The season so far: World Endurance Championship 2024 recap

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WEC 2024 Recap

With the 24 Hours of Le Mans rapidly approaching, we take a look back at the 2024 World Endurance Championship so far.

Three rounds of this year’s World Endurance Championship have already taken place in the run up to June’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The season opener at Lusail International Circuit in Qatar was held in March, with Porsche Penske Motorsport taking victory and a clean sweep of the podium, while Manthey Racing claimed an LMGT3 class win.

Next was the 6 Hours of Imola, where the factory team continued its podium streak with second and third place finishes.

The third round saw the WEC visit the iconic Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium’s Ardennes Forest, with another second-place finish for Porsche Penske Motorsport, while customer team Hertz Team JOTA claimed its first Hypercar win.

Ahead of the fourth - and most important - round of the year, let’s recap all the action so far:

Qatar 1812km

Porsche Penske Motorsport

Porsche Penske Motorsport dominated the opening round of the WEC in Qatar, taking a commanding overall victory with #6 car.

Kevin Estre, André Lotterer and Laurens Vanthoor were in control for much of the 10-hour Qatar 1812km at Lusail International Circuit, taking Porsche’s first win in the Hypercar class.

Having lined up fifth, the #6 crew cut through the cars ahead before emerging ahead after a fierce battle with the #93 Peugeot, and from there they held the lead until the end.

The #5 car, shared by Matt Campbell, Michael Christensen and Frédéric Makowiecki, started on pole after Campbell secured the first Porsche Hypercar pole position.

It too fought for the lead in the early stages before settling into fourth place prior to a dramatic late failure for the #93 Peugeot allowing Porsche to secure third place too.

Hertz Team JOTA

Hertz Team JOTA’s #12 car, driven by Callum Ilott, Norman Nato and Will Stevens, finished second in Qatar for the team’s first Hypercar podium. Lining up third, it was consistently in the podium fight with the factory entries, and capitalised on Peugeot’s late problems to finish in second place. The #38 entry, piloted by Jenson Button, Phil Hanson and Oliver Rasmussen, started ninth, but made up three places off the line to run behind the sister car. But disaster struck with less than 30 laps remaining, after an isolation issue with the hybrid lights during a pitstop meant it was forced into the garage and did not see the chequered flag.

Proton Competition

Proton Competition’s sole entry, the #99 car driven by Julien Andlauer, Neel Jani and Harry Tincknell, started 13th. Making up three places by Turn 1, the F.A.T.-sponsored entry was embroiled in the battle for eighth by lap 14 before dropping back to tenth. Running just outside the top ten for much of the race, with 30 laps remaining, it was involved in a fight with the No. 51 Ferrari, with Andlauer putting in a brilliant move at Turn 1 to take 14th.

Manthey Racing

The Qatar 1812km marked the LMGT3’s class debut in the WEC, as it replaced the GTE-Am class, with the #92 entry driven by Klaus Bachler, Alexander Malykhin and Joel Sturm taking a milestone win for Porsche. The Manthey PureRxcing car started second in its class, while the Manthey EMA #91 car was further back in 13th, piloted by Richard Lietz, Morris Schuring and Yasser Shahin. Immediately moving up to second, the #92 crew fought the whole race, and though the car was briefly passed for the lead, it recaptured its advantage after a spin from the leader to win by five seconds. It was a trickier outing for the #91 crew, which made up four places on the first lap before quickly catching its sister car to run first and second. It was forced into the garage on lap 161 by a technical issue and an electric throttle actuator had to be changed. Though it returned to the race in 17th in its class, it had to stop again as a plug was not reconnected properly.

6 Hours of Imola

Porsche Penske Motorsport

Porsche Penske Motorsport took another double podium in the WEC’s 6 Hours of Imola to continue a strong start to the season, enduring wet weather and several fierce battles. The #6 car finished in second place despite a five-second penalty, having lined up fourth on the grid, with Estre close to catching the leader after a stellar battle in the closing stages. Smart pit strategy helped the #6 crew make gains early on, with a stop for wet tyres also proving fruitful and putting it in contention for victory. Despite a five-second penalty for overtaking under the safety car, Estre continued to catch the leader. After cutting the lead from 4.4s to 2.4s, a fierce battle for the lead ensued, but badly-timed traffic scuppered the crew’s chances of taking victory. The sister #5 car completed the podium after starting fifth. Running fourth early on, it stayed out when the race was declared wet and ran in fifth as mixed strategies shook up the order heading into the final two hours. Campbell was able to catch the battle for third ahead of him, cutting the gap from four seconds to one second before a car ahead stopped, boosting him to fourth. He then made a daring move with just over 30 minutes remaining to re-enter the podium positions.

Hertz Team JOTA

The #38 Hertz Team JOTA car was the highest finishing customer entry in 11th. Having also avoided contact in the opening melee, it was running seventh ahead of its first stop at the one hour mark, but spent much of the race in 10th, having made up one place. A late off on the way down to Rivazza dropped it one position, but Button brought the car home in the final points-paying place. The #12 Hertz Team JOTA car was running a strong race, having lined up ninth on the grid. It was inside the top 10 when it had a lock-up at Tosa and ran off into the gravel, though it only lost one place. Soon after, its afternoon came to an end with another trip into the gravel trap, this time at Rivazza, with tricky wet conditions causing poor grip.

