FIA WEC set for debut at iconic Imola


Round two of the 2024 FIA World Endurance Championship, the 6 Hours of Imola, is set to get underway later this week as the series makes its debut at the iconic Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari located in the heart of the Emilia-Romagna region and with track action set to commence between 19 and 21 April

Despite playing host to a WEC round for the first time, the venue is no stranger to endurance racing, with the history dating back half a century, to the inaugural 1000km of Imola race, which was first held in 1974. More recently, the circuit has been a regular fixture on the European Le Mans Series calendar, which makes it a familiar territory for several competitors taking part in this Sunday’s six-hour WEC event.

With 14 manufacturers (Alpine, Aston Martin, BMW, Cadillac, Corvette, Ferrari, Ford, Isotta Fraschini, Lamborghini, Lexus, McLaren, Peugeot, Porsche and Toyota), 37 cars (19 Hypercars and 18 LMGT3s), and a star-studded entry list comprising of 110 drivers from 28 different countries, the WEC is experiencing a golden era this season.

Round two of this year’s season will mark the first competitive outing for the all-new, 2024-spec 9X8 Hypercar from Peugeot TotalEnergies, featuring radical aerodynamic upgrades including an addition of a rear wing.

There will also be two changes on the entry list versus the curtain-raiser in Qatar. GT3 ace and three-time Bathurst 12 Hour race winner Jules Gounon will stand in for Ferdinand Habsburg at Alpine Endurance Team, following a testing accident that left the Austrian with two fractured vertebrae.

The #2 Cadillac will have just two drivers, with Britain’s Alex Lynn and New Zealand’s Earl Bamber confirmed to drive the Cadillac V-Series R, and with Sebastien Bourdais (who joined the duo in the season-opening race) being on IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship duty at Long Beach this weekend.

The entry also features several local teams and drivers, giving the Tifosi plenty of options in terms of support, including last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans winners Ferrari, as well as new-for-2024 Hypercar-class entries, Lamborghini and Isotta Fraschini.

A total of 12 Italian drivers will compete on home soil this weekend, including Ferrari AF Corse’s trio Antonio Giovinazzi, Antonio Fuoco and Alessandro Pier Guidi and Lamborghini Iron Lynx’s duo Mirko Bortolotti and Edoardo Mortara. There will also be great anticipation for the home hero and multiple MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi, who is in his WEC rookie season in an LMGT3-class BMW M4 operated by Team WRT.

The anti-clockwise circuit is characterised by its unique old-school feel and watching Hypercars around the 4.909-kilometre layout will be a sight to remember. During each tour, drivers of the top-class machinery reach speeds of around 312kph and are full-throttle for approximately 50 per cent of the lap.

At last month’s Qatar’s 10-hour curtain-raiser, Porsche was victorious in both Hypercar and LMGT3. However, with the strength of this year’s grid, there will be no shortage of contenders looking to dethrone the German manufacturer.

With a very different circuit layout and contrasting weather conditions likely, the second round of the WEC should be a different ball game altogether, and it will be fascinating to see which cars turn out to be best suited to the unique challenge of one of motor sport’s most hallowed grounds.