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WEC: season gains momentum as Portimão plays host for round two


The FIA World Endurance Championship moves to the Algarve International Circuit in Portugal for the 6 Hours of Portimão later this week (April 14-16) and will be headlined by 11 Hypercars – many of which will feature in competitive action in Europe for the very first time

Having hosted an eight-hour race in 2021, this year’s six-hour event will mark the welcome return of the Portuguese venue to the 2023 FIA WEC calendar.

Cadillac Racing, Ferrari AF Corse, Porsche Penske Motorsport and Floyd Vanwall Racing Team will make their Hypercar debut in Europe while Toyota Gazoo Racing and Glickenhaus Racing were both present in Portimao in 2021.

Indeed, the majority of the teams and drivers are no strangers to the 4.653-km circuit, which has been a mainstay on the European Le Mans Series calendar for a number of years as well as being the venue of choice of some of the Hypercar manufacturers for their testing programmes.

Elevation changes are a key feature of the layout built in 2008. A lap of the circuit sends drivers swooping up and down, before culminating in a plunge down to the final right-hander leading back onto the main straight. Along the way, Hypercar drivers travel with fully-opened throttle for 48.5% of a lap and shift gears 40 times during each tour of the circuit, reaching top speeds exceeding 310kph.

Toyota started its title-defending campaign on a high at Sebring last month, with a 1-2 finish, but Ferrari also emerged as a force to be reckoned with by securing the first pole of the season. Both manufacturers have tested at the circuit, as did Peugeot. The latter of the three will be looking to bounce back following a difficult outing at Sebring and will hope to benefit from the knowledge of the circuit’s characteristics. Cadillac enjoyed a strong performance at Sebring but its V-Series.R hasn’t turned a wheel in anger on European tarmac yet.

Local ace and Formula E title winner, Antonio Felix da Costa, will return to the WEC for his home race after sitting Sebring out. The fan favourite raced at Portimão in 2021 but on that occasion the race took place behind closed doors, hence this year’s edition will be the first occasion for the 31-year-old to race in the world’s premier endurance racing series in front of his home crowd.

The other faces joining the fray in Portimão that were absent in round one include Ben Hanley who will replace Filipe Albuquerque in the No. 22 United Autosports entry, with Giedo Van der Garde stepping in for Tom Blomqvist in the sister No. 23 car. Prema Racing will have F2 driver Juan Manuel Correa taking to the wheel of the No. 9 Oreca for Portimao in place of Andrea Caldarelli while Diego Alessi substitutes for fellow Italian Stefano Costantini in the No. 21 AF Corse LMGTE Am entry. Finally, the No. 56 Project 1 – AO has added two local names to drive alongside Matteo Cairoli as Portugal’s Miguel Pedro Ramos and Guilherme Moura de Oliveira are both listed to drive the Porsche 911 RSR – 19 in front of their home crowd.

Owing to a victory at Sebring, Toyota leads Ferrari 38 to 24 on points in the Hypercar standings, with Cadillac rounding out the top three with 18 points, three ahead of Porsche. In LMP2 it’s United Autosports (38 points), from Prema Racing (27) and Inter Europol Competition (23). The LMGTE Am class is led by Corvette Racing, which triumphed at Sebring and sits atop the standings with 38 points, followed by Dempsey-Proton Racing (27) and Kessel Racing (23).

Free practice will kick off the action on Friday (April 14) before qualifying on Saturday afternoon. The green flag will drop at 12h00 local time to unleash the 37 entered cars for the first six-hour race of the season.

6 Hours of Portimão timetable:

Friday April 14
Free Practice 1: 10h30 – 12h00

Free Practice 2: 15h30 – 17h00

Saturday April 15
Free Practice 3: 11h15 – 12h15

Qualifying: 15h30 – 16h35

Sunday April 16
Race: 12h00 – 18h00