Can anyone stop Gazoo Toyota at Spa this weekend?
The Road to Le Mans 2023 takes its final big step, when the World Endurance Championship races the Spa-Francorchamps 6 Hour this weekend. It’s an epic moment in the build-up to the 24 Hour as two extra Hypercars swell the grid to 13 cars. It’s already the biggest field in the mushrooming Championship field in five years, and there’s far more to come…
The biggest news at Spa, is the arrival of Hertz Team JOTA’s brand new third Porsche 963 to signal the beginning of a new privateer Hypercar era, alongside a new second Cadillac V-Series.R. Both cars have crack driver line-ups, Antonio Felix da Costa, Will Stevens and Yifei Ye in the Porsche, and Sebastien Bourdais, Renger van der Zande and Jack Aitken in the Caddy. The Porsche’s progress will be watched with particular interest versus its factory siblings.
Spa record won’t last long
That record won’t last too long, however. A 16 car Hypercar field is set for the Le Mans 24 Hour, and that does not include expected factory entries from BMW and Lamborghini, and possibly Honda-Acura in 2024. Let alone myriad privateer entries coming from those and the existing teams. Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship will soon be better than ever. As also proven by June’s 24 Hour already being a sell-out success.
Getting back to Spa on Saturday, Toyota is without doubt the team to beat having won the past five straight World Endurance Championships, and both races this season. The number 7 and number 8 GR010 Hybrid have shared out the Sebring and Portuguese wins. Ferrari’s brand new 499Ps have proven Gazoo’s biggest challenge so far this season, with a third and a second behind the Japanese cars, and a pole position in the US race. Porsche picked up the other podium spot and Cadillac has twice been fourth.
Can anyone stop Toyota at Spa
So, Toyota heads to the Ardennes with 64 points in its Manufacturers’ championship pile, 22 clear of Ferrari. Porsche and Cadillac are tied for third, a further 12 points adrift. Peugeot will be hoping to get around its challenge of racing without a rear wing, while exotic Glickenhaus and Vanwall each have a car at the party. Interestingly, Toyota’s number 8 crew, Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryō Hirakawa only hold an 11-point Drivers’ title lead over of Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina and Nicklas Nielsen’s 51 Ferrari 499P.
It’s close in LMP2, where United Autosports leads Prema Racing and the WRT entry in third. It’s been all about the lone Corvette racing in GTE Am, with AF Corse and Kessel’s Ferraris Dempsey-Proton and the Iron Dames Porsches and Aston Martin in pursuit. Practice starts today with qualifying tomorrow, Friday afternoon. The Spa 6 Hour starts at 12:45 CEST Saturday 29 April. Then it’s the build-up to the big one on the Road to the Le Mans 24 Hour 10-11 June. Bring it on!