WEC CEO Gerard Neveu has called upon IMSA to consider rescheduling its season finale at Road Atlanta to remove a clash with the WEC’s Fuji round.
The Fuji race was moved forward a week from its original date to avoid a conflict with the U.S. Formula 1 Grand Prix at Austin, which would have prevented Fernando Alonso from taking his place in Toyota’s LMP1 line-up due to his contract requiring F1 to take priority.
Keen to avoid having Toyota race at its home track without its star draw, the WEC rescheduled the event, but the new date places it in conflict with Petit Le Mans, which triggered an angry response from several drivers who were committed to racing at both.
Neveu said that he understands their frustration, and called upon IMSA to look at the possibility of a date change for Petit Le Mans to solve the problem.
“When you take a decision like this you know that always there will be some people who are happy, and some who are not,” Neveu said.
“We work always to protect the interests of the championship and this is first and foremost what we took into consideration. How could we have someone like Fernando Alonso in our paddock, racing for Toyota, and say we are going to Japan without him in their car? For Japanese fans, to respect what Toyota is doing, and for the championship as well … Alonso is racing for a World Championship, and to win that he can’t miss a race. It was logical and if you ask the Japanese fans they are very happy.
“We understand this causes trouble for some other drivers and my hope – a big hope – is that maybe that IMSA can find a way to move the date, because we have done it before and it’s possible. We are a partnership with them, and we know it’s very difficult to change dates, but we will try for a solution but it’s a big challenge. We of course informed IMSA about this weeks ago, and they fully understood – believe me they completely understand the added value that a driver can bring.”
Neveu reiterated that accommodating Toyota – the last manufacturer in its headlining LMP1 class, following the withdrawal of Audi and Porsche over the past two years, is critical to the WEC’s bigger picture.
“The fact is that first we took into consideration the biggest interests of the championship, and to have Alonso with us in Japan was just that,” he said.
“We know it’s very difficult for those drivers who are disappointed, but we are trying to look after global interests and that’s very important. In the end, for us, this made sense. I am sorry for the drivers who now have a clash, and I hope we will find a solution with our partners from America. There was no other weekend possible for us to move our Fuji race to.”