Preview: FIA World Endurance Championship – 1,000 Miles of Sebring

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Sunset in the Pit Lane, FIA World Endurance Championship Prologue
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

The first round of the 2022 FIA World Endurance Championship is finally upon us. Last weekend (12-13 March) saw the 32-strong grid take to the track for the Prologue and gave a first look at the predicted competitive order, so what should you be looking out for this weekend? And what might stump the drivers during the 1,000 Miles of Sebring? The Checkered Flag brings you everything you’ll need to know ahead of the start of the new season.

Hypercar Class

Alpine Elf Matmut were the favourite Hypercars from the Prologue, but the LMP2 cars certainly brought the challenge, taking three of the four sessions’ fastest lap times. Toyota Gazoo Racing struggled with the new year’s Balance of Performance (BoP) weightings which, importantly, doesn’t allow them to use their hybrid power until they are at faster speeds (last year it was 150kph, this year it’s 190kph). This means the Japanese team can use their hybrid boost for less of the lap, reducing their maximum speed output.

This shift is all done for the balance of fairness; with Alpine still running an LMP1 car rather than an LMH the Toyotas would have an overall advantage on the French team. However, this was an element Toyota weren’t expecting to affect them as much as it has. It will be surprising if Toyota cannot get on top of this new hurdle ahead of this weekend’s race, but even if they do it is likely they won’t disappear into the distance as they frequently did last season.

Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus complete the Hypercar class with their sole 007 LMH. The team were told by the FIA they had to enter at least one full season car if they wanted 24 Hours of Le Mans entries as, at the end of 2021, the team weren’t sure if they wanted to take on another full season. To keep both of their cars in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the #708 will take part in the full 2022 championship.

LMP2 Class

The LMP2 cars kept the LMHs on their toes during the Prologue, but two teams really stood out against the rest of the grid. Keep an eye on 2021 champions Team WRT and United Autosports this weekend as they will be favourites to take the first LMP2 victory of the season.

After an extremely successful rookie season, Team WRT quickly made themselves one of the favourites and certainly expect to continue their winning streak from last year.

United Autosports, on the other hand, will be hoping for an improvement on 2022 and hope that the qualifying and race pace discrepancies that plagued the end of their season don’t interfere with the 2022 LMP2 championship.

This weekend also marks the WEC debut of Sebastien Ogier on board the #1 Richard Mille Racing Team. The team, which notably had opted for female-only line ups in the past two seasons, has moved to a mixed gender driver selection, including the eight-time World Rally Championship champion. It should certainly be a team to keep your eye on as Ogier looks to extend his driving skillset outside the Rally circuit.

Of the 15-strong grid, four of those LMP2 cars are in the Pro-Am category, including GTE team AF Corse. The Ferrari-backed outfit has moved up to LMP2 from GTE this season as they will be the team running Ferrari’s LMDh car when it comes to the front of the grid next season. The trio onboard the LMP2 car – Nicklas Nielsen, Francois Perrodo and Alessio Rovera – have a great track record together, moving with AF Corse after being GTE Am Champions with them last season.

#56 Team Project 1 GTE Am and #28 JOTA LMP2 on track at the FIA World Endurance Championship Prologue
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

GTE Pro Class

The Porsche and Ferrari fight is due to be on again this season in GTE Pro, but Corvette Racing are back on the grid, for the first time as a full season entry.

Corvette have appeared in sporadic races over the years and multiple times at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but never have the team fielded a full season WEC car before. They showed their intent at the Prologue, giving Porsche a run for their money and leaving Ferrari in their wake.

The Prologue results would assume to cause some concern for Ferrari fans, but with BoP distributions changing at every race, and results of the Prologue always to be taken with a pinch of salt, there shouldn’t be too much worry just yet.

Last season, Porsche looked like they would dominate in GTE, but when the final race of the season came the two manufacturers were neck-and-neck with points in both the constructors’ and drivers’ championship fights.

GTE Am Class

Porsche also seem to be favourite in GTE Am, with Dempsey-Proton Racing leading the way and other Porsche-running Team Project 1 hot on their tail. But, as is the case in GTE racing, the BoP changes for every race will favour some cars one week and others the next.

Iron Lynx and Iron Dames – both Ferrari-running entries – also showed great pace during the second day of the Prologue, keeping this class wide open.

The return of Harry Tincknell to the WEC and ex-Ford partner’s son, Sebastian Priaulx‘s debut in the #77 Dempsey Porsche will be an exciting one to watch, and as it is the Am favourite coming out of the Prologue it should certainly be a car you keep on your radar.

GR Racing will miss this race weekend after team owner Mike Wainwright withdrew the entry to concentrate on the safety of his staff and contractors that were affected by the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.

With Am class champions now racing in LMP2, the door is open in class for a new team to take the spotlight. One thing is guaranteed – there will be a new champion in LM GTE Am this season.

Racing for the 1,000 Miles of Sebring starts tomorrow, with first practice underway at 15:05 GMT. Stay tuned to the The Checkered Flag for updates on the latest racing news from America as it happens.

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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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