You recently had the opportunity to learn about the WEC or World Endurance Championship with us. This championship was in its third race at Spa-Francorchamps after previous visits to US Sebring and Portugal’s Portimao.

Twice the victory was for Toyota but Ferrari showed its teeth twice anyway with a pole position and third place in Sebring and a second place in Portimao. Read more about the WEC here.

Appointment for the third round in our very own Spa-Francorchamps.  A race that serves a bit as preparation for the Le Mans 24 hours every year, given Spa’s layout is closest to the Le Mans circuit.

A WEC weekend always follows the same timetable. It starts at Spa on Thursday morning with the technical inspections of the cars. A bit like you have to present your own car at the annual car inspection, the teams also have to present their cars one by one in a specially equipped box for a general inspection including weighing.

This is followed by the first free practice runs where the necessary information can be gathered about e.g. track condition, tyre wear and car set-up. A WEC car is driven by three pilots so some sort of compromise has to be found somewhere there that satisfies all three drivers. The No 8 Toyota of Buemi/Hartley and Hirakawa immediately set a target time of 2.02.982. A good second and a half later follow the Ferrari 50 of Fuoco/Molina and Nielsen and the Toyota number 7 of Conway/Kobayashi and Lopez. Of course, these are only the first practice runs, so a lot can still change.

In the late afternoon on Thursday, the second session starts, which also like the first lasts an hour and a half. Now it is the Ferrari number 51 of Pier Guidi/Calado and ex F1 pilot Giovinnazzi that, with 2.01.871, shaves just over a second off the time of the Toyota during morning practice. The other Ferrari follows at 1.2 seconds.

Just before the end of this session there is another bad accident at the top of the Raidillon. Two AF Corse GT Ferraris crashed into each other there and were very badly damaged. A misunderstanding between the drivers, one of whom came out of the pitlane, was the cause of the accident. Both cars are as good as written off.

There are also technical problems at Porsche. After first the 963 number 5 of Cameron/Christensen and Macowiecki stalled in front of the old pitlane, the 963 number 6 of Estre/Vanthoor and Lotterer also stalled in the Raidillon two laps later. Both Porsches were taken away by tow truck.

A third free practice session then follows on Friday. Thursday’s beautiful weather is on holiday for a while and on a wet track, the number 7 Toyota is again fastest with a time of 2.08.702. The number 2 Cadillac of Bamber/Lynn and Westbrook follows in second at 0.734 seconds. Third time is even for an LMP2 with the Belgian WRT Oreca number 31 of Gelael/Habsburg and Frijns at a second and a half.

Then in the late afternoon there is qualifying for the race and there is an immediate moment where Brendon Hartley loses the No 8 Toyota on the warm-up lap at the top of the Raidillon. End of story for this top favourite. Number 8, once repaired, will have to start at the very back.

The Ferrari 51 with Antonio Giovinazzi is the fastest of the bunch and there is already a hearty celebration at Ferrari. This joy does not last long, however, as his time is scrapped for exceeding the track limits. A car must be within the white lines of the track with at least one wheel at all times. They drop back to P3 and pole position thus comes into the possession of the Toyota GR010 number 7 ahead of Ferrari number 50. Between these first two there is only a difference of 0.024 seconds. It could hardly be more exciting!!!

Places four and five are for Cadillac followed by two Porsches. In place six the Penske Porsche number six and in place seven the private Jota Porsche of Da Costa/Stevens and Ye. Talk of a debut for the Jota team.

Then follows the Glickenhaus number 708 of Dumas/Pla and Mailleux for the Peugeot’s 9X8. Peugeot is clearly not in rhythm yet and still has to give up several seconds per lap.

In LMP2, pole is for the United car of Tom Blomqvist.

And in the GT there is a first place for the ORT team’s Aston Martin Vantage. Pilot Al Harthy thus gives Oman its first pole in the WEC.

After sunshine on Thursday and rain on Friday, thick fog clouds hang over the Francorchamps valley on Saturday morning. In several places, even there is only a few metres of visibility. Fortunately, it will clear up a bit later. But it will not be a beautiful day.

The spectators present can still be counted with our fingers and the teams’ staff arrives in the paddock.

Yet there is already activity in the pitlane. Several mechanics have been working through the night to carry out repairs. The cars that had a serious technical problem or an accident with them have to present themselves again at the technical inspection. For the yellow Cadillac number 3, the V8 power unit was replaced. After inspection, the inspector asks to start the engine. The sound of the American V8 on a still awakening circuit of Spa: Magisterial!!!

But Cadillac is certainly not the only one to submit. Ferrari, too, is waiting in line with its 499P and the Jota Porsche also has to join the queue. As we pointed out: just like at the car inspection. Only here they work a bit faster.

