Jacques Villeneuve joins ex-F1 contingent in new WEC Hypercar class in 2023

Jacques Villeneuve enters the Formula 1 paddock. Le Castellet July 2022. Credit: Alamy
Jacques Villeneuve enters the Formula 1 paddock. Le Castellet July 2022. Credit: Alamy

Jacques Villeneuve will be returning to endurance racing in 2023, after signing to race for Vanwall in the all-new Hypercar class this season.

The World Endurance Championship unveiled its full provisional entry list for the 2023 season, and a record number of teams will be competing in the top class – with 13 in all contesting the new hybrid Hypercar class, which has replaced LMP1 racers.

And the 1997 World Champion will be heading back into the WEC field for the first time in 15 years, having had two attempts at winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the past with Peugeot – finishing second in 2008 alongside Nicolas Minassian and former Minardi and Williams driver Marc Gené.

The 51-year-old is due to compete in the full WEC season this time around however, with Vanwall fielding an all-new car in the series with former GP2 driver Tom Dillmann and World Touring Car driver Esteban Guerrieri set to partner the Canadian this year.

The change to run a hybrid-spec Hypercar has led to a swathe of new entries into the World Endurance Championship in its top class, with plenty of other former Formula 1 drivers set to take part once again this season.

Former Alfa Romeo driver Antonio Giovinazzi will combine Ferrari reserve duties with driving their 499P Hypercar in its debut year, while the all-conquering Toyota team, with Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and driver-turned-team-principal Kamui Kobayashi all involved across their two cars, will come under significant challenges to its long-held crown in the series.

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For other ex-F1 talent to look out for, former Force India and Toro Rosso drivers Paul di Resta and Jean-Eric Vergne will team up at Peugeot this year, and former Minardi driver Gianmaria Bruni will step up to the Hypercar class with the #99 Porsche, after their move from the LMGTE class.

Three-time Le Mans winner and one-time F1 starter Andre Lotterer will drive the #5 Porsche, while two-time grand prix starter and Haas reserve Pietro Fittipaldi will drive for Jota in LMP2.

Plenty of spaces in the field are yet to be filled, but are sure to be done in the coming weeks as preparation for the WEC season ramps up, in time for when the year begins with the 1000 Miles of Sebring in March.

The 24 Hours of Le Mans is celebrating its centenary year in 2023, and is set to take place on 10 and 11 June at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

A virtual edition of the race is going to be run much sooner however, with Max Verstappen once again set to take part in the esports edition of the 24-hour race on 14 and 15 January with Team Redline.

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