Le Mans 2023 preview: hypercar teams poised for centenary battle
Toyota is aiming for its sixth win in a row, but will have to beat other big names that are returning to Le Mans
On the 100th anniversary of the first running of the Le Mans 24 Hours, it seems only right that 2023’s edition holds the prospect of being one of the most exciting races in years. No less than 16 cars are going for glory in the Hypercar class, compared with just five last year.
A lot of eyes will, of course, be on Toyota, which is aiming for its sixth win in a row, but it will have to beat other big names that are making a return to the French race.
Chief among them is Ferrari, which is returning to the top class for the first time in 50 years. The Italian team has won Le Mans nine times, and it will expect to challenge for the outright win due to its strong pace so far in this year’s World Endurance Championship, where it ranks second only to Toyota.
Ferrari’s V6-powered 499P has shown incredible pace, taking pole at the 1,000 Miles of Sebring and finishing second at Portimao in Portugal. At Spa, the 499P was the fastest in terms of top speed, which should stand it in good stead. The Ferrari AF Corse team will also field several past Le Mans class winners, plus former Formula One driver Antonio Giovinazzi.
Another big name looking to make an impact this year is Cadillac. Currently sitting fourth in the WEC, it will field two works cars and a third run by independent team Action Express. British driver Richard Westbrook finished third last year with Glickenhaus and will be looking to improve on that this year with the Cadillac V-Series.R.
Although Vanwall isn’t as big as Ferrari or Toyota, it has plenty of heritage in the racing world, winning the Formula One constructors’ championship in 1958. The German-based Vanwall Racing Team was rebranded from ByKolles Racing only this year and sits bottom of the WEC. Where most other teams use turbocharged and hybridised V8s or V6s, Vanwall is sticking with a good old-fashioned naturally aspirated V8 for its single-car entry.
Although Porsche Penske Motorsport’s WEC season hasn’t gone as expected, with just one podium place out of three races so far, the team has Le Mans royalty in its ranks with three-time champion André Lotterer. The team’s 963 will be decked out in a special livery honouring its past Le Mans winners as Porsche seeks to take a 20th win.
Toyota will once again run the GR010 Hybrid, but with modifications over last year’s car, such as improvements to brake cooling and the engine to make it more reliable. The Japanese team should be comfortable favourites, and with both cars featuring the six drivers that took the chequered flag in 2021 and 2022, it could be a winning formula.
Excitement over Peugeot’s 9X8 entry has been building steadily over the past year, especially for its wing-less design. The two cars that will be fielded include drivers Jean-Eric Vergne, Paul di Resta and Loic Duval. The 9X8 itself is the successor to the 905 that won at Le Mans in 1992 and 1993, and the 908, which won in 2009.
US movie producer James Glickenhaus will be looking to conjure up an Oscar-worthy script with his eponymous team. Glickenhaus first entered the Le Mans Hypercar class in 2021, and while it’s still a relatively young team, the experience of competing for the past two years should help massively against this year’s new entrants. There’s also a big presence in the Glickenhaus driver line-up with two-time winner Romain Dumas.