The AF Corse team spent the entire Friday and Friday night working on the two destroyed 488 GTE cars involved in the crash at Raidillon. Start number 54 had been repaired. In the case of fellow number 21, the damage was too severe. A new chassis was transferred from Maranello and arrived at Spa on Friday night. A chassis change was made on the night of Fri-Saturday. The red Ferrari appeared at the control gate at 8.29am.

After the weigh-in, there was a lollypop check followed by a green light for participation.

The average Ferrari customer would certainly have refused delivery because you could see some “patching up” here and there but this 488 has to serve a course and not a beauty contest. So this is not really a problem.

Motorsport fans will have half an hour to see their favourite drivers during the pit-walk. The drivers then sit at a table for each team to hand out autographs. At big teams like Ferrari and Toyota, there is a huge queue of fans.

This is less the case with the smaller teams. Meanwhile, in Francorchamps, it had also started raining. Gently at first and then a little brighter.

One team that also had a long queue was Scuderia Glickenhaus. The small team that has dared to make a Hypercar under its own direction, yet quite successfully, also attracts many fans. Big boss Jim Glickenhaus himself was present at his drivers’ autograph session. He noticed, in the crowd, a little girl with a camera. Jim went over and spoke to the little girl and asked if she wanted a tour of the Glickenhaus box.

Jim Glickenhaus: a man with a warm heart.

Fans don’t just want autographs: selfies and photos of the pilots are also highly sought after. And most pilots are really very friendly towards their fans.

After the pitwalk, final preparations for the race begin. Cars are refuelled and laptops perform a final check. Then the cars drive to the pre-grid where they are lined up in the order in which they completed qualifying.

In front of the starting line-up was also the unique trophy for the winner of the century edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and after singing the Belgian national anthem, you know the start is getting close. But the track still looked wet. It may not be raining anymore but that can change and become totally different in five minutes at Francorchamps. Strategists are weighing up the options. Which tyres do we fit? Will it still rain or not? It is not an exact science so we will have to wait and see.

It is 12h45 when the cars pass for the first time after a lap behind the Safety-car. An extra lap follows for safety reasons and then the field is let loose. From this year, tyre warmers are no longer allowed in the WEC. Until now, this was not really a problem as the temperatures at the previous races were high enough but at Spa, the temperature gauge indicates only 8 degrees and it takes a lot longer to warm up the tyres. This will pose a serious problem several times during the course of the race. Even in the warm-up lap behind the safety-car, two GT Porsche’s get off the track but are able to continue their way back.

Most cars start on rain tyres but at Toyota they think it will stop raining and immediately opt for dry weather tyres or slicks. No 7 Toyota is overtaken immediately after the start in the Source by both Ferraris and the blue Cadillac which are on rain tyres. The yellow Cadillac is fitted with dry weather tyres and that was definitely a good strategy to split both cars.

Others like the Jota Porsche and the Peugeots also left with rain tyres and shot to the front.

In LMP2, it is a real train that thunders past with all the competitors behind one another.  In front is the Premat Oreca number 63 with young Doriane Pin at the wheel.

Also in the GT class, there is fierce competition between the number 25 Aston Martin and the number 85 Iron Dames Porsche with our compatriot Sara Bouvy at the wheel.

The male colleagues at Iron Lynx are not doing so well though as their Porsche is, after only 15 minutes, in the sandpit at Combes. This causes a first safety-car and the field comes back together this way. Bad luck for the guys with the rain tyres as they now lose all their advantage. While the safety-car drives around, the track dries more and more and when the race gets the green light, the men on slicks have the advantage. The rain tyres wear more on a dry surface. Toyota number 7 passes both Ferraris in half a lap.

One by one, the cars on rain tyres come to their boxes for dry footwear. These dry tyres do have to be warmed up and this now takes, without the tyre warmers, just over a lap resulting in the necessary loss of time. So both Ferraris drop from the lead in the standings all the way to the bottom, losing more than a lap on the Toyota that is cruising around in first place. Meanwhile, the second Toyota, which started at the very back, has also moved up to fourth place.

After 45 minutes of racing, the Vector team’s Oreca loses its left rear wheel in Combes. Once again the safety-car appears on the track. Fifteen minutes later, the first normal pit stops follow and the Colles Vanwall is an immediate victim of the cold tyres. Coming out of the pitlane, it slides off the track and hits the crash barrier. Fortunately, he is able to continue his way.

The standings after the first pit stops: in the lead Toyota number 8, in second place Cadillac number 3 and Toyota number 8 in third. Through all the chaos, an LMP2 of United Autosports even follows in fourth place afterwards.

However, the yellow Cadillac’s beautiful song does not last long. Lying in a nice second place, Renger Van der Zande slides off the Raidillon at high speed. The yellow Cadillac was totally destroyed on the right side by the violent crash. A problem with the servo steering wheel was the cause, according to the team . Once again the Safety-car pulls out for the necessary clean-up work.

