Sebring is set to begin a thrilling 10th campaign of WEC racing, so Last Lap explores the talking points ahead of the 1000-mile opener.
Therefore, we are utmost grateful of the reality that the 10th season of the World Endurance Championship can begin not only with this demanding race, but also as a Super-Sebring double-header with IMSA’s famed 12-hour race following.
This season has seen various changes along with the familiar WEC we know and enjoy, mainly resided in the new teams and drivers who are debuting or returning.
Sebring itself is a notoriously bumpy and demanding circuit to race on at just over 6 km.
Along with the humidity, the race is set to begin the 2022 schedule with an intense challenge as everyone will be keen to start their season on the right note.
Last Lap explores a few talking points which stand out ahead of this phenomenal race.
Read our class previews:
- WEC Season 10 Preview: Hypercar
- WEC Season 10 Preview: LMP2
- WEC Season 10 Preview: LM GTE-Pro
- WEC Season 10 Preview: LM GTE-Am
The unique traffic management at Sebring
Sebring’s bumps make it for several of the 17 corners to be noticeably demanding, thus setting out specific racing lines to follow – examples being Turn 17 and Sunset Bend.
If the Prologue and the current Free Practice runs are anything to go by, it is that the Hypercars are faster than the LMP2s albeit not by a great margin.
In the long-term of this eight-hour race, it will not stand as much of an issue for Hypercars with their fuel stints being longer with marginally faster lap-times to be asserted during them, provided reliability issues are not sprung upon Alpine, Toyota and Glickenhaus.
The real drama will commence when the Hypercars overtake the LMP2s who have demonstrated marginally similar top speeds.
A challenge for both these prototype classes will be overtaking the GTE-Pro and -Am cars around the narrower sectors of the circuit.
It should make for some exciting moments as drivers will be fighting for positions whilst a car – or a pack of them – behind does their best to get past.
This race will enter the evening and night which adds an extra level of drama to the event with numerous sections of the track, like the back-straight approaching Sunset Bend, and the start-finish straight, are almost in complete darkness.
The traffic management at Sebring proses itself a unique set of challenges which form its own exciting element compared to the other circuits scheduled this year.
A special debut for a WRC champion
The threshold of talent in LMP2 is more than ever, unsurprisingly fuelled by the prospect of upcoming Hypercar seats.
Amongst the drivers resides one of motorsport’s most successful drivers, Sebastien Ogier.
He will be making his full-time debut into sportscar racing through Richard Mille Racing’s existing WEC LMP2 endeavours.
The eight-time World Rally Champion will take on part-time duties in that discipline, but now delves into the exciting world of endurance prototypes and multi-class racing. The championship has welcomed him with open arms.
His running thus far may have indicated little in terms of outright pace, but his long runs during Free Practice suggest he has adapted and enjoyed the Oreca 07 LMP2 at Sebring.
His lack of professional circuit driving experience gives him a chance to learn his speed in an ultra-competitive field of drivers before his 24 Hours of Le Mans debut.
Alpine Elf Europa Cup star Lilou Wadoux is making her debut too, as reigning LMP2 Le Mans winner and WEC champion Charles Milesi completes the trio.
Ogier is learning a new motorsport discipline, but has years of racing success to be labelled as a pure rookie.
The #1 will be one of the favourites to watch as they have the potential to achieve podiums and wins in LMP2.
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The spectrum of potential winners
Whilst there is a minor but noteworthy gap between the Hypercars and the LMP2s, a range of factors like the demandingness, makes a winner difficult to predict.
The beginning of a new season means that teams are getting back into their racing schedules, although it may have already begun due to several other commitments such as the Daytona 24.
Hypercar teams are also getting back into this rhythm, and could end up encountering mechanical or electronic reliability issues.
In FP2, Glickenhaus had a power steering ECU issue which was rectified. Toyota have not publicly highlighted such issues, but could easily ruin their race with a tangle against another competitor in a different class.
Last year at Le Mans, Toyota had issues with their fuel pumps on all their cars. It was turned on manually for the acceleration zones, and off for the braking zones. Both cars would have had to pit for a 45-minute repair job, which meant Alpine and Glickenhaus would have fought for the win.
This is an entirely different venue and race length, but the relatively new LMHs are not free of such issues due to the focal endurance aspect of the WEC. This would put Alpine and LMP2 competitors such as United Autosports in winning contention.
Of course, it may be the case that the Toyotas lead off in dominant fashion throughout the duration of the race, but the BoP measures will ensure this does not happen.
In GTE-Pro, it will be the perfect start for Corvette Racing to claim a win on home soil and above all, familiar territory from their numerous attendances for the 12-hour race.
And in GTE-Am, it will be the usual raw display of unforgiving wheel-to-wheel action as the extra set of tyres means they can change all four at every pit-stop – putting stress for others on tyre management due to the brutality of the circuit.
Sebring is setting up to be a thrilling and nail-biting spectacle to kick off Season 10 of the World Endurance Championship.
Schedule in GMT
- Thursday 15 March, Qualifying – 23:00 to 23:30
- Friday 16 March to Saturday 17 March, Race – 16:00 to 00:00