I am the first to admit that I’ve been a bit of a downer about the collapse of the FIA’s Le Mans Hypercar class. When it was teased a few years ago, there was interest from seemingly every major automaker in the world, and it would be coming to fruition at exactly the time Aston Martin, Mercedes-AMG, and McLaren were introducing new street hypercars. All of that support for the class pretty much evaporated overnight, and Toyota and—to a lesser extent Glickenhaus—were left holding the bag on their own. A year ago things didn’t look promising. Thankfully, that seems to be changing.
Hypercar was supposed to be introduced in mid-2020, but was ultimately pushed back because of pandemic-related financial issues. Toyota’s car, basically a revamped LMP1 car with LMH written on the side, is ready to roll next month at the 12 Hours of Sebring, but Glickenhaus has pushed back final construction of its car to a few months from now, joining after the first couple of rounds of the WEC have already been conducted. For this season the best the WEC can expect is four hypercars, two each from Toyota and Glick.
2022 will see the introduction of the Peugeot Hypercar, which still hasn’t been seen in anything other than a rendering. I am optimistic that the Peugeot will actually come to fruition, but I’ve been burned by the French before, so I won’t count that chicken until it actually hatches. I’m pretty sure it’s going to, but don’t put it on the books just yet.
Wednesday’s big surprise was the announcement that Ferrari would be coming back to top-flight sports car racing for the first time in a couple decades with a Le Mans Hypercar entry. This is excellent news, and would certainly help round out the grid, albeit not until the 2023 season. 2023 is going to be pretty great if all of this comes about for real.
Okay, so we’re expecting at least eight factory-backed Hypercars at Le Mans in 2023, and because the FIA WEC and IMSA have come to an agreement to balance Hypercar with the jointly-developed LMDh class, perhaps we can bank on some of those to show up as well. Acura, Porsche, and Audi are confirmed in that class with 2023 entries, and there’s talk that further entries from Cadillac, Corvette, BMW, Hyundai, Lexus and half a dozen others could join them.
Prototype racing has seen some lean years of late, at least since Porsche left LMP1 at the end of the 2017 season. If this is the valley of the cyclical sports car lifecycle, then by 2023 we’re going to be living high on the hog.
I’m not too proud to admit when I’m wrong. This could be a new golden age of sports cars in just a couple seasons time, it’s just been pushed back a couple years by COVID. We just need to be patient! We’re getting there.