Featured image by thomas fülster on Flickr

Are you new to Sports Cars Racing? Curious about the differences between LMP1 & LMP2? No worries, we’ve got you covered. Ahead of the resumption of motorsport worldwide, we’ve decided to produce articles introducing Sports Car Racing to our readers. Part 4 is an in-depth introduction to the FIA World Endurance Championship, discussing the history and the categories.

The FIA World Endurance Championship, better known as the FIA WEC in short, is an endurance racing world championship organized by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) and sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA).

The championship had its inaugural season in 2012, consisting of 8 races. The championship is the first endurance racing series to be awarded world championship status since 1992, following the collapse of the FIA World Sports Car Championship. However, the Championship is not the first Sports Car Racing series to be awarded world championship status since 1992; this honour instead went to the FIA GT1 World Championship, which was organised by the Stephane Ratel Organisation (SRO).

History

The FIA World Endurance Championship was first announced on the 3rd of June 2011, 1 week ahead of the 2011 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Championship replaced the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC), which had been organised by the ACO and run since 2010.

ILMC History

The ILMC had first been conceptualised in 2009, as the Intercontinental Trophy, to encourage LMP1 teams to contest events in more than one sportscar championship. It had been planned to combined events in the American Le Mans Series, Le Mans Series (later rebranded as the European Le Mans Series), and the Asian Le Mans Series, and encompass between six to eight races. This plan for 6-8 races, however, did not occur in 2010, with the 2010 calendar being comprised of a mere 3 races, the 12 Hours of Sebring, the 1000km of Silverstone and 1000km of Zhuhai. Owing to the Asian Le Mans series being called off for 2010, the 1000km of Zhuhai was an independent ILMC event.

 2011 saw the calendar expand to 7 races, with all 2010 races being carried over, with the 24 Hours of Le Mans, 6 Hours of Imola, 1000km of Spa and the Petit Le Mans being added to the calendar. Like the Le Mans Series, the GT categories were overhauled, with the GT1 category being axed, and GT2 being renamed as LM GTE, being split into GTE-Pro and GTE-Am.

WEC History

2012 saw the expansion of the calendar to 8 races, with Imola, Petit Le Mans and Zhuhai being axed from the calendar, in favour of new rounds at Shanghai, Fuji, Bahrain and Sao Paulo. The initial entry list saw a full grid of 30 cars, divided into 9 LMP1 and LMP2 prototypes each, alongside 5 GTE-Pro and 7 GTE-Am entries. This count excluded entries from the full-season teams.

2013 saw the calendar remain at 8 races, with Sebring being removed from the calendar and replaced with a new round at the Circuit of the Americas. All races beyond Le Mans were 6 hours long. The initial entry list saw an increase in car count to 32 entries, divided across six LMP1 and twelve LMP2 cars, alongside 6 GTE-Pro and 8 GTE-Am entries. Ahead of the season, the car count was reduced to 30, following the withdrawal of 2 LMP2 entries. The LMP2 category saw several rule changes aimed at cost control, including the introduction of balance of performance updates across the season. A price cap was set on the price of upgrade kits for 2012 cars, aimed at teams who were not purchasing a new chassis for 2013, while the number of engines and tyres being utilised across the season was limited. Diesel engines were also allowed in the LMP2 category for the first time. 2013 also saw the addition of the World Endurance Cup for GT Drivers; in 2012, drivers did not score points in the GT categories.

2014 saw the calendar remain unchanged, at 8 races. 2014 was the only season the WEC featured 5 categories, after the LMP1 class was split into LMP1-H (Hybrid) and LMP1-L (Lightweight). The initial entry list saw 31 cars, with 6 LMP1-H, 3 LMP1-L, 7 LMP2, 7 GTE-Pro, and 8 GTE-Am entries. However, the actual LMP2 entry featured just 4 cars, with Delta-ADR and Fabien Giroux of Gulf Racing Middle East merging their programmes under a new “Millennium Racing” banner, which withdrew its 2-car programme ahead of the season. Strakka Racing also cancelled its single-car campaign after numerous developmental issues plagued its Dome S103 LMP2 coupe.