Up front, the Toyotas are in P1 and P2 after the Cadillac crash. At almost a lap, the other Cadillac follows in third ahead of the Penske Porsche number 5 and both Ferraris that are on a remount. Ferrari clearly has the fastest car in these conditions. They can even de-dupe themselves, coming back on the same lap as the Toyotas. In LMP2, there is a fierce battle between the teams of WRT, Prema and United.  In the GT class, there is a new leader with the Richard Mille Ferrari number 83 with Lilou Wadoux at the wheel. A little further up, the Iron Dames are fighting for a podium place with two Aston Martins.

And Porsche also loses a car. Not by an accident but the 963 number 6, with our compatriot Laurens Vanthoor at the wheel, simply stalls on exiting the bus stop. All electricity seems to be gone. This causes a Full Course Yellow ( a mode in which every competitor has to drive around at the same speed ). The Porsche can be parked in a safe place fairly quickly by the track officials.

Then it is again Vanwall who also causes an FCY by slipping into the sandpit at Combes. This one is hoisted out of the gravel pit and can continue on its way. Each WEC car is fitted with fixed points to which a beam can be connected for hoisting. This way it can be done safely and quickly.

With an hour and a half to go, the number 50 Ferrari makes a pit stop. After refuelling and new Michelin tyres, Antoinio Fuoco takes over the wheel. On driving down for the Raidillon, he slides off the track and lands heavily in the crash barriers. Cause here were again the combination of cold weather and tyres. With this, the best Ferrari disappears from the race. In LMP2, there is still a fierce battle. The four of them storm up the Raidillon in succession ( 2 x Prema, WRT and United ). Also in the GTs everything is still open for places two to four.

Entering the final hour of racing, it is still the two Toyotas driving around in front. The sole Penske Porsche follows in third position ahead of the blue Cadillac and the sole Ferrari. In LMP2, the Premat 0reca number 63 receives a penalty time for a pit stop gone wrong and thus sees its chances of victory disappear immediately. Two cars are still in the midst of a remonte: the Ferrari number 51 and the Chevrolet Corvette in the GT class. This Corvette had dropped back early in the race after a wrong tyre choice and a spin by Ben Keating. Pro driver Nicky Catsburg connects with the candidates for the podium.

For victory, there is no more doubt: it goes to Toyota but for the podium in Hypercar, everything is still open. Also in LMP2 everything is still to be decided and in the GTs it is no different. And this after five and a half hours of racing! The blue Cadillac still falls back in the final stages of the race and the Penske Porsche and Ferrari come alongside. In fact, the Ferrari is so much faster than the Porsche that it manages to make up just under half a minute in the last half hour on the 963.

At the dawn of the final lap, there is still a difference of just under five seconds and on braking out after the long straight at Kemmel, the Ferrari passes the Porsche and enters the podium as a result.

Meanwhile, Toyota number 7, with lots of fireworks, had crossed the finish line. They were followed after 11 seconds by their team colleagues on the number 8. Still, quite an achievement after starting from the very last position. Fifth place went to the Cadillac and sixth to the private Jota Porsche 963, which nevertheless made a stunning debut in the Hypercar class.

In LMP2, the win is for the Belgian team of WRT with Robert Kubica, Louis Delétraz and Rui Andrade. They are six seconds ahead of the United car of Joshua Pierson, Tom Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis. Third place surprisingly goes to the Europol Competition car that managed to pass its Prema colleagues five minutes before the end. Thus, Albert Costa, Fabio Scherer and Jakub Smiechowski achieve the first WEC podium for this team.

This also happens in the GT class. The Corvette of Catsburg/Keaton and Nicolas Varrone had taken over second place from the Aston Martin of Eastwood/Dinan and Al Harthy, finishing second behind the Ferrari 488 GTE of Luis Companc/Alessio Rovera and Lilou Wadouw. This makes the latter the first female pilot to take a seat on the top podium. A historic moment in the WEC.

The biggest disappointment of the weekend was still the Peugeot team with 14th and 17th places in the general classification. In the early stages, in the wet conditions, they looked competitive for a while but then it soon became clear that they have a lot of work to do at Peugeot Sport if they want their cars to compete at the front. Carlos Tavares, CEO of Stellantis/Peugeot, did not seem very happy anyway.

Each class gets its separate podium and after this ceremony is over, the winning pilots of each class have to go to the international press conference. They then explain their race to the journalists present. This will all also be streamed live via the FIA WEC channel.

And the weekend ends as it started. Can you guess? With a technical inspection of the cars that have reached the finishing line. These are taken care of in a specially closed area ( parc fermé in jargon ) and have to go to the inspection one by one. There, they check whether everything still conforms to the condition of the previous inspection. Only then is the result final.

This ends the WEC weekend at Spa. We thoroughly enjoyed it and with this new formula and the input of the new brands, we have truly entered a golden era in endurance racing. Forget boring Formula 1 because this is much more exciting and it can only get better. And this not only in the Hyper class but also the LMP2 and GT classes offered a fantastic spectacle. And the 72,000 visitors ( a record ) were certainly not wrong.