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Endurance Racing: Our Golden Age

Updated: Apr 26



After what feels like a very long winter, the 2024 motorsport season has kicked off in style with the World Rally Championship in full swing following two intriguing rallies in Monte Carlo and Sweden while in America, the 2024 IMSA season has commenced in Florida. The penultimate weekend of January saw 50 teams across four classes contest the 2024 24 Hours of Daytona, one of the most prestigious races on the endurance racing calendar. 


Not only was it a great barometer for how the remainder of the IMSA season will go, it was also a great indicator as to what to expect from this season’s World Endurance Championship.


The race in America was fantastic, a true great and one which will be remembered for years to come as Penske Porsche took their first win at the great race since 1969, beating the Whelen Cadillac by just over two seconds. Prior to the race, the leading manufacturers were all on show with their updated models and upgrades from 2023, with the likes of Cadillac, BMW and Acura all looking fast. It is amazing to see such large, and most importantly competitive, classes, with GTP having its largest ever of the modern era. What is even more unbelievable is that the WEC is expecting top class Hypercar grids of double what we witnessed in Daytona. 


Over the eight round series, the likes of Porsche and Cadillac will be joined by BMW for the first time in 2024 after a single season focusing on America as well as the likes of Toyota, Peugeot, and 2023 Le Mans winners Ferrari who all return following successful 2023 seasons. Alpine, Isotta Fraschini and Lamborghini, also make their debuts in the series, Lamborghini debuting in IMSA later this year. 


There are also independent entries for Porsche and Ferrari with Jota, Proton Competition and AF Corse respectively included in Hypercar ensuring a bumper 19 car grid in the top class represented by nine manufacturers, with 23 entries expected for Le Mans in June. 


Such is the popularity of the championship at present, it has already been put on record by Frédéric Lequien, CEO of Le Mans Endurance Management, that the grid is expected to increase further in the coming seasons. Cadillac have stated they want to expand further from one entry, while Aston Martin confirmed they will enter the WEC from 2025 in October 2023. 


With plenty more rumours circulating with regards who will enter the series next, both in the Hypercar class and the new LMGT3 class, for me, it is proof that we are currently in the golden age of Endurance Racing, an unprecedented period of competitiveness, variation and depth. It is also a fantastic sign of how healthy motorsport is at the current moment, despite the financial constrictions on so many other aspects of life, after a period of uncertainty following the Covid Pandemic. 


There are many factors which have contributed to this success most noticeably are aspects such as Balance of Performance, BOP. Although controversial, it has helped the series massively, both from a competition perspective to ensure the field remains close as well as a costing perspective, as teams are not pressured into spending excessive amounts to keep up with one another. 


The savings reported have resulted in budgets being up to four times cheaper than the previous LMP1 rules. Although these rules were phenomenal, this was never going to be sustainable, hence Toyota ending up as the sole manufacturer remaining in the class at its conclusion. 


With interest at an all time high, it is also refreshing to see a series keeping their rules as simple as possible, and leaving manufacturers to their own devices with regards to engine sizes and bodywork. The racing is also kept simple, with endurance racing constantly under scrutiny for not being “entertaining enough” it is refreshing that the WEC and IMSA has ignored the pressure out on other championships, to manufacture the racing to make it “more entertaining”. 


From a personal perspective, I find this often alienates true fans, and very rarely brings new ones in.


In addition to this, as always, in my opinion at least, the cars all look incredible which increases the appeal of the series even further, as well as a calendar packed full of superb race circuits around the world. 


For me, it is the series to watch in 2024, and indeed beyond, I am sure it will live up to expectation.

 

Photos: www.autoexpress.co.uk

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