WEC title fights intensify ahead of Monza Temple of Speed

WEC title fights intensify ahead of Monza Temple of Speed

The FIA World Endurance Championship is set to visit the legendary Autodromo Nazionale di Monza later this week for the 6 Hours of Monza as the fight for the 2023 titles heats up across all three classes


Thirty-six cars will tackle the 5.793-kilometre Autodromo Nazionale di Monza or “the temple of speed” which is famed for its long, high-speed straights where Hypercars reach speeds in the region of 318kph and nearly 60% of the lap is travelled with a fully-opened throttle.


With Ferrari AF Corse winning round four of FIA WEC, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Hypercar battle has intensified, with “the Prancing Horse” closing on class leader, Toyota, which is now just 18 points ahead in the standings.


Marking the first time that the Ferrari 499P Hypercar will be raced at Monza and coupled with the Ferrari’s emphatic victory at the recent 24 Hours of Le Mans, the ‘Tifosi’ will be out in force later this week! Moreover, 12 of the 108 drivers competing at Monza will be Italian and there is a total of six Ferraris on the entry list (two Ferrari 499P Hypercars and four Ferrari 488 GTE Evos).


PROTON COMPETITION JOINS HYPERCAR RANKS
The Hypercar line-up for Monza, with a total of 13 entries, will equal the number seen at Spa-Francorchamps. The additional Cadillac entry from Spa will, however, be replaced by a brand-new Proton Competition-run Porsche 963, WEC’s second privately-run Hypercar-class entry.


The #99 Proton Competition entry will bring the total tally of Porsche 963s to four as it joins the two factory-run Porsche Penske Motorsport cars (#5 and #6), as well as the Hertz Team JOTA entry. Driving the new Proton-entered Porsche will be Rome-born Gianmaria Bruni, a two-time LMGTE Pro World Champion. Bruni will be joined by 2016 FIA WEC World Champion Neel Jani and double Le Mans class winner Harry Tincknell. The team will travel to Monza without testing the car, aiming to use the race as a chance to get to grips with the new machinery.


There will be three further Italian drivers in the Hypercar category for the home fans – and all will be racing for Ferrari AF Corse. Antonio Fuoco, who has secured poles on two occasions already this season, will compete in the #50 Ferrari 499P Hypercar. Fellow countrymen Alessandro Pier Guidi and Antonio Giovinazzi will drive the sister #51 car, the same entry which made its memorable Le Mans victory alongside Britain’s James Calado last month.


Toyota Gazoo Racing and its pair of Toyota GR010 Hybrids have already won three out of four WEC races this season but after a narrow defeat at Le Mans, the Japanese squad will be eager to get its 2023 title fight back on course with another victory. Among drivers, it is the crew of the #8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid (Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley, Ryō Hirakawa) that has a slender 15-point lead over the #51 Ferrari.


Behind Toyota and Ferrari, Cadillac has confirmed its position as the third force in the Hypercar field. A major asset of the V-Series.R, its reliability has seen the brand take two podiums in the WEC already this season. In the Hypercar drivers’ standings, it’s the #2 car driven by Alex Lynn, Earl Bamber and Richard Westbrook who are currently third – 12 points adrift of Ferrari.


After a strong showing at Le Mans last month which saw the French manufacturer lead the race at one point, Peugeot TotalEnergies will be in Italy with two of its Peugeot 9X8 Hypercars. The team is fifth in the standings, 19 points behind Porsche in fourth place.


American-flagged Glickenhaus Racing will be looking to replicate its strong performance from Monza last year with the #708 Glickenhaus 007 Hypercar driven by Romain Dumas, Olivier Pla and Nathanael Berthon. Completing the entry list in Hypercar is Floyd Vanwall Racing where Tristan Vautier has replaced Tom Dillmann in the Vanwall Vandervell 680.


LMP2 BATTLE RAGES BUT WILL CORVETTE BE BEATEN IN LMGTE AM?
In LMP2, just four points split the two front-runners in LMP2 going into Monza with Team WRT leading Inter Europol Competition in second place. United Autosports sits third, 20 points behind the class-leading outfit.


Home support will be strong for Italian-flagged Prema Racing and its resident driver Andrea Caldarelli who has been drafted in to replace Mirko Bortolotti for this race. Other changes in LMP2 include Giedo Van der Garde and Ben Hanley subbing for United Autosport’s regular drivers Felipe Albuquerque and Tom Blomqvist who are on IMSA race duty.


Meanwhile, Corvette Racing has a commanding lead in LMGTE Am with the team having amassed 133 points so far (thanks to three victories and one second-place finish). The battle for second and third place, however, is much closer with only three points separating second-placed ORT by TF and the all-female crew of Iron Dames in third position.


Notable changes in LMGTE Am include Efrin Castro and Guilherme Moura de Oliveira driving for Project 1 – AO plus Julien Piguet in the #21 AF Corse entry. Meanwhile, in the #57 Kessel Racing car, Daniel Serra will be replaced by Japan’s Kei Cozzolino. Finally, Northwest AMR will sit this race out but has noted its intention to return for WEC 6 Hours of Fuji at the start of September. There are seven Italian drivers competing in GTE Am (Francesco Castellacci; Davide Rigon; Matteo Cairoli; Claudio Schiavoni; Matteo Cressoni; Alessio Rovera and Riccardo Pera).


The on-track action is set to kick off on Friday 7 July with Qualifying taking place on Saturday afternoon. The flag for the 6-hour race will be waved at 12h30 on Sunday by the event’s official Grand Marshal, three-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Rinaldo "Dindo" Capello.

6 Hours of Monza schedule

Friday 7 July
11:30 – 13:00: FP1
16:40 – 18:10: FP2

Saturday 8 July
10:45 – 11:45: FP3
14:40: Qualifying

Sunday 9 July
12:30 race start

Image: Toyota take 6 Hours of Spa-Frachcorchamps victory


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