The 2018-2019 Super Season was unique for many reasons, and it was super in every sense! Stretching over 14 months in order to welcome in the cross-calendar year format, the season featured two visits to Spa and Le Mans, a hugely successful return to Sebring in the USA for a joint event with IMSA, 86 hours of racing, two former F1 World Champions on the entry list, incredible competition across all categories and a Super Finale which featured no fewer than 17 LMGTE Pro entries fighting nose to tail for victory. Toyota, Porsche, Signatech Alpine and Team Project 1 celebrated well-deserved championship titles following hard-fought battles, and the WEC is moving forward to its eighth season with great optimism and confidence.
Toyota reigns supreme in LMP1
With Toyota being the only hybrid-powered manufacturer in LMP1, there was little surprise that the Japanese marque was the dominant force during the Super Season, and the first to take the chequered flag at every round. But there was much more to the top class than at first glance, and the new, private LMP1 entries were beginning to push the well-developed and race proven TS050 HYBRIDS hard towards the end of the season. Toyota ultimately claimed its second FIA World Championship title at the penultimate round, with a healthy margin over second-placed Rebellion Racing.
Toyota’s all-star driver line up featured Fernando Alonso alongside its five regulars, and the two-time F1 World Champion brought far more to the WEC than just his world-class status, adapting seamlessly to endurance racing, embracing every aspect of the championship and becoming a firm member of the WEC family. With 5 victories from the 8 rounds, including two at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Spaniard claimed the FIA World Championship crown with Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima, the latter being the first Japanese driver ever to win an FIA championship.
The No.8 crew were pushed extremely hard all season by their teammates in the No.7 Toyota and José María López, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi were never stronger than at the Super Finale, leading for 23 hours. Cruel misfortune saw them finish second at a race they fully deserved to win.
Alonso wasn’t the only high-profile name in the WEC this season, with former F1 champion Jenson Button and Stoffel Vandoorne both contributing to SMP Racing’s line up. The popular Belgian took two podiums from his two outings and was another to adapt well, and quickly, to endurance racing. Rebellion Racing’s season was mixed in terms of results, although young Frenchman Thomas Laurent did enough to catch the eye of Toyota and was snapped up as its reserve driver for Season 8.
GTE crowns go to Porsche
In a Super Season with five GTE manufacturers, Aston Martin, BMW, Ferrari, Ford and Porsche, plus Corvette Racing also completing 50% of the championship, tough competition was guaranteed! All (except Corvette) took at least one victory in the season, but it was Porsche’s two 911 RSRs which were the most successful and consistent and that resulted in the German company taking its first FIA World Endurance Manufacturers Championship since 2015.
The GT Drivers’ World Championship was a close run affair, settled at the Super Finale, and Porsche’s Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen celebrated their first World Championship with two wins, including a memorable one in the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans, and four further podium finishes. Their consistency was justly rewarded, despite a rollercoaster ride at Le Mans which saw the duo finish back in 10th place (in class) after exhaust problems during the night.
Also winning twice was the AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE of Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado, the 2017 champions having a strong second half of the season to challenge for the title. Their win at the 2019 edition of Le Mans was Ferrari’s first there since 2014 and the relief in the Italian camp was evident.
Aston Martin Racing’s victory at the second Spa of the season was also a relief, as was BMW’s at the 1000 Miles of Sebring but none were able to match the Porsche’s strength from start to finish. Ford and BMW bowed out of the WEC at the end of the Super Season, the American manufacturer after a successful four years, and BMW after just one.
Signatech Alpine’s lesson in never giving up
For much of the season, it looked very much as though the LMP2 title would be going to Jackie Chan DC Racing, with the Chinese-entered team winning no fewer than five rounds. But the French Signatech Alpine team knows how to win a title, and they never gave up in their quest to be crowned class champions for the second time in three years. Nicolas Lapierre, André Negrão and Pierre Thiriet were masterful in their consistency, and maximum points at both editions of Le Mans helped tip the balance their way. The mix of youth, enthusiasm and experience in the Pro-Am category contributed to some great racing throughout the season, with the American DragonSpeed team also making two trips to the podium before finally claiming a debut victory in Spa 2019. Racing Team Nederland showed flashes of brilliance in its debut season and will no doubt come back stronger and wiser in Season 8.
Team Project 1: A dream debut season
As Porsche won in LMGTE Pro, so it did in LMGTE Am thanks to the efforts, professionalism and positive attitude of Team Project 1 and its three drivers, Jörg Bergmeister, Patrick Lindsey and Egidio Perfetti. The German team had a season-long battle with fellow Porsche competitors, Dempsey-Proton Racing, and the final outcome might have been very different if the latter had not fallen foul of the regulators in the first half of the season which resulted in them losing points for 4 races. They bounced back strongly with three wins, but it was Team Project 1 which, once again thanks to consistency, came through to claim the class title including maximum points at the Season Finale in Le Mans. Aston Martin and Ferrari teams couldn’t match the Porsches in 2018-19 and will be looking forward to exacting revenge next time around.