2015 saw the calendar remain at 8 races, with Sao Paulo being dropped from the calendar in favour of a new round at the Nürburgring due to reconstruction work at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace. 2015 saw a bumper initial entry list of 35 cars, spread across the four categories, with 11 LMP1, 10 LMP2, 7 GTE-Pro and 7 GTE-Am entries. However, Team SARD-MORAND reduced its entry from a 2 car to single car entry ahead of the season.

2016 saw the calendar expand to 9 races, with the addition of Mexico City, while retaining all 8 rounds from the previous season. 2016 saw a reduced initial entry list of 32 cars, with Nissan being a high-profile departure in the LMP1 class after its 1-race aborted campaign in 2015. The initial entry sported 9 LMP1, 10 LMP2, 7 GTE-Pro and 6 GTE-Am entries. A 1000 horsepower limit was introduced for the LMP1 class at FIA Grade 2 circuits; Le Mans was the sole FIA Grade 2 circuit on the calendar.

2017 saw the calendar remain at 9 races, with no rounds being added or removed. 2017 saw a reduced initial entry list, with just 28 cars. LMP1 saw yet another high-profile departure, with Audi departing the category at the end of the 2016 season. The initial entry list saw 5 LMP1, 10 LMP2, 8 GTE-Pro and 5 GTE-Am entries. LMP2 saw the introduction of the new “licensed chassis” rules, with only four different cars available for competition in the class, built by Ligier, Oreca, Dallara and the Riley-Multimatic collaboration, paired with a spec Gibson engine. However, only the Oreca was entered by full-season entries. 2017 saw the introduction of a World GT Drivers & Manufacturers’ Championship, replacing the previous World Endurance Cup for GT Drivers & Manufacturers.

The Championship announced it would move to a Winter Calendar after the 2017 season saw the departure of Porsche at the year-end. As such, a “Super season” spread across the 2018-19 year was announced. This Super season saw a raft of calendar changes, with the calendar shortened to 8 races, with the rounds held at the Circuit of the Americas, Bahrain, Mexico City, and the Nürburgring being cut. These rounds were replaced with a new race, the 1000 Miles of Sebring, with an additional round at Spa and a second 24 Hours of Le Mans in the 2019 calendar year. The season saw an initial entry list of 36 cars, with 10 LMP1, 7 LMP2, 10 GTE-Pro and 9 GTE-Am entries.

The 2019-20 marked the first and only season where the WEC would operate on a Winter Calendar, with the championship reverting to an annual calendar from 2021 onwards. The season remained at 8 races, while the duration of several races was altered; Silverstone and Shanghai were shortened to 4 Hour races, while Bahrain was extended to a 8 hour race. Initially, Sao Paulo was set to return to the calendar, but this plan was shelved after the promoter failed to meet contractual obligations. A race at the Circuit of The Americas was run to replace the race. Owing to the COVID-19 outbreak, and US travel restrictions, the 1000 Miles of Sebring was cancelled. COVID-19 saw Spa and Le Mans delayed, with an additional 8 Hours of Bahrain was announced to replace the cancelled Sebring race.

Class Overview

For a detailed guide between the classes, visit Part 2: Prototypes & Part 3: GTs.

LMP1

Denoted by White Sticker with Red Font, White Number on Red Background. Hybrid features additional sticker labelled “HY”.

Mike Conway – Kamui Kobayashi – Jose Maria Lopez

LMP1 is currently the fastest prototype class in the world, with all cars being closed cockpit prototypes since the 2014 season. It is a full Professional class, with Bronze rated drivers being prohibited (unless a special waiver is given, as was the case with Hendrik Hedman for the 2018/19 WEC Superseason). It is divided into 2 subclasses, LMP1 and LMP1-Hybrid. The Non-Hybrid LMP1 class is exclusively reserved for independent private teams.

Equivalence of Technology, or EoT, is applied to allow for LMP1-NH cars to compete against LMP1-HY cars on “equal” footing. EoT controls the fuel flow and capacity each of each type of car (NA-Petro/Turbo-Petrol/Turbo Petrol-Hybrid). To keep the championship tight, and success handicap is applied in the class, with cars penalised by 0.008 seconds per kilometre, for each point by which they lead the last-placed entry in the LMP1 championship classification.

LMP2

 #23 Panis Barthez Competition Ligier JSP217 – Image by Kevin Decherf on Flickr

Denoted by White Sticker with Blue Font, White Number on Blue Background.

The second tier Prototype class in the FIA World Endurance Championship. It is a Pro-Am class in all championships where it is used and all teams must have one Amateur driver, who may be either a Bronze or Silver rated driver.

All cars in the category have been closed cockpit since 2017. Costs are tightly controlled in this category, with chassis price capped at 483 000€, only 4 chassis built by the 4 licensed chassis manufacturers (Ligier, Oreca, Dallara, Riley-Multimatic) and a spec Gibson engine can be utilised in the class. Bodywork in the class is also homologated and can only be altered under a “Joker” upgrade once during the current homologation cycle. 2 aerodynamic configurations are used: A high-downforce kit for use at all tracks, and a low drag kit for Le Mans

GTE-Pro

Denoted by White Sticker with Green Font, White Number on Green Background. “Pro” Sticker is also added.

#97 Aston Martin Racing Vantage AMR – Image by Kevin Decherf on Flickr

GTE-Pro allows the use of current-specification GTE-Pro machinery, with no restrictions on driver line-ups.

GTE-Am

Denoted by White Sticker with Orange Font, White Number on Orange Background. “AM” Sticker is also added

#77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR (2017) – Image by emperornie on Flickr

The Am class requires the use of 2 Amateur drivers, with 1 driver being Bronze rated, and a second driver being either silver or bronze rated. GTE Am class teams are also only allowed to run cars that are at least one year old. For example, the Porsche 911 RSR 2017 can only be run in 2018 in the Am class.

Points System

Pole: 1 Point (All races)
P1-P10 points:
4/6 Hours race: 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1
8 Hours race: 38-27-23-18-15-12-9-6-3-2
24 Hours race: 50-36-30-24-20-16-12-8-4-2
P11 & below: 0.5 points (4-6 Hour race), 1 Point (8 & 24 Hour race)
DNF: 0 Points

2019-20 FIA WEC Calendar

RaceCircuitDate
4 Hours of Silverstone Silverstone Circuit1 September 2019
6 Hours of Fuji Fuji Speedway6 October 2019
4 Hours of Shanghai Shanghai International Circuit10 November 2019
8 Hours of Bahrain Bahrain International Circuit14 December 2019
Lone Star Le Mans Circuit of the Americas23 February 2020
6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps15 August 2020
24 Heures du Mans Circuit de la Sarthe19–20 September 2020
8 Hours of Bahrain Bahrain International Circuit21 November 2020

Titles Awarded

Drivers’ Titles

LMP World Endurance Drivers’ Championship: LMP1 and LMP2 drivers
GTE World Endurance Drivers’ Championship: Drivers in the LMGTE categories

Endurance Trophy for LMP2 Drivers: LMP2 drivers only
Endurance Trophy for GTE Am Drivers: GTE-Am drivers only

Manufacturers’ & Teams’ Titles

World Endurance LMP1 Championship: Points are awarded only for the highest finishing competitor from each team.
World Endurance GTE Manufacturer Championship: The two highest finishing competitors from each manufacturer are awarded points.

Endurance Trophy for LMP2 Teams: Each Car is considered as its own team
Endurance Trophy for GTE Am Teams: Each Car is considered as its own team

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