The WEC, World Endurance Championship, is the ultimate testing ground for sportscar racing, and with many manufacturers set to return for the 2023 season, the sport is growing rapidly. So, what has influenced some of the worlds leading car manufacturers to return to the WEC?
The World Endurance Championship is a unique series in motorsport, with distinct differences from other sports like Formula 1 and MotoGP. The glaring difference is the vehicles used, as only very specific sportscars race in the WEC. On top of this, the duration of the races are significantly longer. The championship’s headline event, Le Mans 24 Hours, is a 24 hour race where the goal is to cover the most distance. These features, among others, give the WEC a different dynamic. However, the most important thing to mention is that ‘road-relevance’ is a key objective for the teams competing. Manufacturers use the races as an opportunity to research and develop new cars and technologies, which they can then use in their road cars. The WEC has a winning mixture as competition drives innovation.
Changes to WEC regulations
From the 2023 season there will be significant changes made to the WEC. These changes include the fact there will now be two main types of car:the Hypercar Class,Le Mans Hypercar class (LMH) and Le Mans Daytona Hybrid (LMDh). LMH will be the top class of the WEC and will be open to prototypes and road car-based machines with a combined power output of 671bhp and a minimum weight of 1030kg.This class will heavily feature Hybrid Systems in their designs.
LMDh can be viewed as the next step down from LMH, as it offers a cheaper route into the WEC for manufacturers who do not wish to fund a whole motorsports programme. LMDh cars offer less flexibility, as manufacturers have a choice of 4 chassis and specs developed by Bosch (inverter), Williams Advanced Engineering (Motor) and Xtrac (gearbox).[ii] Nonetheless, LMH and LMDh cars,collectively referred to as the Wec Hypercar category, are expected to be competitive against each other on the track.
The benefit of building to LMH regulations for manufacturers is that they will be able to essentially create their car from scratch. In turn they are able to test (and show off) more new features. Ferrari, whose Hypercar will be built to LMH regulations, have made it clear that they want to produce a car that is ‘total Ferrari,’ emphasising the attraction of having more control over the car’s design.[iii]
At the same time, however, LMDh regulations have still managed to attract some of the world’s top car manufacturers. These include Porsche, Cadillac, and Lamborghini. Porsche and Cadillac will be making a return to the WEC after not entering the series for many years, whilst Lamborghini will be entering the WEC for the first time. This influx of top manufacturers points towards a very exciting future for the WEC, and marks it as the next big thing in motorsport!
One of the most enticing developments is the return of ASTON MARTIN to the WEC, contributing to the excitement of the future of GT Racing in the World Championship. These manufacturers, alongside other dominant ones such as Toyota and Ferrari, will be entering their state-of-the-art race cars into the competition, setting the stage for an exhilarating season.
More relevant R&D opportunities
The most attractive aspect of the WEC is certainly the opportunity it gives manufacturers to research and develop new car features, which they can then use in their road cars. This type of research is becoming common in all motorsports- Formula 1 and MotoGP are testing sustainable fuels in their vehicles, with the view to make them available for road vehicles in the future. Whilst these initiatives are great to see, it’s important to note that this forward thinking has been a staple feature of the WEC since its conception.
The WEC has always been a testing ground for car manufacturers, and the fact the sport involves vehicles similar to the common car means successful features tried in a race are often seen on our roads not long after. The disparities in ‘road-relevance’ between the WEC and other motorsports are best put by driver Anthony Davidson, ‘Building an intricate modern hybrid racing car to undergo 24 hours of hard racing without the slightest of glitches seems like an impossible task, but that’s what is needed to take victory at Le Mans’.[iv] This emphasises a focus on reliability, thus making a WEC car’s features similar to a road car. On the other hand, a Formula 1 car solely focuses on speed.
Which car features were developed in endurance racing? The long nature of a WEC race, and the changing weather conditions that come with that, led to the testing of windscreen wipers. On top of this, fog lights were introduced by Lorraine-Dietrich in an early WEC race.[v] Disc brakes, which have become a fundamental part of all cars, were also first tested in the WEC. More modern features being developed include battery-engineered powertrains, as the WEC joins other motorsports in the fight against climate change.
How you can get involved in WEC sponsorship
Whilst maybe the nature of the WEC makes a little less exciting to new motorsports fans, its importance is undeniable, and its significance is recognised by the sport’s millions of fans. Sponsors aren’t expecting the WEC to experience the type of boom seen by Formula 1, but the return of top manufacturers means the sport is only going to become more exciting. The competitiveness of manufacturers like Ferrari should help drive change, as the teams competing are forced to innovate or run the risk of being left behind. This new environment should also make races more exciting as more interesting features are tried and tested.
With the 2023 season upon us, and more manufacturers joining up for the 2024 season, now is the perfect time to get involved in WEC sponsorship. As we enter an era focused on innovation and a transition to a more sustainable world, there aren’t many better sports to align with. Having your logo present at the hub of automobile innovation makes a lot of sense, and at RTR we are on hand to make it happen. Significantly, it is also a truly global sport, with events taking place in North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. This will ensure your brand has maximum visibility- allowing for a relationship to be built between you and the WEC fanbase.
After a period of stagnation, the WEC is growing rapidly… Get in contact with us today and ensure you and your brand are part of the rise.