Davey Euwema is a 23-year-old writer and motorsport enthusiast based out of Rotterdam, the Netherlands and the Sportscar Editor at MotorsportWeek.com and Motorsport Monday. In this column series, he shares his thoughts, stories and experiences from the world of sportscar racing.
It finally happened – after literal years of talking about it, the highly anticipated new Hypercar category made its racing debut at the FIA World Endurance Championship opener at Spa-Francorchamps earlier this month.
It was a rather lowkey start to life for the new jewel in the ACO’s crown, with one previous-gen LMP1 car with a fresh coat of blue paint going up against the first bona fide Hypercar to hit the scene: Toyota’s pair of GR010 Hybrids.
After a respectable challenge from Alpine, Toyota’s #8 car made history, with Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley taking the chequered flag after six hours.
It was a somewhat predictable result to conclude what was, at times, a very unpredictable week.
The week leading up to the race, with the pre-season Prologue tests on Monday and Tuesday, followed by practice on Thursday and Friday, was odd at times, with the three top cars seemingly not always running to their full potential.
During the Prologue, Toyota and Alpine were regularly outpaced by the LMP2 machinery, which was especially eyebrow-raising as the secondary prototype class had their performance slashed further than previously announced in late April.
It took until the last of four prologue sessions for a Hypercar to end the session on top. After that, perhaps predictably, the game of chess between teams and officials began.
Toyota called for further performance adjustments, while the ACO stuck to its guns and announced that there would be no further performance changes to either class.
The question therefore became: were the Hypercars really slower than everyone thought they would be, or had Alpine and Toyota made some room in their trucks to be able to bring a few bags of sand?
That question didn’t really get an answer in practice, with United Autosports’ LMP2 squad topping first practice followed Alpine going quickest in the second session.
Toyota finally seemed to show its hand in the final practice session by going one-two, before blowing any illusions of a lack of pace out of the water in qualifying.
When it really came down to it, Toyota laid its cards on the table and showed that its GR010 Hybrid really was capable of going significantly quicker than the LMP2 squads.
It appears it really had been playing a bit of a game earlier in the week, which makes the ACO’s decision not to fall for it all the more notable.
All in all, it was a solid debut for Hypercar. It might have felt like a slow debut, but it’s not unprecedented for WEC’s top class to start small and grow into something significant.
After all, at the series’ debut in 2012, only Audi brought real, top-of-the-line factory LMP1 material following Peugeot’s late withdrawal. Toyota wouldn’t debut until later in the year, but by 2015, the LMP1 Hybrid era had grown into a juggernaut of sportscar racing.
I predict a similar path for Hypercar, and it’s not hard to see why. Glickenhaus looks set to join the party from round two at Portimao, with many more major manufacturers to join in the coming years.
These past few weeks also brought some extremely encouraging and significant news in that regard, which might suggest 2023 could be Hypercar’s peak year in the same way 2015 was the peak year for LMP1.
First was Audi’s announcement that its LMDh plans were running according to schedule and that the racing debut for its car would come at the 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona.
That was followed by an arguably even more significant announcement when Porsche and Team Penske revealed to the world that they would be teaming up for the factory LMDh effort from the German manufacturer, also debuting in 2023.
It marks the return of an illustrious partnerships that won just about anything it could when the two parties last teamed together in the American Le Mans Series.
So yes, while Hypercar’s opening race might have been slightly underwhelming for some, rest assured: there is a whole lot more where that came from.