Friday, June 9, 2023

LE MANS: New look Hypercar era Throws Party at Circuit de la Sarthe

But can anybody take the Shine off of Toyota this year?


Forgive me for not wishing to type the names of 48 Hypercar drivers, Hmm? Where, Oh where have I heard that 48 number before? And how come it’s not being used upon ‘Ol JJ’s, nee Jimmie Johnson’s Garage 56 entry?


By my very rudimentary understanding. This year’s Mega’ 16 car FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) Hypercar category is essentially divided three ways. With seven Le Mans Daytona Hypercar (LMDH) entries, six Le Mans Hypercar (LMH) Factory Hybrids and three “boutique” LMH Non-Hybrid Hypercars competing for Overall glory at this year’s Centenary 24 Heurs du Mans race.



5.5-litre Normally Aspirated V-8 Hybrid (LMDH)

The Nos. 2-3 Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR) run Cadillac Racing WEC entries has scored two fourth place and one fifth place finishes in the first three rounds of the season. And the No. 3 CGR entry at Le Mans is comprised of it’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship drivers, including Scott Dixon.


Although I believe the #3 is a second WEC Cadillac V-Series.R Spec entry built-up for European competition. Since think I read a previous Racer article about the logistics of swapping between IMSA LMDH and WEC specifications are too time consuming…


Although subsequently learning that the No. 3 WEC entry built-up for Spa and Le Mans was wrecked at Spa-Francorchamps and the team flew one of it’s IMSA entries to Germany instead, and swapped it from IMSA to WEC specification. With the original No. 3 now serving as a spare chassis.


Meanwhile, I have No idea where the third Action Express Racing (AXR) #311 Cadd-Oh-lacc’ V-Series.R entry’s coming from? Since AXR is strictly competing in IMSA this season. Along with it’s Le Mans “wildcard” entry. So I’m guessing it’s also been changed over to WEC specification.



4.6-litre Twin Turbo V-8 Hybrid (LMDH)

Although some might claim that Porsche has gotten off to a slow start this year. Nonetheless, not only have they won in IMSA, at Long Beach. But also scored the first ever WEC LMDH chassis podium the same weekend, when finishing third at Portimoa.


Porsche Penske Motorsport is fielding a trio of it’s Porsche 963’s. It’s Nos. 5-6 WEC entries being joined by it’s #75 entry comprised of one half of it’s IMSA drivers compliment


Hertz Team Jota is the first of the eventual two customer Porsche 963 WEC teams this season, with Proton Competition still awaiting delivery. As Jota’s No. 38 will be the fourth Porsche 963 on the grid.



3.5-liter Twin Turbo V-6 Hybrid (LMH)

What can I say about the All conquering Toyota GR010 Hybrid race cars? Other than they’re the current Five-times defending 24 Hours of Le Mans Champions! Along with having won the first three 2023 season’s races. While Arse-sumedly it’s Nos. 7-8 Boyz’ will most likely be competing in another intra-squad scrum for victory. With the #8 entry being the defending winner.



3.0-litre Twin Turbo V-6 Hybrid (LMH)

Appropriately, la Scuderia seems to be the most potent threat to finally defeat Toyota. As the Prancing Horse’s first Factory Sports Car prototype in 50 years, the evocative Ferrari 499P first finished third at Sebring upon debut. And then moved to the podium’s second step at Portimao. Followed by another third place finish at Spa-Francorchamps. And obviously now wishes to score their maiden WEC victory. With Circuit de la Sarthe being the perfect place to spoil Toyota’s party!


As the Nos. 50-51, so numbered to commemorate Ferrari’s half century absence as a Werks’ entry. Will be campaigned by AF Corse, will hope to claim glory for Maranello by capturing it’s tenth overall victory.



2.6-litre Twin turbo V-6 Hybrid (LMH)

Peugeot Sport has to be the most disappointed of the Factory Hypercar efforts, since it’s Nos. 93-94 9X8 entries have seemingly been off the pace everywhere to date! As I think their best result was a fourth place in 2022? As the team’s entered six rounds so far, with a best finish of fifth this year.


No idea if the radical 9X8 is off the pace due to being the only Hypercar that doesn’t sport a traditional rear wing? Having elected to produce it’s necessary downforce from it’s underneath bodywork instead.



3.5-litre V-8 Twin Turbo (LMH)

Suppose it’s small consolation that the Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus SCG 007 LMH entries are the best of what I’m calling “boutique” entries, since it’s a Non-Hybrid racecar. Therefore, it seems that the ACO/FIA hasn’t adjusted it’s dreaded Balance of Performance (BoP) regulations accordingly yet for Glickenhaus and Vanwall to compete for outright victory this year vs. the far superior Hybrid Hypercar entries.


Once again, The team will run it’s traditional Nos. 708-709 racecars for their third consecutive Le Mans outing. With my sentimental favourite being the #708 with former IndyCar Star Ryan Briscoe as part of it’s drivers trio.



4.5-litre Normally Aspirated V-8 (LMH)

This appears to be the most controversial entry in this category. First due to the long running court battle over who owned the intellectual property rights to the storied Vanwall company’s name. And then Dr. Colin Kolles, a No Nonsense Dentist turned Racing Boss, Err Formula 1 Team Principal before moving to Sports Cars, decided to Sacked Jacques Villeneuve less than a Fortnight prior to the race!


With scuttlebutt suggesting that Dr. Kolles wasn’t happy with Jacques pace, along with crashing in two races. With the official excuse being that the 52yr old Kuhnuck’s wife is expecting their latest child…


As the No. 4 Vanwall Vandervell 680 Gibson powered entry will be piloted by former Indy Lights standout Esteban Guerrieri and former Indy Lights champion and IndyCar driver Tristan Turbo’ Vautier, along with Tom Dillman.