The FIA World Endurance Championship kicked off in March with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring, and now just over a month and a half later it returns with the second round of the year. Teams have been testing since Sebring at various tracks around the world to get optimum set up ahead of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. With the complete grid back up to its full 37 entries – GR Racing are back on the track after missing the opening round – it will certainly be an interesting 6-hour race on Saturday.
As this is usually seen as the ‘test run’ before Le Mans, it is surprising to not see any one-off entries in Saturday’s race, with only the full WEC contenders taking to the track. In the past, teams have taken the opportunity to take part to get their teams and drivers ready for the 24-hour event.
Alpine Hit With Balance of Performance Reduction
After their dominant performance at Sebring, it isn’t a big surprise to see that only the Alpine Elf Team have had their BoP changed, reducing the power output of the sole LMP1 car. Only time will tell if Alpine manage to race around the loss of power or if the change will sway the advantage to Toyota Gazoo Racing or Glickenhaus Racing. The reigning champions Toyota will be hoping for a much better race than last time out where the #7 entry played part in the premature chequered flag that arguably may have cost the sister car a chance at the win.
Bourdais On Track For First LMP2 Race
LMP2 sees Sebastien Bourdais take to the track for his first race in the class after giving full focus to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Sebring. He along with team mate Nico Müller take to the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps for the first time in an LMP2 car, with this being Müller’s first ever race at the 4.352 mile track.
All eyes will be on the Sebring winners Untied Autosports to see if they can make it two in a row and open the 2022 season in dominant style. In a race that ebbed and flowed a lot with the Team WRT and RealTeam by WRT, these two teams are looking like the ones to keep an eye on this season. Albeit we have only had one round so far and the Circuit de Spa-Francrochamps is very different to the Sebring Raceway in terms of undulations, length, climate and circuit tarmac, so this assumption could be seen as very different come Saturday evening.
Another team to keep an eye on this weekend would be the LMP2 AF Corse crew, who are using this season to get the team up to speed with the LM/Hypercar level of racing. Nicklas Nielsen was certainly branded as an emerging star and one quite possibly set for one of the prestigious Ferrari Hypercar seats next season as, in his first race in the class, he took his team to class pole position. It wasn’t a pace that the team could keep up being a Pro/Am driver line up in the midst of Pro line ups, but it was impressive pace to see on the team’s class debut.
Corvette Putting Pressure on Established Pro Entries
In GTE Pro, the Ferrari team suffered from BoP balance, putting them on the back foot in comparison to their rivals Porsche GT Team and Corvette Racing. Comparing to 2021 where if one Pro team had the advantage the team tended to dominate the weekend, this year Corvette were in the mix to upset the status quo and gave Porsche a run for their money. Even though it was still a Porsche victory, Corvette were second and pushing for a fight throughout the entire 10-hour event.
BoP always becomes a big talking point in the GTE classes, specifically Pro, but in looking at the results of last year where, going into the final round, the two championship contenders were not only on the same number of points and victories, but so were the manufacturers, the BoP does tend to balance out during the season. Ferrari will certainly be hoping for a BoP break this weekend.
Aston Martin Lead the Am Charge
Even though Porsche seemed to be the manufacturer to beat in Sebring, Aston Martin came through the field to take a one-two with Northwest Aston Martin Racing and TF Sport. Again, due to the BoP shifts, the Ferrari runners suffered most in the GTE classes, but Porsche seemed to lose their qualifying advantage in both classes when it came to race pace. With so little information on the 2022 grid, it will be after first practice on Thursday that we begin to get a gauge of what teams have all round packages that will be strong across multiple tracks, and who had the American advantage.
Moving from the Friday race day Sebring had, the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps takes place on Saturday 7th May with first practice taking place on Thursday. Friday will be an action-packed day with both second and third practice as well as the two qualifying sessions commencing through the day. The weather looks mixed for the weekend, with Thursday and Friday due to be dry and potential rain coming on Saturday. At the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, it would be surprising to have the full six-hour race without mixed conditions playing a part.