Drivers have responded angrily to the now-confirmed date change for the FIA WEC’s fourth round of the coming season at Fuji Speedway in Japan.
The race was initially listed on the WEC’s calendar for October 12-14 but was moved a week later to avoid clashing with IMSA’s season finale, Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.
Problems arose though, in the wake of the confirmed signing by Toyota Gazoo Racing of double F1 World Champion and 2018 McLaren F1 driver Fernando Alonso. The new WEC date clashed with the U.S. Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas and Alonso’s contract dictates that his F1 commitments take priority.
Fuji Speedway is owned and operated by Toyota and the race weekend is one of the best attended on the WEC calendar.
As speculation arose over a date change, Oliver Jarvis expressed dismay.
If true….I understand the benefit for commercial reasons for WEC, Toyota & Fuji BUT what about all the drivers who have already done deals based on the current Calender & who have been a loyal part of the championship for many years? https://t.co/sdaKDR7qnU
— oliver jarvis (@ollyjarvis) February 1, 2018
It was clear from the moment that Alonso was signed that pressure would be brought to bear by Toyota to allow their new signee to race and compete for the full season, and thereby the World Championship. That pressure was successful, aided in no small part by the PR battering that the WEC has received in the wake of the consecutive withdrawals of Audi and Porsche’s factory LMP1 teams over the past two seasons.
The revised date was announced as part of a run-through the ‘Super Season’ calendar by WEC boss Gerard Neveu in Paris earlier today but its confirmation has heavy drawn criticism, with several Pro drivers already having dual commitments in both the WEC and IMSA Championships.
Ford WEC factory driver Olivier Pla responded angrily on Twitter.
Many thanks @FIAWEC I can’t believe you did it… your lack of consideration and respect for the drivers who had a contrat with a team in IMSA to race in NAEC the same weekend are unbelievable. I’m sure I will be not the only one to be impressed with what you did
— Olivier Pla (@olivierpla) February 9, 2018
Indeed he wasn’t. BMW factory man Nicky Catsburg saying on Twitter: “Unbelievable!”
Harry Tincknell, Mike Conway, Bruno Senna, Renger van der Zande and Augusto Farfus are among the other drivers directly affected.
I am just SORRY for all of the drivers who will have to miss Petit or Fuji due to this ridiculous date change. I hope @FIAWEC still remembers Endurance is a TEAM SPIRIT sport and is not a single individual who does the show!
— Pipo Derani (@PipoDerani) February 9, 2018
Fans too have expressed unhappiness, some having booked travel for the previously announced Fuji date, the draw of the popular fixture one of the highlights of the WEC season.