Proton Competition

The #99 Proton Competition car, which had started 10th, also ended up in the gravel with just over 90 minutes remaining, having become beached at Turn 18. Though it got going again, its race ended in the final hour after running off again at Turns 14 and 15 as the conditions remained tricky.

Manthey Racing

The #92 Manthey Pure Rxcing car took another podium in the LMGT3 class, having won last time out in Qatar. Leading off the line, initially with Malykhin, the #92 Porsche 911 GT3 R ran out front for much of the race, but was jumped by both WRT BMW entries late on to finish in third. Sadly for the #91 Manthey EMA crew, their race was over almost as soon as it started after Shahin suffered serious damage off the line, having made hard contact with the wall. The car underwent intensive repairs and received a new front, splitter, airflow and both fenders. It left the pits after around 30 minutes, heading out at the back of the field, and its race was later further hampered by a stop and go penalty for causing a collision.

6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps

Porsche Penske Motorsport

The #6 Porsche Penske Motorsport entry secured the runner-up spot in the 6 Hours of Spa after a challenging race, which was extended by almost two hours due to a lengthy red flag period. The #5 car lined up on pole, having been promoted from second place after the #50 Ferrari AF Corse car was disqualified from qualifying, while the #6 was further back in fifth. Making up places in the opening stages, the #6 entry was running in third early on before dropping back. But a cleverly timed pitstop before the lengthy red-flag period meant the #6 was boosted to second place once the cars ahead took their necessary stops, running behind the #12 Hertz Team JOTA car driven by Ilott. The #6 car, driven by Estre, stopped again on lap 122, with less than 45 minutes remaining, and exited the pits into third. Two laps later, he made a brilliant move to pass the #50 Ferrari on the run up to Eau Rouge to retake second, where he went on to finish. The #5 car was in a fight for second when its race came to an end around the halfway mark, as Christensen lost the car in the second corner of Blanchimont by hitting the kerb with the underfloor skidpad before crashing into the barrier on the left side. The heavy contact shut down the hybrid system for safety reasons, which meant restarting was not possible and forcing the #5 car’s retirement, with a full course yellow following to clean the track.

Hertz Team JOTA

Hertz Team JOTA took its maiden outright victory at Spa, with the #12 entry taking the first ever Hypercar win by a customer team and the first privateer victory in the WEC since 2020. It was the second podium of the season, for the #12 Porsche 963, driven by Stevens and Ilott, coming after a second-place finish in Qatar. The #12 car lined up fourth, with the sister #38 car, piloted by Jenson Button, Phil Hanson and Oliver Rasmussen, in 17th. Despite a tricky start, the #12 car made progress back through the field, running in seventh after the safety car period ended, before applying pressure to the #6 car for fifth place after the next round of pit stops. Like the #6 Porsche, clever pit strategy meant it took the lead once the cars ahead took their stops. Ilott set about building a strong lead, and crossed the line 12 seconds clear of Estre in the #6 factory car. The #38 car’s race was ended in a crash at Turn 8 around the 90-minute mark, with Hanson tagged from behind by the #20 BMW and taking out the #46 BMW in the process, prompting a safety car.

Proton Competition

After its best ever qualifying result, the #99 Proton Competition entry driven by Julien Andlauer and Neel Jani lined up third, with Andlauer first to take the wheel. He quickly closed in on the #2 Cadillac running in second, taking the position on the run to Eau Rouge on lap six before then setting about catching the leader, taking the lead on lap 17, helped by one of the Lexus LMGT3 entries. Despite a staunch defence, the #99 car was passed for the lead on the Kemmel Straight by the #51 Ferrari on lap 72, before the sister Ferrari repeated the move 20 laps later. It was running third when the red flag was thrown, and stopped after the race resumed to run in ninth. But Andlauer put in some blistering laps, and made three stunning overtakes in the closing stages to bring the car home in fifth.

Manthey Racing

The Manthey Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R entries took a double podium at Spa, with the #91 EMA car taking its maiden win, while the sister #92 PureRxcing entry secured its third consecutive podium. The Manthey EMA #91 entry lined up third for the race, with the sister PureRxcing #92 car in eighth. The #91 entry, initially driven by Shahin, dropped back in the early stages but was soon back up to third after making up two places in one lap. It made further progress to second before taking the lead from the #59 United Autosports McLaren by hour four, soon before the red flag was thrown, as the #92 ran in eighth. With both cars stopping again after racing resumed, #91 held the lead, as #92 was in fifth place, before making up two more positions for the pair to run second and third. But heading onto the last lap, the #60 Iron Lynx car pulled into the pits, allowing both Manthey cars through to run first and second. The #92 car then overtook the sister car at Les Combes to snatch victory. The next challenge, and the biggest of the year, comes at the next round: The 24 Hours of Le Mans. Taking place from June 15-16, the milestone event at the Circuit de la Sarthe will see 186 drivers from 62 entries compete for glory. Porsche is gunning for its 20th overall victory at the iconic race.

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