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Portimao Returns in Expanded Seven-Round 2023 Schedule

Addition of 6H Portimao increases WEC calendar to seven rounds for 2023 season…

Photo: MPS Agency

The FIA World Endurance Championship will increase to a seven-round season next year following confirmation that Portimao will be added to the 2023 schedule.

The Algarve International Circuit in Portugal, which first hosted a WEC round in 2021, returns to the calendar as an additional fourth European round after not featuring this year.

The 6 Hours of Portimao will take place on April 16, marking the second round of the season.

It joins Sebring, Spa-Francorchamps, Le Mans, Monza, Fuji and Bahrain, all of which have been retained from this year’s calendar.

The 2023 campaign is due to start with the 1000 Miles of Sebring on Friday, March 17, as part of the ‘Super Sebring’ weekend shared with the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. It will be preceded by an official ‘Prologue’ test on March 11-12.

There is a four-week gap between Sebring and Portimao, while the 6 Hours of Spa in Belgium follows the Portuguese round by two weeks on Sat., April 29.

Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS recently rescheduled its planned rounds at Monza and Brands Hatch to avoid clashes with Portimao and Spa.

As previously announced, the 24 Hours of Le Mans is due to take place on June 10-11.

The 91st edition of the French endurance classic will mark the centenary of the event’s first running in 1923, with an expanded Hypercar grid including new prototypes from Peugeot, Ferrari, Porsche and Cadillac.

The 6 Hours of Monza is booked for early July, with the next overseas round at Fuji Speedway in Japan scheduled for nine weeks later in early September.

The season will then conclude at the 8 Hours of Bahrain on Nov. 4, as part of a long-term deal between the WEC and the Middle Eastern circuit through 2027.

“It is a very exciting period for FIA WEC with the growth and calibre of our Hypercar class and we have expanded to include another event, with a return to Portugal,” said WEC CEO Frederic Lequien.

“Portimao showcased its potential when we raced there in 2021, so it is fantastic to return there next year.

“We worked closely with all our stakeholders to produce a schedule which works well for the needs of our entrants and fans. 2023 should provide a fantastic season of racing and we can’t wait for it to get underway.”

The expansion to seven rounds represents the latest step in the WEC’s cautious rebound from the coronavirus pandemic, which prompted the championship to slim down to a six-round calendar for the 2021 and 2022 seasons.

An eight-round schedule was used for the first four years of the WEC, while a ninth event in Mexico was added for the 2016 and 2017 campaigns.

The series returned to eight races for its temporary move to a ‘winter’ calendar in 2018-19 and 2019-20, before pandemic-related travel and logistical restrictions caused the organizers to make sweeping changes for last year’s return to the single-year format, with six rounds at five tracks and a Bahrain double-header in response to Fuji’s cancelation.

“Endurance fans and competitors have an outstanding season to look forward to,” said ACO President Pierre Fillon. “With seven races lined up, the FIA WEC has an extra round compared to recent seasons – a packed schedule – although caution is appropriate in these volatile times.”

Aside from Sebring, there are two clashes with WeatherTech Championship GTP races next year. The first is between Portimao and the Grand Prix of Long Beach, and the second is between Monza and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

There are no scheduling conflicts between WEC and ABB FIA Formula E World Championship race weekends, meanwhile.

2023 FIA World Endurance Championship Schedule:
March 11-12 – Prologue test (Sebring)
March 17 – 1000 Miles of Sebring
April 16 – 6H Portimao
April 29 – 6H Spa
June 10-11 – 24H Le Mans
July 9 – 6 Hours of Monza
Sept. 10 – 6H Fuji
Nov. 4 – 8H Bahrain

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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