Written by Andre James
Introduced to the world in 2012 as a replacement for the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) allows manufacturers and private teams to compete against one another in nine endurance races around the world, including the revered 24 Hours of Le Mans. A point system, similar to FIA’s other world championships, is employed to award four World Championship titles and five FIA Endurance trophies at the end of each season.
Each WEC race features four categories: Le Mans Prototypes (LMP1 for manufacturers, and LMP2 for teams independent of manufacturers and/or engine suppliers) and Le Mans Grand Touring Endurance (LMGTE Pro for teams with professional drivers, and LMGTE AM for teams comprised of amateur drivers). Generally produced specifically for competition in the FIA WEC, Le Mans Prototypes are closed cockpit cars with no production minimums, while the Le Mans Grand Touring Endurance cars are two-door, street-legal cars that are available for sale through the manufacturer’s dealer network.
The 2018/2019 WEC ‘Super Season’ of eight races kicked off last May at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in the Belgian Ardennes. This past March, the WEC returned to where it started—Florida’s historic Sebring racetrack—the oldest road racing track in America, and the site of the very first FIA WEC race in March 2012. Run on the former Hendricks Army Airfield WWII Airbase, the notoriously bumpy 17-turn, 3.74-mile multi-surface course was first used for a 6-hour race at the end of 1950. The 1000 Miles of Sebring, time limited to eight hours, is the only FIA WEC race to be held in the Americas during the 2018/2019 season. For racing fans, the return of the series provided an opportunity to ogle the stunning and super speedy LMP1 prototypes vying to reach the checkered flag first.
Battling challenging weather conditions, including heavy rain during the closing stages, the No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid team, comprised of drivers Fernando Alonso, Sébastien Olivier Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima, led every lap from start-to-finish (253 in total) to take the LeMans Prototype 1 category and their third victory of the season.
After the race Nakajimi commented, “I think from the outside it is easy to say it looked quite stable, but actually it was very tricky in the car. In my first stint, I had a lot of traffic so it was tough, but then I jumped in the car at the end, and I knew what I had to do. I was quite happy in the dry conditions, but I was not happy at all in the end with the rainy conditions. It was amazingly low grip, and it was like sliding on ice...to be honest, I am just thankful we could finish, so the victory is a bonus.”
Porsche took the top spot among competitors in the GTE Pro category with drivers Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz. The amateur GTE class was won by a team comprised of Julian Andlauer, Matt Campbell and Christian Ried, driving for the Dempsey-Proton Racing team. Jackie Chan DC racing claimed the LMP2 title with drivers David Heinemeier Hansson, Jordan King and Will Stevens.
Rounding out the FIA WEC season is the TOTAL 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps in May and the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.
For more information on the series: