What It’s Like to Be a Part of the New WEC and Hear the Rumblings from the Sidelines
In neither a race meeting nor a test of the New WEC, am I typically present at Turn 1 for the beginning of the first session. Especially not at 08:45 in the morning, after I’ve just gotten off a flight across the Atlantic that landed in the afternoon before. On Saturday morning, however, I couldn’t imagine a better place to be than the first turn of the Sebring International Raceway.
The New WEC
I felt the sun on my face and a tightness in my stomach as I stood there. Somewhere within me was the same feeling that I get before the start of a car race. It doesn’t matter if I’m perched on the bank at Paddock Hill Bend at Brands Hatch for a winter clubbie or reporting from a sportscar event on the other side of the world.
Something about this rising tide of anticipation and excitement has me on edge and just a little bit queasy. For some reason, I found myself at my preferred position on the entry to the first corner at Sebring ten minutes early on Saturday.
For the season-opening 1000-mile event of the World Endurance Championship, I had a feeling that the opening Prologue test at Sebring wouldn’t provide much excitement. Early on in the Prologue, it was more important to rack up laps than to set a fast time.
It was crucial, however, to be present at the event in order to see the vehicles for oneself. Being holed up in the press room or pounding around with a notebook in hand at the back of the pits to catch a word or two with a driver or two as they scurried to their cars just wouldn’t have felt right.
Since the day before the 2020 Daytona 24 Hours, when the arrival of what is now called convergence was announced, I had been eagerly anticipating this moment. The merging of these two sets of regulations is the bedrock of the forthcoming golden age of top-tier sports car racing. It clarified why the first of the Prologue’s four sessions would feature cars from not only the big five manufacturers but also a couple from the “garagistes,” or small manufacturers.
When the green light at the end of pit road turned on at 8:45, it marked the first time all of those makes were allowed out onto the track together. Before the start of the IMSA SportsCar Championship in January at Daytona, Porsche and Cadillac had been out on the track together in a number of sanctioned or official tests.
This time, however, they were joined by Glickenhaus and Vanwall, as well as their 2023 WEC rivals Toyota, Ferrari, and Peugeot. I needed confirmation from my senses that it was really happening. There have been so many unexpected turns in the road leading up to it that at times it hasn’t seemed real.
I knew a new era had begun when I saw a few Toyotas, followed by two Porsches, a Peugeot, a Vanwall (I had to wait for a Ferrari, a Cadillac, and a Glickenhaus), all whizzing by in quick succession. I don’t need to keep reminding myself that the WEC’s and the Le Mans 24 Hours’ field sizes of twenty or more cars are for real.
It wasn’t just me who realized the gravity of the situation. Alex Wurz, who is serving as a special advisor and ambassador for Toyota here at Sebring, walked up as I leaned over the fence waiting for the session to begin.
Of course, the Austrian left his mark on sports car racing during a career that ended more than six years ago. Not only has he won the Le Mans 24 Hours, but he also established himself at Sebring. On his first try with Peugeot, he took first place in the 12 Hours, a race in the American Le Mans Series.
I’m relieved that Alex, a sports car aficionado of equal caliber, decided to join me at Turn 1. It proved to me once again that I was exactly where I needed to be at precisely the right time.
If you are planning to witness the thrill of the new World Endurance Championship, our Motor Racing Guide can be a valuable resource. In conclusion, being a part of the new World Endurance Championship and experiencing the rumblings from the sidelines can be an exhilarating and awe-inspiring experience. The anticipation and excitement of watching cars from different manufacturers hit the track together can be overwhelming, and being present to witness it firsthand is an experience like no other.
The merging of two sets of regulations is the bedrock of the forthcoming golden age of top-tier sports car racing, and the author’s experience at the Sebring International Raceway proved that they were exactly where they needed to be at precisely the right time.