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Preview: 6hrs of Imola

Text: Rick Kiewiet

Images: WEC, Peugeot, Porsche, Rick Kiewiet

This weekend the 2024 World Endurance Championship returns on European soil; Italy to be precise. Not in the 'usual' Temple of Speed, Monza, but the new for WEC track in Emilia Romagna: Imola. What's been the news last weeks and what do we have to look forward to this weekend?

First and foremost, Imola will be the place where Peugeot will debut its new 9X8 EVO, featuring the highly anticipated rear wing. The car was already at the forefront in Qatar, without its rear wing, and it will be interesting to see what the additional downforce will add to the cars' pace.

BoP Changes favor Ferrari and Toyota

In light of the results in Qatar, where the cars that dominated last season never got near a podium spot, a change in the Balance of Performance seemed to be in place. And so, significant weight breaks are dealt to Ferrari (-34kg --> 1041kg) and Toyota (-29kg --> 1060). Alpine, BMW and Isotta Fraschini are also quite a bit lighter, with weight breaks ranging from 25 to 28 kg.

Despited locking out the entire podium at Qatar, the 963 also receive a weight break (15kg), just like the V-series R., albeit the latter is only 2kg lighter.

All this makes that the 9X8 is now the heaviest of the bunch, weighing in at 1061 kg. Could just be that new rear wing...

Besides the weight changes, there are also a couple of changes in maximum power, however they are pretty small. Ferrari and Toyota receive 7kW and 6kW respectively, Porsche, BMW and Alpine between 5kW and 3kW.

LMDh vs. Hypercars

One of the topics to look forward to, is whether the hypercars are more at the forefront than they were at Qatar. Where Porsche dominated the race especially (a stellar lap by de Vries had at least put one Toyota at the front row of the grid), only Peugeot managed to somewhat keep up with the pace. Ferrari and Toyota lost a significant amount of ground to the Porsche's, while the sole Cadillac (LMDh) managed to recover from dead last to 4th (before they were disqualified due to a minor chassis production issue according to the team).

If Cadillac shows the same (race-)pace as they did in Qatar, they will definitely be in contention for the win. They will do so with one driver less than the other teams, as Sebastien Bourdais will race in IMSA this weekend and he will not be replaced. Even though Cadillac appointed Indycar star Alex Palou as their reserve driver for Le Mans. Only Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn will pilot the #2 in Emilia Romagna.

There's one other driver change following Ferdinand Hapsburg's crash during a test session with the Alpine A424 in Aragon. The Austrian broke two of his lumbar vertebrae and will be replaced in Imola by Jules Gounon. The long-time GT3 ace will make his WEC debut alongside Charles Milesi and Paul-Loup Chatin.

Rossi returns to Imola

Furthermore, Valentino Rossi will return to the track where he took his first steps in car racing. In april 2022, Imola marked his debut in the GT World Challenge in the #46 WRT Audi R8 alongside Fred Vervisch and Nico Müller. The trio finished 17th. Rossi remained loyal to WRT and will compete in the BMW M4 LMGT3.

Other News

Two other things caught our attention over the past couple of weeks. First, four times F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel tested the Porsche 963 with Penske in Aragon. During a 36 hour endurance test, the German completed 118 laps alongside Fred Makowiecki, Matt Campbell, Michael Christensen and reserve driver Thomas Preining. A couple of days later, it became known that Penske and Vettel do not foresee a cooperation before the 2025 24 hours of Le Mans.

The other remarkable story was that of the concealed technical personnel of the AF Corse LMGT3 team. Three team members (engineers) that were enlisted as marketing staff were found behind "computers connected to the internal network working on technical matters" during the race at a routine check by the FIA. AF Corse was fined 60,000 euros. For your enjoyment (memories of the 70s and 80s F1 seasons?), here are the official facts as stated in the FIA Stewards' decision (link to document here):


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