This weekend at the famous Sebring circuit in Florida debuts the return of the World Endurance Championship, which for the first time in years, will field only three classes, minus the GTE PRO division, which was eliminated from the schedule.
For this season, the newly formed hypercar class will be augmented with not only the defending Toyota Gazoo team, with all its members from last season returning again this year, but included once again will be Peugeot and Glickenhaus, who hopefully will have enough funding to compete a full season. But the excitement will come from five new entries: Porsche returns to the forefront with two teams, Penske and the newly formed Hertz JOTA team, and the Ferrari team appears again for the first time in years with two cars. Also included are the Vanwall squad, that includes former F1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve as their third driver. Another team that will make its debut is the American Cadillac team, which will be the second entry in this class coming from the United States.
The LMP 2 class will be making its final appearance this season, with quite an exciting lineup that could have it as one of the closest watched classes in the world endurance championship. The Alpine Elf team, which won two races last season in the hypercar division, switches down to this class for one season, with not one, but two cars. Along with them, is the WRT team, with their new driver, another former formula one competitor, Robert Kubica, at the wheel. Another former F1 driver, Danii Kvyat, will be driving on the Prema team alongside the female French racer Doriane Pin. Regulars such as United Autosports, Vector Sport, and Europol Racing return for another season.
Another division that will be in its final year is the GTE AM, that will feature American Ben Keating driving not in the TF Sport Aston Martin but switching to the American Corvette Racing team. Six more Americans will be entered in this division, which will make it the most involved drivers from this country than anywhere else in this competition. Actor and team Proton owner Patrick Dempsey will return with his Porsche 77 RSR entry, another sponsored American car.
Four females will drive in this division, which will include the Iron Dames team, who turned heads last season with impressive performances. The trio of Sarah Bovy, Michelle Gatting and Rahal Frey will try to make more results against other competitors. Former French and Richard Mille LMP 2 driver Lilou Waddoux returns this time in a Ferrari with the same sponsor.
In all, this year’s competition should be closer, as Toyota Gazoo expects to continue its reign at the top against its hypercar competitors, and the LMP 2 has much to watch. As for the latter and the GTE AM classes, it is the end of the road this season as the upcoming GT3 class makes its way later on. The start of the season begins this weekend, with the prologue and the 1000 mile event next Friday at the Florida Circuit.
By Mark Gero