Today sees the start of the new season for the World Endurance Championship, as well as this being the first race for the newest class, Hypercar, which replaces the previous top class of LMP1.
As ever, there will be four classes of cars sharing the track, so here is a rundown on the entries for the new season.
Sadly, for their first race, there are only three cars present, with Glickenhaus and Bykolless still working on their vehicles. The contest therefore will be a straight fight between Toyota with their pair of GR010 Hybrid cars against Alpine Elf Matmut with their Alpine A480, which previously ran as a Rebellion LMP1 and has been "grandfathered" into the new class.
As with any new class, there have been and are teething issues regarding performance and reliability compared with those competitors in LMP2 who have run their chassis for some time and are therefore well sorted: the same was true at the start of the famed Group C formula when the Porsche 956 first raced, alongside the Group 5/6 cars like the Lancia LC1,
Safe to say, despite LMP2 cars topping the timing sheets at the prologue earlier this week, with insufficient amounts of race data currently available for the new cars, the ACO technical team have decided not made any further rash changes to the Balance of Performance factors between the two top classes, so expect them all to have to race for positions rather than the hypercars just sitting alone at the head of the field on Saturday afternoon.
This class has a well establish feel to it, with a large number of long term entrants returning, complimented by teams stepping up from the European and Asian Le Mans Series.
Front runners will no doubt come from the United Autosport, G-Drive Racing (2 cars), High Class racing, Jota Sport (2 cars), Real Team Racing and Racing Team Nederland squads, all with proven records from past seasons. But chasing them will be the returning entrants of Dragonspeed from America.
Stepping up from ELMS will be Richard Mille Racing, who will once again be supporting the FIA's Women in Motorsport effort by again running an all female crew, and the familiar colours of Inter Europol Competition, the striking green fade to yellow colour scheme now changed to a more subtle block and stripe variant.
Slovakian team ARC Bratislava, coming from the Asian series, will also come with a bright yellow colour scheme, and are no strangers to the series regulars as they have already competed at Le Mans twice, and it will be interesting to see how they compare with a full season entry.
Local interest will be held with the inclusion of Team WRT, who have moved up to both ELMS and WEC racing this season, and won first time out at the recent ELMS race at Barcelona. While the opposition will no doubt be tougher, their confidence will be buoyed by this effort, proving nothing is impossible.
Joining them will be the American team of PR1 Motorsport who are using the prologue and race at Spa for testing prior to their entry at this year's Le Mans 24 Hours. Their driver line-up is make up with plenty of European racing experience, so could be a dark house when the chequered flag drops.
This will be a straight fight between the old rivalry of Ferrari against Porsche, after Aston Martin Racing chose to end their factory team, so balancing the fight between the two AF Corse and two Porsche GT Team entries should be a lot simpler for the organisers.
Joining them for this event will be Corvette, another team using the event as preparation before attending Le Mans this year. It is not known at this time whether they plan to enter any other events at this time, given that the 24 hours is being held in August.
With thirteen entries this season, this looks like being the most unpredictable of the classes, with heavy hitters like TF Sport, Team Project 1 (2 cars), GR Racing (formerly known as Gulf Racing), AF Corse (2 cars), and Dempsey-Proton Racing (2 cars) returning, along with the private Aston Martin Racing team, but now joined by Iron Lynx (2 Ferrari entries, one an all female line-up) from ELMS and D'Station Racing (Aston Martin) from Asia.
And in an unusual change of direction, the Cetilar Racing team have changed from Prototype to GT racing, and naturally the Italian squad have decided to run a Ferrari for their first season.
Sadly, the #46 Team Project 1 car was too badly damaged at the prologue earlier this week to be repaired in time, so has had to be scratched from the entry list for this weekend.
The Spa 6 Hours starts on SATURDAY 1st May, at 1330 (CET)
Text: Steve Tarrant
Photos: FIA Media