Today’s announced calendar changes to the FIA WEC’s current season are very significant, and will have ripple effects on the championship and the other major ACO and IMSA sportscar championships for the foreseeable future.
By holding the 6 Hours of Spa in August and making Bahrain the venue for the season finale in November, the WEC’s calendar will revert back to a calendar-year format from March to November, rather than the current winter schedule. This means that the 2021 season, ‘Season 9’ of the modern era WEC, will start next March at the earliest. It is almost certain that ‘Super Sebring’ will kick off the new campaign.
“I don’t have a crystal ball; I can’t give any guarantees,” FIA WEC CEO Gerard Neveu told RACER. “For 2021 everything is on the table (calendar wise). The only thing for certain in 2021 is that we will have ‘Super Sebring’ and Le Mans.
“I am speaking with IMSA every day — I can tell you that yes, we will be a part of ‘Super Sebring’ — you have no idea how frustrating it was that we couldn’t race there this year. This year’s event was ready to be an incredible event. It makes sense to hold ‘Super Sebring’ in 2021, that’s my plan. But (beyond that) it would be very arrogant right now to tell you what my new calendar looks like next year.”
Neveu did stress, however, that he was in contact with all the venues due to form part of the 2020-21 season, which includes new races at Monza and Kyalami, and that the ties between the WEC and those circuits are by no means broken.
The series chief wouldn’t rule out having fewer races next year, but he did say that the change in calendar format is permanent. This decision gives the teams time to prepare for the new season in the midst of “economic difficulties, which are automatic,” and perhaps more crucially for the future, puts the FIA WEC in line with the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship schedule.
“We are back to a regular season — Le Mans will not be the ‘Super Final’ of the WEC season, it will be in June in 2022. The advantage is that we will be on similar timing to the IMSA championship.”
This move also prompted a delay to the debut of both the Le Mans Hypercar and LMDh formulas.
Hypercar was due to debut at the opening round of the 2020-21 season, and it will now start with the opening of the forthcoming 2021 season. This means that Toyota, Glickenhaus and ByKolles, which are all due to race new Hypercars in Season 1 of the new regulations, will have longer to get their cars ready for their race debuts.
The global LMDh formula, meanwhile, was due to debut in the FIA WEC in September 2021 (for what would have been the opener of the 2021-22), but has been pushed back to the start of the 2022 IMSA/WEC seasons (WEC Season 10).
“This is the plan now — this is our plan, hope and expectation,” Neveu said. “In a few months you will see how this develops. If we have no manufacturers ready to race in 2022 we will have to help it. If they can be and a few are ready, we will welcome them from 2022.
“We have also got plans for the new LMP2 regulations in 2023, so this all works well,” Neveu added. “It will make it easy for the manufacturers and chassis manufacturers. This is the way for the FIA WEC.
“The lesson we can learn from this is that we have to be humble. This is a fluid situation. If I have to reconsider different models because it is the best for the future of sportscars, we will do it without any questions. I believe we have to consider that the economic world will change too. We have to integrate this into how we think of the future.”
The LMDh regulations themselves had been due to be revealed last month at Sebring. Yet despite Porsche telling RACER earlier this week that it was expecting the regulations to be finalized and released within the next two weeks, Neveu wouldn’t go into any detail about a planned timeframe for them being presented publicly.
“This is an ongoing situation,” he said. “At this moment today if you asked Jim France, Pierre Fillon, John Doonan and myself, we will say our first priority is the safety and health of the staff and the people of the world. An indication I can tell you, is that the connection between IMSA and the ACO is working every day — there are no days without strong work on the technical side.
“There are no weeks now without a steering committee meeting with management about LMDh. If you ask me where we are now, and if we are in a better position than in January, I would say yes. But the time to communicate this will arrive. At the moment the ACO, IMSA and the manufacturers involved in LMDh, including chassis manufacturers, are totally connected. Humility says that this is not the right time to communicate it. But the work is still progressing, and we are where we would like to be.”
Beyond the FIA WEC, the ACO has also released a revised, shortened 2020 ELMS calendar which features races at Paul Ricard, Spa, Barcelona, Monza and Portimao between July and November. Neveu gave a proviso that the season could start behind closed doors at Paul Ricard for the official test days and season opener (between July 13-19) if necessary.
Crucially for teams and drivers involved in the WEC and IMSA, there are no clashes with the ELMS. Neveu told the media that there was a specific drive to ensure that the ELMS race at Monza on October 11 doesn’t clash with Petit Le Mans, and the race at Portimao on November 1 doesn’t overlap with the new Sebring date.