Radical Shake Up For WEC Announced
President of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), Pierre Fillon, and the CEO of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), Gérard Neveu, today outlined the pathway to a radical new-look to the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Faced with the loss of both Audi and Porsche in recent years, and with the future of Toyota still uncertain, the promoters have moved towards a major calendar change and revised LMP1 technical regulations designed to keep the cost of racing down and to encourage more privateer entries.
In a media statement issued in Mexico in the lead up to Sunday’s 6 Hour race, the ACO and WEC pointedly said that “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.”
Although full details are still being finalised, several major changes to the championship were revealed which will see it become a “Winter” based championship with 2018/19 to be a transitional season.
A highlight of the calendar so far is a return to Sebring for “a” 12 hour race, although not “the” 12 hour race. According to the release 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.
Also on the proposed calendar is a 2019 February date which could be a planned return to Daytona, although the traditional 24 hour race is currently run in late January.
Missing from the proposed calendar are Silverstone (UK), Nurburgring (GER), COTA (USA), Bahrain (UAE) and Mexico City (MEX).
The provisional 2018/2019 calendar, which remains subject to validation by the FIA World Motor Sport Council, will see four races taking place in 2018 and four in 2019 as part of an 18-month “Super Season”.
This transition season will 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.
The number of races will be reduced from 9 in 2017 to 8 in 2018/2019 (over 18 months) then to only 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.
The statement said that there were three fundamental parameters 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. They are:
• 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. (once again the “fans” come last – Ed)
• 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 have 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.
“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.” FIA President Jean Todt.
“The changes to the calendar are only one part of what will be a substantial change for top level sports car racing.
New technical regulations will be drawn to radically change the current two-tier LMP1 with only one united classification.
From the 2018-2019 season onwards, the level of performance of the current non-hybrid LMP1 regulations will be managed via equivalence of technologies to be aligned with the current LMP1 hybrid regulations.
According to the statement it’s proposed that each competitor entered in LMP1 will have the same potential of performance independent of the type of engine power used.
Although the statement admits that “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.
The biggest change will come in 2020 with the ACO virtually admitting that the proposed new rules announced in June at Le Mans were fundamentally flawed.
“The 2020 LMP1 regulations will be substantially altered as compared to the model presented during the last 24 Hours of Le Mans.” the statement said.
“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.”
The new regulations and calendar are a major shakeup, but it’s good to see the ACO act swiftly to try and minimise the damage caused by the withdrawal of Audi and Porsche and the possible loss of Toyota.
There’s still lots of unanswered questions though especially with the new US events which are in real danger of playing second fiddle to the growing IMSA North American Sports Car Championship.
President of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), Pierre Fillon admitted that the revamped rules package had been put together quickly but the ACO were confident that the championship was now heading back in the right direction.
“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.” he said.
“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.”
Proposed FIA WEC Calendar 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)