Doha, Qatar: Qatar’s iconic Lusail International Circuit is set to make its FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) debut with the season-opening 2024 Qatar Airways Qatar 1812km as action begins with two free practice sessions today.

The distance of the Saturday’s main race, 1812 km following tomorrow’s qualifying sessions, is inspired by Qatar’s National Day – a celebration of the country’s national pride.

Two additional races - the Lusail Classic Endurance Race and the Qatar Touring Car Championship - will complete the line up on a packed weekend of high-octane action.

The 2024 MotoGP Qatar Airways Grand Prix of Qatar next week will round up the spectacular Lusail Speed Fest.

The inaugural Qatar 1812km will see an astonishing 19 Hypercars, 18 LMGT3 cars, and a record-breaking 14 manufacturers taking part in the highly-anticipated event. The contest will see cars racing simultaneously across the two categories for under 10 hours.

Earlier this week, the Prologue event for the WEC 2024 season set the pace for three days of thrilling action with Frederic Makowiecki putting the No.5 Penske Motorsport on top on final day of test sessions.

In the exciting Hypercar competition, champions Toyota Gazoo Racing are renewed and ready to defend their FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) titles against the biggest-ever grid.

After seeing off challenges from Cadillac, Ferrari, Peugeot and Porsche last season on its way to a fifth consecutive world title double, Toyota Gazoo Racing are joining a strong field including newcomers Alpine, BMW, Isotta Fraschini and Lamborghini.

The line-up of the championship-winning #8 car remains unchanged with Sebastian Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa back to defend their title. In the #7 car, Mike Conway and team principal Kamui Kobayashi are joined by ex-F1 driver and WEC newcomer Nyck de Vries.

“Some people thought it was not a tough fight for us in 2023 because we won all but one race but it wasn’t east at all. The other manufacturers have a margin to improve that is bigger than us 100% and I expect them to be closer and more capable of winning races in 2024,” Buemi, WEC’s most successful driver having won 24 WEC races and four titles, said ahead of the season opener.

“We will work hard and try to improve, of course, but the regulations do not allow you to develop the car really, some small things yes. The season is long, eight races, one more, here it is a long race, after Le Mans, so it’s going to be important to get to do the best we can from the start,” he added.

The new class of LMGT3 would add excitement to the 2024 WEC season as 18 LMGT3 cars will line up on the grid, featuring two cars each from nine different manufacturers.

The icing on the cake is the WEC debut of seven-time MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi, who would represent Team WRT. He is part of a two-car line-up for the Belgian WEC veterans racing the BMW M4 LMGT3, with Rossi’s car carrying his signature #46.

Speaking in November about his foray into endurance racing, the 45-year-old said: “I am very excited to compete in the FIA WEC. It is the next step for me to participate in a world championship, not only in Europe but to race globally again. I am already familiar with the car after this season, but the format with three drivers from three different performance categories will be new for me. Overall, I believe we will be very well positioned.”

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