New-look WEC Calendar: Sebring once, Le Mans twice and a 15-month season

MotorNews.co.nz

President of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), Pierre Fillon, and CEO of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), Gérard Neveu, today outlined the pathway to an exciting new-look, strengthened WEC.

The plans include several innovative features which will not only continue the close and exciting competition between prototypes and GTE cars that has become the calling card of the WEC, but also offer competitors a viable and sustainable business model for the future.

The recent announcement of the withdrawal of certain manufacturers has offered the FIA and ACO an opportunity to accelerate the evolution process which was already underway, and to develop an exciting and enticing vision for the future.

Full details are still being finalised and will be announced in due course, but several innovative features were revealed which will ensure the continuation of a strong world endurance championship, one that has since its inception in 2012 become a vital part of manufacturers’ marketing and technical development strategies and the draw for entrants wishing to compete at the highest level in endurance racing.

Three fundamental parameters have been taken into account during the formulation of the new-look WEC, with the calendar, logistics, sporting and technical regulations being at the heart of the decisions:

•    All decisions must stay in line with Endurance Racing and the values of the discipline. The 24 Hours of Le Mans remain the point of reference.
•    The major focus remains the client (the competitor), the product (the sporting competition that is delivered) and the fans.
•    As a priority, for each of these decisions, the financial and economic aspects must be taken into consideration. It is essential to allow the WEC’s teams and partners to continue in the WEC with a viable and sustainable business model.

The plans have been presented to, and received the full support of, the President of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), Jean Todt and the FIA Endurance Commission led by its President, Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones.  The calendar and new sporting regulations will be presented to the FIA World Motor Sport Council for ratification in the coming days.

Significant calendar changes for future races; 2018/19 to be a transitional season

Five years ago, when the WEC was newly created, the desire was expressed to work on an inversed calendar, finishing at Le Mans with the flagship 24 Hour race.  This has not been possible until now.
In the future, there will be a 2018/2019 season and a 2019/2020 season and so on, the season’s races straddling two calendar years…and Le Mans will close the Championship each year.

2018/19
•    5 & 6 April:                     The Prologue, Circuit Paul Ricard (FRA) **
•    4 & 5 May:                     WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps (BEL)
•    16 & 17 June:                 24 Hours of Le Mans (FRA)
•    13 & 14 October:            6 Hours of Fuji (JPN)
•    03 & 04 November:        6 Hours of Shanghai (CHN)
•    February 2019:               Place and event TBC
•    15 & 16 March 2019:      12 Hours of Sebring (USA) *
•    3 & 4 May 2019              WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps (BEL)
•    15 &16 June 2019:          24 Hours of Le Mans (FRA)

NB * The 12 Hours of Sebring will be a combined event with the IMSA WeatherTech Championship but two separate races will be held.  From 10.00am to 10.00pm on Saturday, the IMSA WeatherTech race, and from 12 midnight to 12 noon Sunday the FIA WEC.

** The Prologue test at Circuit Paul Ricard will offer teams the opportunity to complete 36-hour endurance testing in preparation for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The provisional 2018/2019 calendar, which remains subject to validation by the FIA World Motors Sport Council, will see four races taking place in 2018 and four in 2019 as part of an 18-month “Super Season” – for the same budget as in 2017.

This transition season will be exceptional and include the WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps twice and, even better, a double helping of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

According to provisional calculations, in 2019/2020 an LMP2 team will run in the WEC with a budget similar to 2016; meaning 20% less than now.
With the new format of calendar, the number of races will be reduced from 9 in 2017 to 8 in 2018/2019 (over 18 months) then to 7 in 2019/2020 which is expected to be the ‘cruising speed’ for the WEC into the future.

This reduction automatically results in a cost reduction for the teams (entry fees, running costs, consumables etc) but also allows for new logistics to be used: using shipping rather than flying freight meaning that transportation costs are divided by three.

Changes to LMP1 technical and sporting regulations from 2018/2019 regulations

•    From 2018/2019, and in the future, there will only be one category (and consequently one classification) in LMP1

•    To make it as accessible as possible to join this category from the 2018-2019 season onwards, the level of performance of the current non-hybrid LMP1 regulations managed via equivalence of technologies will be aligned with the current LMP1 hybrid regulations.

•    Each competitor entered in LMP1 will have the same potential of performance independent of the type engine power used. Very clearly there will always be a slight advantage for the hybrid engine in terms of autonomy related to lower fuel consumption.

•    There will be no changes made to the current chassis regulations (only LMP1 chassis will be eligible) but to facilitate the access to LMP1, more choice and engine power options will be offered. Depending on the selected criteria, an Equivalence of Technology will be implemented between turbo compressed and normally aspirated engines (as done in the past between petrol and diesel).

All these decisions will apply for the next two seasons.

Other regulatory decisions, which are still being finalized, will be announced later on covering areas such as a reduction in the number of private tests and collective tests proposed.

The 2020 LMP1 regulations will be substantially altered as compared to the model presented during the last 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The ACO and the FIA remain wholeheartedly convinced that technology including Hybrid systems must keep its place of honour in Endurance racing, but not at any price.  The budgets invested over these last years in LMP1 Hybrid are no longer sustainable and a return to reasonable budgets should allow all manufacturers to compete in this discipline.

More details on the Technical Regulations will be presented over the coming weeks.

President of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, Jean Todt: “I am delighted with the new schedule and the changes to the WEC championship that will allow this great discipline within motorsport to make a fresh start.”

President of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), Pierre Fillon, comments: “We would like to sincerely thank Jean Todt, President of the FIA and Sir Lindsay Owen Jones, President of the Endurance Commission and all the commission members for their support. Many decisions, essential for the future of the WEC, have been made in record time.

“With the support of the WEC’s friends and partners at IMSA, agreement has been reached to return to Sebring with the 12 Hours of Sebring in the WEC calendar and we are really delighted about this.

“With all these decisions, we are confident of seeing a full and very competitive grid next season. We are already discussing with several manufacturers and privateer teams who are investigating very seriously entrance from 2018/2019 season in LMP1, taking into consideration that the LMP2 and GTE grids are already strong with a high level of commitment for the future.”

New-look WEC Calendar: Sebring once, Le Mans twice and a 15-month season

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