Penske LMP2 confirmation spearheads 39-car 2022 FIA WEC entry list

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Penske LMP2 confirmation spearheads 39-car 2022 FIA WEC entry list

Le Mans/WEC

Penske LMP2 confirmation spearheads 39-car 2022 FIA WEC entry list

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The FIA World Endurance Championship’s full-season entry list for 2022 has been revealed. The series’ 10th season includes a record 39 cars across the four classes, with healthy numbers in each category and a slew of driver crew confirmations.

At the head of the field, the Le Mans Hypercar category features six cars. The two Toyota Gazoo Racing GR010 HYBRIDs return, with Ryo Hirakawa confirmed as the team’s new full-season driver in place of Kazuki Nakajima, who revealed he would step back from professional racing at the end of the 2021 season after a storied career as a Toyota factory driver. He will continue his association with the Japanese OEM, though, as vice chairman of Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe, based in Cologne.

Kamui Kobayashi, meanwhile, will continue to compete with the team in the No. 7 GR010, alongside his new assignment as team principal of Toyota Gazoo Racing’s WEC effort.

“Thank you to President Akio Toyoda, GR President Sato and Toyota Gazoo Racing for putting their trust in me,” Kobayashi said. “I will give everything to succeed in my new role, which is a big challenge and a great opportunity. I look forward to fighting for the world championship as a driver and team principal. I will bring all my experience as a race driver to my new job, and I know I have a fantastic team who will support me in my mission.

“This new team structure is an important step for us to stay sharp and be ready for the next battle. I am pleased that Nakajima can stay within our team and I am sure his driver’s perspective will strengthen the management team at TGR-E. I look forward to working alongside him to make ever-better cars.

“With Hirakawa, we welcome the next generation of endurance driver and, with the support of the team and his fellow drivers, I know he will be a big success in the WEC.”

Alpine’s factory entered (grandfathered LMP1) A480 Gibson also returns ahead of the team’s planned LMDh program in the future, as does a single Glickenhaus 007 LMH entered by Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is the inclusion of Peugeot’s new 9x8s, which are set to debut this year. While they are listed on the full-season entry, RACER understands that it remains unlikely that the French marque will embark on a full campaign. Last year RACER was told by a program insider that it was unlikely Peugeot would be present at the season-opening round at Sebring, and that even an appearance at Le Mans was not confirmed internally.

The pace of the manufacturer’s progress in developing and testing the car will dictate the debut of the 9×8, as the program’s leaders are keen to avoid rushing the car’s testing phase and are prepared to sit out races in order to ensure the team enjoys a strong first impression.

Nevertheless, the list currently stands at six cars. Absent from it is ByKolles, which was scheduled to debut its new Le Mans Hypercar this year, which was due to be badged as a “Vanwall” after the team’s parent company registered the name of the 1958 F1 world champions as a trademark. It remains to be seen whether or not the Austrian outfit will make an appearance at all in 2022.

LMP2, meanwhile, has a huge 15-car field, with the entire list made up of ORECA 07-Gibson chassis. Richard Mille Racing, United Autosports, G-Drive Racing, JOTA, WRT, Inter Europol and ARC Bratislava all return and are joined by a slew of new and debuting teams.

Team Penske, in preparation for its Porsche LMDh entry, is listed with IMSA regulars Dane Cameron and Felipe Nasr joined by Le Mans stalwart Manu Collard, though RACER believes that like Peugeot, it is unlikely to complete a full season. Prema Orlen Team, with Robert Kubica as the headline name will also make its WEC debut, as will British team Vector Sport, ELMS regular Ultimate and AF Corse with reigning GTE Am champion Francois Perrodo returning to LMP competition.

From last year’s field, High Class Racing, DragonSpeed and Racing Team Nederland are missing, all three outfits set to focus instead on IMSA campaigns in 2022.

A full-season program this year for Corvette Racing and its Corvette C8.R JEP/Motorsport Images

GTE Pro also has seen an uptick in entries, with the addition of a Corvette C8.R entered by the factory, with Tommy Milner and Nick Tandy named as a driving pair. In Corvette’s first full-season WEC campaign, it will go up against last year’s quartet of factory entries from AF Corse (Ferrari) and Porsche respectively.

And finally, GTE Am is 13 cars strong, once again featuring a mixture of Porsche, Ferrari and Aston Martin customer teams. The field features AF Corse, Iron Lynx (plus Iron Dames) and Spirit of Race representing Ferrari, Team Project 1, Dempsey Proton Racing and GR Racing racing with Porsche and D’Station Racing, Northwest AMR (Paul Dalla Lana’s factory-supported effort) and TF Sport competing with Aston.

The only major omission here is Cetilar Racing, which enjoyed a successful maiden WEC GTE Am campaign last year, finishing the season with a podium at Spa and a class win at Portimao to its name.

The season is set to start at Sebring with a Prologue on March 12-13, ahead of the opening race of the year at the same location, a 1000-mile encounter as part of a doubleheader with IMSA on March 18. As ever, all FIA WEC entries gain automatic berths to the Le Mans 24 Hours, as the French classic remains the crown jewel of the schedule.

2022 FIA WEC ENTRY

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