Sadly, the Azerbaijan Grand Prix this weekend clashes with Hypercar action at Spa-Francorchamps, prompting the question: Why does the FIA have Formula 1 and the revitalised premier WEC sportscar series clashing on the same weekend?
With a record field of Hypercars, up from those that have turned up for the first two races this season, Round 3 at the daunting Spa-Francorchamps, where F1 also visits later this year, should be a cracker of a race as Toyota, though still dominant, are starting to feel the heat.
The Hypercar line-up is bolstered by two additional entries, a second from Cadillac Racing and a third Porsche 963, for Hertz Team JOTA, which makes it WEC’s first Hypercar-class customer car.
TotalEnergies 6 Hours of Spa-Franchorchamps timetable:
Thursday 27 April
11:30 – 13:00 Free Practice 1
16:20 – 17:50 Free Practice 2
Friday 28 April
11:00 – 12:00 Free Practice 3
17:00 – 18:05 Qualifying
Sunday 29 April
12:45 – 18:45 Race
Heading to the iconic motorsport venue in Belgium’s plush Ardennes Forest, the FIA previewed the forthcoming race weekend:
FIA preview Round 3 of the 2023 WEC at Spa-Francorchamps
The iconic circuit Spa-Francorchamps plays host for round three of the 2023 FIA World Endurance Championship season, TotalEnergies 6 Hours of Spa-Franchorchamps, as the series adds further Hypercar entries and the balance of power in all three classes begins to emerge
With round three the season enters a critical phase, with Toyota Gazoo Racing emerging as early title-favourite and Hypercar-class newcomer Ferrari – AF Corse is seeking to close the gap in order to remain in contention.
Traditionally, the venue located in the Ardennes, famous for its ever-changing weather conditions, also serves the teams as the ultimate test ahead of the all-important 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Last year, the circuit underwent significant changes, these focused on the run-off areas and resurfacing parts of the circuit, but the drivers will still find all the white lines in exactly the same places as previously. During each lap of the 7-kilometre circuit, Hypercar drivers shift gears 44 times, reaching top speeds in the range of 317kph and travelling with fully-opened throttle for 51% of the lap.
Two more formidable entries for the blossoming Hypercar class for Spa
The Hypercar line-up is bolstered by two additional entries in the shape of an extra V-Series.R from Cadillac Racing and a third Porsche 963. Joining the pair of the official Porsche Penske Motorsport-operated cars is the machine entered by reigning LMP2 title-winning outfit, Hertz Team JOTA, which makes it WEC’s first Hypercar-class customer car.
The two new cars bring the number of Hypercar entries to 13, which makes the 6 Hours of Spa WEC’s first race since the 6 Hours of Shanghai in 2018 to feature more cars in the top class than in LMP2.
The entry also features strong local representation across all classes, with four drivers – Laurens Vanthoor (Porsche Penske/Hypercar), Ulysse de Pauw (AF Corse/LMGTE Am), Sarah Bovy (Iron Dames/LMGTE Am) and Alessio Picariello (Iron Lynx/LMGTE Am) – racing under Belgian licences. Furthermore, local ace Stoffel Vandoorne will be on duty as Peugeot TotalEnergies’ reserve driver.
Porsche’s Vanthoor lives only 45 minutes from the circuit, while his team-mate, German three-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner, André Lotterer is also considered local, having grown up in Belgium.
With no Belgian drivers in LMP2, the host country’s colours will be sported by the class’ front-running outfit, Team WRT.
A change in the entry list for Spa-Francorchamps sees Heart of Racing, the reigning IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTD team, making its WEC debut as long-time LMGTE Am driver Paul Dalla Lana calls time on his endurance racing career.
Toyota and Corvette in control for now
Toyota scored two wins out of two races so far this season and is heading into the Ardennes with 64 points to its name in the Manufacturers’ championship, 22 over second-best Ferrari. While Ferrari is looking to bite into Toyota’s advantage, Porsche and Cadillac are level on 30 points in the battle for third.
Among drivers, it is the crew of the #8 GR010 Hybrid (Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley, Ryō Hirakawa) that, owing to a victory at Portimão, is enjoying an 11-point lead over the #51 Ferrari 499P of Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina and Nicklas Nielsen.
In the closely contested LMP2 class, the crew of the #22 United Autosprots entry heads the #63 Prema Racing 56 to 40 on points, with #41 Team WRT entry in third and looking for its first win of the season.
In the LMGTE Am ranks, Corvette Racing is heading into Belgium unbeaten and, with 64 points out of two races, enjoys a comfortable 31-point advantage over second-best squad, Dempsey-Proton Racing. The likes of AF Corse, Kessel Racing and Iron Damas are all in the mix and despite Corvette’s early dominance, the class title is far from settled.
The on-track action is set to kick off on Thursday, with Qualifying taking place on Friday afternoon and the green flag for the six-hour race to be waved at 12:45 CEST on Saturday.