• Tim Fullbrook

The 5 best WEC and IMSA head-to-heads for 2022

Updated: Jan 20

Before the gloves are off, let's weigh up the heavyweight bouts.

Peugeot vs Toyota - Hypercar

They may have never raced in WEC competition at the same time, in fact the last time factory top-class machinery from Peugeot and Toyota went head-to-head in world championship competition was the last ever race of the World Sportscar Championship, at Magny-Cours in 1992; but this year that's about to change.

Old rivals, reunitied. Peugeot and Toyota battling at Donington Park, 1992. Photo: Martin Lee

A new chapter in the Hypercar era is about to commence as Peugeot, the second major OEM to build an LMH, makes their debut appearance in the category. When? We're not quite sure, but the French marque confirmed they will miss Sebring. The 9X8 carries not only the weight of a very different aerodynamic philosophy in its maximised ground-effect approach, but the hope of many that it might be the car to knock Toyota from their perch.

Image: Peugeot Sport

However, the GR010 is going to be a hard nut to crack. Dominant in 2021 despite technical difficulties the Japanese machine will, owing to the 'Joker' in homologation, return to racing action in a developed form.

Expect: Toyota to emerge champions due to competing every race, but Peugeot to turn up to Le Mans fighting.

Ferrari vs. Porsche - GTE PRO

I don’t need to recall the events of the 2021 season-ending 8H Bahrain for those reading this to know exactly why this rivalry has taken another step up.

Image: Porsche Newsroom

Ferrari and Porsche have been stalwarts of the GTE PRO category whilst their competitors have come and gone, but the intensity in their fight has never waned.

In 2022 Maranello and Stuttgart don’t just go to war once again, but do so for what might be the last time in GT Le Mans racing for the foreseeable future.

The GTE PRO category will come to an end after the 2022 season, afterwards GTE AM will be the sole grand touring class for the following season. After that, a GT3-based formula will be taking over and the likelihood is this will be another AM-style division. As such this year is the last chance to claim an out-and-out victory over your rival brand. Porsche can't overturn the 6-2 scoreline in World GT Manufacturers' titles, but they could stop Ferrari from adding one last trophy to the cabinet before they are reunited in the Hypercar class to battle again.

Expect: Porsche and Ferrari to be at each other, on and off the track, as the tensions from 2021 rumble on.

Cadillac Racing vs. Wayne Taylor - DPi

Both the Chip Ganassi-backed Cadillac Racing and Acura factory-supported Wayne Taylor Racing will both look back at the 2021 IMSA season wondering what might have been.

Image: Cadillac

The #01 DPi-V.R came within laps of winning the Rolex24 on return for the debuting DPi team, as Kevin Magnussen and Renger van der Zande would have to wait till Belle Isle before the squad picked up their first win. Four more podiums would see the team finish fourth in the championship, more than making their presence known in the top class.

Whilst WTR's first season with the Acura ARX-05 saw them claim the Michelin Endurance Cup the #10 crew would narrowly miss out on the overall championship, as their fight with the #31 Whelen Engineering came down to the final lap of Petit Le Mans.

Into 2022 and the Chip Ganassi-run programme will arrive at Daytona with two full-season cars, bolstered by the addition of sportscar legend Sebastian Bourdais (who partners Van der Zande as full-season drivers) former Porsche factory driver Earl Bamber and 2020 24h Le Mans GTE PRO winner Alex Lynn (full-season pair in the #02).

Image: Jake Galstad/Acura Motorsports

Felipe Albuquerque and Ricky Taylor are a pairing with a sense of inevitability about them, as the duo return to the WTR stable for another season, with crosshairs firmly set on claiming the team's first Prototype title since 2017.

Both the Acura and Cadillac are proven championship-winning cars, it's now up to the teams and drivers to extract the maximum in what is the closing chapter in the DPi before both return in 2023 as factory LMDh squads.

Expect: Cadillac Racing and WTR to exchange fastest laps, poles, race wins, and the championship lead all the way to the checkered flag at Road Atlanta in October.

Team WRT vs. JOTA vs. United Autosports - LMP2

This might be more of a head-to-head-to-head, but a three-way fight forecast in the WEC's 2022 LMP2 division is well worth bending the rules of this article for.

The battle for the title last season was nothing short of titanic, as a rookie Team WRT squad overthrew the might of established LMP2 operations at JOTA and United Autosports to claim a stellar championship win.

Image: Gabi Tomescu for Adrenal Media/FIA WEC

On-track the battle might end up being the focus of the camera operators, as it so often was in 2021. The quasi-spec category sees the margins between the top cars hovering between hundredths and thousandths of a second at times, owing to all teams operating the bullet-proof Oreca 07.

It's in entry lists like these, that the drivers make the difference. Looking ahead to 2022 we see altered driver line-ups, and the likelihood that this fight is set to rage into the new term.

United return to a two-car operation, with the #22 of the ever-quick Felipe Albuquerque and Phil Hanson joined by Will Owen, as the added #32 machine features aforementioned Alex Lynn, former Audi LMP1 driver and 2017 24h Le Mans LMP2 winner Oli Jarvis, with the young talent Josh Pierson who will be 16 when he debuts at Sebring in March.

JOTA's two cars for 2022 sees plenty of seat swapping. A completely new roster for the #28 features former Audi DTM driver Jonathan Aberdein, 2016 Indy Lights champion and 2017 Indy 500 podium finisher Ed Jones, with rising star Oliver Rasmussen.

WRT's driver crew is yet to be announced, with only Sean Gelael – who leaves JOTA for the reigning LMP2 champions – revealed as the headline driver of the #31.

Expect: These three teams to be regulars on the podium, and a very excited commentary team exclaiming over some incredibly close on-track battles.

Heart of Racing vs. Pfaff Motorsport - GTD PRO

The battle for the GTD championship in 2021 proved the first chapter in what could be a growing rivalry in the class.

Heart of Racing, Aston Martin’s main representative in the category for the last two years and current WeatherTech Sprint Cup victors, and Pfaff Motorsport, the parent company representing one of the largest Porsche dealership in Canada and claimants to the overall GTD crown in 2021, are set to battle it out once again. In 2022 however, the stakes are higher.

Image: Jordan Lenssen/Pfaff Motorsport

Both teams signed on the dotted line for the GTD PRO category. No longer are they tasked with ensuring driver time for their paying driver, and balancing the learning curve and outright pace between pro-rated factory drivers and ‘AM’-rated silver/bronze drivers, it’s now all about one thing; being the fastest car on track.

The #9 911 GT3 R bares the typical plaid colour scheme of the Canadian outfit, but will now also home two of Porsche’s biggest weapons in their arsenal. The ever-growing and ever-impressive Matt Campbell will be joined by Mathieu Jaminet for the full season, with newly announced Porsche LMDh driver Felipe Nasr acting as third driver at Daytona and potentially as enduro driver for the rest of the season.

Sounds like an unbeatable set-up right? Well Heart of Racing certainly come into the category with their main guns packing firepower.

Image: Jamey Price Photo

Ross Gunn returns to the #23 Vantage AMR GT3 with renewed confidence as reigning GTD Sprint Cup champ, and undoubtedly the young Aston Martin driver will continue building the evidence to him being a star of his generation. Adding to this is Alex Riberas, who debuted with the team towards the end of 2021 and is certainly a driver on the way up. Gunn and Riberas joined by none other than GT racing legend Maxime Martin for the endurance rounds.

Expect: Pfaff and HOR to find themselves scoring points consistently, and showing factory-backed Corvette and Team RLL how this GTD fight goes down.

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