The eight-season strong World Endurance Championship is the first endurance championship since the World Sportscar Championship ended in 1992. Organised by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (AOC) and sanctioned by the FIA, the WEC features sports prototypes and grand tourers competing over a series of categories to be awarded best driver, manufacturer and private team.
The WEC attracts motor racing’s most prestigious manufacturers including Ferrari, Audi, Porsche, Toyota while previous champions include Fernando Alonso, Sebastien Buemi, Mark Webber and Alan McNish.
The 2019/2020 season started at Silverstone and culminates at the prestigious Le Mans 24 Hours in June this year.
WHAT’S NEW IN 2020?
DRIVER QUALIFYING FOR 2020
Each team designates two drivers for each qualifying session, with each driver setting at least one timed lap. The average of the best two-timed laps is used to establish position on the grid. Qualifying is live-streamed on the FIA WEC website and lasts 20 minutes for each team (including a pit stop).
CAR QUALIFYING FOR 2020
LMP1, LMP2 and LMGTE Pro: Each driver is required to set a time at least equal to 120% of the three best times set by three different makes of car, and 110% of the best time set by the fastest car in each of the three categories.
LMGTE AM category: Drivers must set a qualifying time equal to or better than 110% of the best time by the fastest car.
Qualifying minimums for all categories will be calculated for the session in which the relevant driver took part.
2020 LE MANS HYPERPOLE FORMAT
The 2020 Le Mans 24 Hours is set to see the debut of the new Hyperpole qualifying format. The ACO has shaken things up for the 2019/2020 season, with a two-stage qualifying session designed to encourage some truly spectacular track action at breathtaking speed.
The first session takes place at 23.15 and lasts until midnight, meaning all competitors will hit the track for 45 minutes. At the end of the session, the cream of the crop – 245 competitors reduced to just six representing the best in each class – will compete in a Hyperpole session to determine the top 6 places on the grid.
THE SEASON SO FAR
Despite revised regulations that favored their rivals, Toyota Gazoo Racing has delivered on pre-season predictions of dominance in the LMP1 class and scored one-two victories in three of the opening four races to establish a healthy lead atop both driver and constructor standings. A strong opening weekend at Silverstone, where their No. 7 and No. 8 cars placed first and second respectively, was followed with similar results in Fuji and Bahrain. Rebellion Racing triumphed in Fuji to break its rivals eight-race streak that stretched back to last season. The Japanese manufacturer, in its first season post Fernando Alonso era, is still the only team with a Hybrid car on the grid and its supremacy has remain relatively unchallenged so far.
Aston Martin recovered from a shaky home race at Silverstone to lead the World Endurance GTE Manufacturer Championship at the halfway stage, with Porsche waiting in the wings just nine points behind. Ferrari, who sit 52 points adrift, will be hoping for an improved second half of the season and will be buoyed by second-place finish in Bahrain.
DC Racing, co-owned by Asian Le Mans champion David Cheng and actor Jackie Chan, leads the LMP2 standings after four races ahead of United Autosports and Racing Team Nederland. Jota sit fourth while reigning champions Signatech Apline complete the top five.
Germany’s Team Project 1 and Italy’s AF Corse top the LMGTE AM standings on 73 points while five drivers across the two teams – Jeroen Bleekemolen, Ben Keating, Emmanuel Collard, Nicklas Nielsen and Francois Perrodo – share top spot in the driver standings with 73 points.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2020
More drama: both on and off the track. Unfortunately, the WEC will not return to Sao Paulo for Round 5 but instead head to Circuit of the Americas, after the FIA confirmed this was due to a major issue with the local promoter in Brazil.
Nevertheless, there will still be a familiar face returning at the Lone Star Le Mans after Corvette announced its addition to the February race. America’s iconic sportscar marque will give the C8R only its second outing in 2020, joining the LMGTE Pro category alongside Aston Martin, Porsche and Ferrari.
Back-to-back races in the United States should provide plenty of impetus and inspiration to home drivers, including Texas native Ben Keating, in their bid for silverware.
Toyota should continue to take the headlines as its dominance proves too strong in the short term, but expect the gap to its rivals to shrink even more before the season’s end. And with the iconic Le Mans destined to provide plenty of thrills and spills, the season remains far from over.