WEC Title Chase Heats Up As Series Returns To Brazil

Porsche Leads The Pack At First 2024 Le Mans Test Day
Porsche Leads The Pack At First 2024 Le Mans Test Day

The FIA World Endurance Championship will make its eagerly-anticipated return to Brazil later this week as the world’s premier endurance racing series gears up for the 6 Hours of São Paulo (13-14 July).

It has been ten years since Autódromo José Carlos Pace last hosted a round of the FIA WEC. A 6-hour race was first staged at the circuit in the WEC’s inaugural season in 2012, with Toyota coming out on top, while Porsche triumphed in the 2014 edition.

At just 4,309km, Interlagos it the shortest track of the year with 15 turns (5 right/10 left). Hypercars reach speeds in the region of 305kph where approximately 50% of the lap is travelled with a fully-opened throttle. During each tour of the circuit, Hypercar drivers will shift gears an estimated 38 times.

19 Hypercars and 18 LMGT3 cars will go head-to-head for the WEC’s South American leg including two local drivers for the home fans to support: Nicolas Costa driving the McLaren 720S LMGT3 Evo for United Autosports and Augusto Farfus who will pilot the BMW M4 LMGT3 for Team WRT.

Costa, who knows Interlagos better than most drivers on the FIA WEC grid, explained some of the key characteristics of the circuit: “It’s a flowing track that tests all the strengths of the car. We have a really long straight going uphill so power is really needed. We have fast corners, slow corners – it’s very traction-dependent and aero too. Overall, it’s a hard track to balance the car and it’s important to have a good package!”

The entry list for São Paulo sees a few minor driver changes. The #99 Proton Competition Porsche 963 has listed Neel Jani and Julien Andlauer to share driving duties as the regular third driver, Harry Tincknell, is unable to be in Brazil due to a clash with a round of IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Meanwhile, the #78 Akkodis ASP Team-driven Lexus RC F LMGT3 sees regular Silver-rated driver Timur Boguslavskiy replaced by Austria’s Clemens Schmid. DTM regular Schmid made his WEC debut at Spa-Francorchamps earlier this year when Boguslavskiy was unable to race due to an illness.

Finally, Mike Conway will return to the cockpit of the #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing GR010 Hybrid Hypercar while former team-mate José María López will step back into the #87 Akkodis ASP run Lexus RC F LMGT3. López replaced Conway for Le Mans after the Briton sustained an injury while out training on his bike.

All eyes, however, will be on the increasingly close championship title battle with just 12 points separating the top three manufacturers – Porsche, Ferrari and Toyota – in the FIA Hypercar World Endurance Manufacturers’ Championship.

With a total of 108 points, Porsche tops the overall leaderboard but it faces tough competition from Ferrari, which is just behind on 99 points, and Toyota, currently third with 96 points to its name. With more than 100 championship points (104 including pole position points) still available from the remaining WEC rounds in Brazil, USA, Japan and Bahrain, the 2024 title fight is well and truly on.

In the headline Hypercar category, there have been four different winners so far this year, showing the truly competitive nature of the championship. At round one in Qatar, it was Porsche Penske Motorsport and the Porsche 963 that was victorious. This was followed by Toyota Gazoo Racing and its Toyota GR010 Hybrid Hypercar which triumphed in round two at Imola. Hertz Team JOTA and its privately run Porsche 963 was next to take the glory as the British squad clinched the chequered flag at Spa-Francorchamps in May. Most recently, it was the turn of Ferrari AF Corse as the Ferrari 499P Hypercar once again proved the car to beat in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

As for the new-for-2024 LMGT3 class, it is even closer with the top three teams separated by a mere two points. Manthey PureRXcing and Manthey EMA are both tied at the top of the standings with 75 points apiece and round two winners, Team WRT, have a total of 73 points.

The all-female Iron Dames crew will be full of confidence going into Brazil following their victory at last weekend’s European Le Mans Series race at Imola – the trio secured pole position in the Lamborghini Huracan LMGT3 Evo2 at Spa-Francorchamps but have yet to convert their pace into a race win in WEC so far this season.

Race action commences on Friday (12 July) with two Free Practice sessions, while Qualifying and the all-important Hyperpole are set to take place on Saturday. The green flag for the 6-hour race will be waved at 11:30 local time on Sunday (14 July).

Schedule

Friday 12 July
10:45 – 12:15: Free Practice 1
15:15 – 16:45: Free Practice 2

Saturday 13 July
10:30 – 11:30 Free Practice 3
14:30 – 15:40 Qualifying + Hyperpole

Sunday 14 July
11:30 – 17:30 6 Hours of São Paulo

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