United Autosports is ramping up for a busy stretch of racing in the first half of next year that will see the Anglo-American squad take on the Asian Le Mans Series and opening rounds of the FIA World Endurance Championship and European Le Mans Series, with few off-weekends to spare.
The veteran prototype outfit, which plans to enter a pair of Oreca 07 Gibson LMP2 entries in each of the three series, begins its 2023 campaign in the United Arab Emirates in February on back-to-back weekends at the Dubai Autodrome and Yas Marina Circuit for the condensed four-round Asian LMS season.
Its WEC effort will kick off just three weeks later with the Prologue pre-season test at Sebring International Raceway, immediately followed by the 1000 Miles of Sebring on the following weekend.
The busiest period, however, comes with the start of the European seasons, with the newly added 6 Hours of Portimao WEC round on April 16 kicking off a four-week run of consecutive races between the world championship and ELMS, which opens its season in Barcelona one week later on April 23.
While having previously shared support equipment between the ELMS and European leg of the WEC season, United has had to bolster its infrastructure for next year largely due to the nature of the calendars according to team co-owner and managing director Richard Dean.
“We clearly have to think about how we manage it,” he told Sportscar365. “Cars, trucks, people, equipment, what you can’t do is share any of that.
“Cars we don’t share. I don’t think there’s a team anywhere that does WEC and ELMS with the same car; it’s an impossibility.
“But when you come to Europe, we have been using some of the ELMS LMP2 kit for when WEC comes into Europe.
“You’ve just got to plan ahead. There’s a bit of investment, there’s new kit and equipment.
“One of the reasons why we’re not going to be out at [the Rolex 24 at Daytona] is to allow us to prepare for that period, investing and gearing up for that.”
With the addition of a seventh event, the WEC sees its opening three rounds take place in a six-week period from mid March to late April, while the three post-24 Hours of Le Mans races are spread out by nearly four months.
Newly crowned three-time world champion Sebastien Buemi has been among drivers that have questioned the ‘rushed’ nature of the first half of the season, which sees a 17-week gap between the fifth round at Monza and the Bahrain season finale in November.
The Toyota Gazoo Racing driver is also having to juggle his full-season ABB FIA Formula E World Championship commitments during the spring stretch of races.
“It’s obviously not easy, I have to say. More races makes it even more difficult,” Buemi told Sportscar365.
“What I do question now — and I don’t know all aspects of it and it’s of course very difficult to speak about or comment — but I struggle to understand the Portimao race being two weeks before Spa.
“Then as soon as Monza is over, basically until March of the following year we have two races. It’s like nine months and we have two races.
“It feels like we rush lots of stuff.
“I had the feeling that Sebring, Spa and Le Mans was nice. I would have added a race later on.”
The WEC has cited logistics reasons for the makeup of the schedule, with equipment needing to be sea-freighted from Sebring to Europe in the spring and then Monza to Fuji, which marks a two-month gap for the latter.
“I understand the issue with the freight and trying to make it less expensive,” Buemi said. “Maybe it needs to go sea-freight, which means it has to go early.
“But in my opinion, it would have been better to add another race, even in Europe, after Monza, and then potentially delay Bahrain by two or three weeks, and have it in the last week of November, and get Fuji a bit later as well.
“Fuji is always an issue [with the date] because if you get it late, it gets bad weather.”
While there are no date clashes between WEC and Formula E races, per an agreement from the two series, United’s Dean believes the biggest issue with the WEC schedule are the two conflicting events with the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
Two of United’s drivers — Filipe Albuquerque and Tom Blomqvist — will have to prioritize their WeatherTech Championship commitments over the WEC races at Portimao and Monza, a situation that’s set to impact multiple other drivers and teams.
“My priority would be the two conflicts we’ve got between IMSA,” Dean said. “That’s priority number one.
“We can cope with back-to-back races; we’re geared up for it with a little bit more investment in kit. But it’s impossible to be in two places at once and you have conflicts with drivers and everything.”