Hypercars - A new golden age

LMP1 had been a success for a while, but it was an expensive series and the big manufacturers withdrew one by one, until only Toyota remained.

This did finally give the Japanese make the 'glory' of winning Le Mans (although the honour of being first Japanese marque to do that will always belong to Mazda), but the series was clearly a dead duck.

Hypercars have produced close racing in IMSA and the WEC

Luckily, IMSA and the FIA managed to put aside their differences and come up with two sets of rules that were, at least, compatible, if not identical (not unlike the Group C and GTP rules of the 1980s).

The initial idea was 'Hypercars' would be racing versions of the very fastest road cars, but it soon changed to being homologated racers, with a balance of performance ruleset and very limited changes allowed to homologated vehicles.

Some people grumbled that these weren't 'true prototypes' and that they were slower than the outgoing LMP1s, but the points were largely moot with no-one but Toyota interested in running LMP1s.

Toyota transitioned from LMP1 to Hypercars.

The first races in the WEC, in 2021, weren't very well supported, Aston having opted out with their initially mooted Valkyries and Alpine initially running a restricted LMP1 as a hypercar, but new teams started to join and 2022 was better and the series began to gather momentum.

Privateers Glickenhaus produced an, initially, successful hypercar and Peugeot returned to sportscar racing with the bold (if ultimately unsuccessful) 9X8.

Glickenhaus at Monza in 2023

Peugeot's (initially wingless) 9X8 in revised form at Imola in 2024

Vanwall also arrived with a hypercar, but it was never really on the pace.

The Vanwall team's car was never competitive and wasn't to return in 2024

In the USA, the former class front runners, Chevrolet (running as Cadillac) and Honda (Acura) both produced LMDh cars for the 2023 season.

Cadillac run cars in both IMSA and the WEC - This is an IMSA car, that has also raced at Le Mans - Not my photo

Acura run two LMDh hypercars in IMSA only - Not my photo

Joining them were Porsche (with their 963 running in both Penske run 'works' form and privateer cars) and BMW.

Penske run 'works' Porsches run in IMSA and WEC

In both the USA and the WEC, the BoP rules ensured that, while some cars had the edge at some races, the competition was close.

Ferrari had a fantastic start to their return to sportscar racing, taking the 2023 Le Mans win (some say the BoP was skewed in their favour, but it has played against them at times, too).

Ferrari's return was rewarded with victory in the centenary Le Mans in 2023

Sadly, the growing number of works built (and run) cars saw Glickenhaus drop out of the WEC (they'd never been allowed in IMSA, despite being an American team, due to a rule about number of cars built by the manufacturer) after some decent showings, including a podium at Le Mans.

Vanwall were refused an entry for the 2024 WEC as more, better equipped, teams competed for spaces, although another small team, Isotto-Fraschini, were granted an entry.

Isotto-Fraschini at Imola in 2024

BMW's V8 racer is a particular favourite of mine and, after a first season in just IMSA, now runs in the WEC as well.

BMW at Imola in 2024

Alpine returned in 2024, after a year running LMP2s, with a very pretty hypercar, which has shown some promise.

Alpine's pretty hypercar at Imola in 2024

Lamborghini also arrived in the WEC, in 2024, with their car.

Lamborghini were new to the series in 2024

In 2023, as the series burgeoned, Aston Martin announced the resurrection of the Valkyrie project, starting in 2025 for both IMSA and the WEC.

Porsche, true to their Group C and early roots, provided the greatest number of privateer cars and one, in the hands of JOTA, took a somewhat fortuitous (if not entirely undeserved) win at Spa in 2024.

Privateer Porsche team JOTA won at Spa in 2024

Some manufacturers only run in one series (Ferrari, Alpine and Toyota the WEC, Acura IMSA), while others run cars in both series.

Cadillac run in both series

The cars have differences, mainly to the drivetrains, but can run in either championships.

As I write, during the 2024 Le Mans race, things look rosey for sportscar racing (the current homologation of cars having just been extended to 2027), but I have to wonder how long teams like Peugeot, Alpine and BMW will tolerate not regularly challenging for victory. <

Battling Ferraris at Imola in 2024

This may already be the golden era of the Hypercars.

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