FIA WEC pre-season hots up with 32 full-season entries

With 32 full-season entries, including two LMP1 privateers, and a new qualifying format, the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship promises eight rounds of excitement.

The 2013 WEC season kicked off last week with a Paris press conference in which the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) and the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) announced a grid containing 32 full-season entries representing eleven countries.

“The FIA WEC will once again visit eight countries on four continents, and the eight round calendar has been devised to reduce the logistical costs associated with a world championship,” said Gerard Neveu, CEO of the FIA WEC. “The races follow a logical progression around the globe and the events are spread out enough to allow the cars and equipment to be transported by ship or road instead of air where possible. This also has the added advantage of reducing the carbon footprint of the WEC significantly.

“Of course we will also be celebrating the 90th anniversary of the first 24 Hours race at Le Mans in 1923, making 2013 a very special year. We hope you will all come and join us and be part of the FIA World Endurance Championship success.”

The 2013 WEC season promises a continuation of last year’s LMP1 battle between Audi and Toyota, with hybrid power the name of the game: Audi will be running two Audi R18 e-tron quattros in the LMP1 class, while Toyota will be racing a pair of Toyota TS030 hybrids. Running LMP2 protoypes this season are Nissan, Morgan, Lotus, Oreca, HPD-Honda, Zytek, and Lola, while Porsche is set to join the fold in 2014.

Adding further intrigue in the top tier, the LMP1 grid will also feature two privateer entrants: Swiss outfit Rebellion Racing, who will be running a Lola B12/60; and Britain’s Strakka Racing, who will compete with a HPD ARX-03c, designed by Honda Performance Development.

“With two entries for each manufacturer, we also have the prospect of a straight fight between Audi and Toyota in LMP1, ACO President Pierre Fillon said. “And, after the battles last year, the stage is now set for even more drama in 2013. We have two further privateer entries in LMP1, with privateer champions Rebellion and all-British team Strakka Racing continuing to support the category as we head into 2014, with the technical changes that will occur in LMP1 next season.

“LMP2 continues to be a huge success and some familiar names are being joined by new teams,” Fillon continued. “The LMP2 grid alone represents eight different countries and the category is a great showcase for the FIA WEC. In the LMGTE Pro class we have another great battle in prospect with Porsche, Ferrari and Aston Martin, three great names associated with Le Mans and endurance racing, going head-to-head for the World Cup for both manufacturers and drivers. The same can be said for the LMGTE Am class with category team champions Larbre Competition fielding the only Corvette in the class against the might of Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin.”

The 2013 season brings with it a new qualifying format, in which two drivers will each have to set two timed laps. Results will be based on the mathematical average of the four laps. Warm-up sessions have also been given something of a shake-up, and will only take place at those events where extra practice is deemed to be necessary.