The Toyota Gazoo Racing cars were suffering with a change to their BoP and the speed at which they were allowed to deploy their hybrid power in the pre-season Prologue, but it seemed the #8 crew had got on top of this come the race.

The French team took a clean sweep of points, taking class/overall pole and victory, but this is not dominance that is expected to continue. Brendon Hartley had looked to be on a charge when the red flag flew to bring a premature end to the race, and with the lost half an hour of racing it was odds on he would have made an attempt of the lead of the race.

The #7 team may be struggling with the new power output of the Toyota GR010 Hybrid, but the sister crew certainly look like the ones who will keep Alpine honest throughout the season at this early stage. The hybrid power output regulation is unlikely to change between now and the rest of the season, but with the #8 car looking to already be on top of this it isn’t expected to take long for the #7 to catch up. The real question will be how many points the reigning champions lose in the interim and whether by time they’re on the same page as the #8 they still have a realistic chance at the championship.

With their sole Hypercar, Glickenhaus Racing have started the season strong, seeming in a better position than they were this time last year. Having matched their best performance to date with a third in class (and bettered it by also taking third overall), the team have come a long way since the 2021. No longer stuck in the LMP2 field, Glickenhaus are now perfectly positioned to pick up places if other cars in their class have issues, alike the #7 at Sebring. It’s only a matter of time before they can really bring the fight to the front, but whether that will happen in 2022 remains to be seen.

Prologue Favourites Keep Advantage

LMP2 class winners #23 United Autosports in pit lane
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

Coming out of the Prologue held at Sebring a week before the race, United Autosports, Team WRT and Realteam by WRT were the LMP2 cars to watch, and this remained to be the case during the 1,000 mile event. Although the new to LMP2 AF Corse took pole position, it wasn’t long into the race when the #83 entry saw itself tumbling down the order. This was in part to do with the Pro/Am line up that car has, where the LMP2s it was racing against all had line ups combining gold and silver drivers. It was still an impressive feat for Nicklas Nielsen to take LMP2 pole on his first outing in the class and certainly makes him more of a favourite for a Hypercar seat next year when Ferrari joins the grid.

It was a race of impressive feats in LMP2 as class winners included the youngest entrant of a WEC race and now youngest class winner in WEC Joshua Pierton. The American, at sixteen years of age, handled the pressure of leading the class incredible well and helped team mates Oliver Jarvis and Paul di Resta take the opening win of the season. WEC regulars in the #22 United Autosports – Filipe Alberquerque, Philip Hanson and Will Owen – performed as the United Autosports did last season: it qualified well, second in class, but was unable to translate that pace into the race. Where the sister car won, the #22 was only able to cross the line seventh.

Team WRT have kept themselves in the fight, continuing their good form from last season. As was predicted in the pre-season test, it looks like the fight for the LMP2 title will be between the two WRT cars and United Autosports. The race revealed Prema Orlen Team as one to watch, but no other teams seemed to be able to bring the battle to those front runners. Reliability and consistency will be determining factors over the season, but these three teams are expected to swing the momentum between one another throughout the remaining five races.

Porsche Dominate BoP Advantage

Porsche GT Team going through the dirt at WEC 1,000 Miles of Sebring
Credit: Porsche Newsroom

Throughout the Prologue it was clear that Porsche and Porsche-running GTE cars were going into the race weekend with an advantage, something the manufacturer didn’t give up at all over the three day event. It was interesting that, with the Prologue data, there was no BoP shift ahead of the race weekend, but it is possible that the threat of sandbagging from Ferrari had WEC refraining from making any changes after the two day test.

The BoP debate is one that will continue on throughout the season. WEC will alter the balancing of minimum weights and brake horse power race by race, meaning that some events will favour one manufacturer whilst the next will favour another. Last season displayed how affective this can be with both championship front runners going into the final race of the season on the same points with an even split of race wins. It is a factor of GT racing that has been effective ever since its inception. Although over the course of the season there should be even advantage for all cars, teams won’t stop complaining about it.

Even though Porsche certainly had the advantage and Ferrari the disadvantage, as was clear in the lap times set by both brands in qualifying and the race, Corvette Racing managed to keep the fight going to the German team, splitting their two entries at the chequered flag. This was another fight that fans were robbed of through the premature end to the race as Nick Tandy had looked to be on a mission to challenge his old team for class victory.

At this early stage, with the BoP having had such an influence on the race, it is difficult to call a class favourite. Kevin Estre proved his raw speed last season, so he is always odds on to take class pole with a one-lap pace that is difficult to rival, but the comeback of the Corvettes through the race certainly shows that qualy pace is not the only thing that will matter this year.

Aston Martin Surge in Race Pace

GTE Am class winners Nicki Thiim, Paul Dalla Lana and David Pittard on podium
Credit: Aston Martin Racing

After practice, it would have been easy to put money on Porsche taking both Pro and Am class victories at the 1,000 Miles of Sebring, but Aston Martin came with a point to prove in qualifying. Both Northwest Aston Martin Racing and TF Sport put in very strong performances during the American race, collectively claiming pole position and a one-two in the race for the manufacturer.

Out on debut in WEC, it was a strong race for David Pittard who partnered series veterans Paul Dalla Lana and Nicki Thiim in the #98 Aston Martin Racing. Once the trio got ahead of the TF Sport during the opening stages of the race there was nothing the sister car could do to rein the trio in. A clean and consistent race saw the #98 barely give up the lead of the race to cruise to class win.

Alike GTE Pro, it is difficult to make predictions about who will come out on top of the class after one race, because BoP weightings will have had an influence throughout the season. What is safe to say is that if when Porsche have the advantage Aston Martin can still fight for and take pole positions and class wins, the manufacturer is at an advantage looking for its first GTE Am title since 2017.

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About author
The Checkered Flag’s correspondent for the FIA World Endurance Championship. Working in motorsport as a hobby and as a professional, Alice is a freelance digital communications manager, video editor and graphic designer at OrbitSphere. She also runs and manages her own YouTube channel - Circuit The World - with videos on gaming, travel, motorsports and reviews.
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