Things are changing the sports car racing world and the FIA is adjusting World Endurance Championship's future course in response.
President of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), Pierre Fillon, and CEO of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), Gérard Neveu outlined new plans they hope will strengthen WEC.
Responding to the withdrawal of "certain manufacturers" (read Porsche) three 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 changes.
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 with Le Mans closing the Championship each year.
The 2018/19 schedule
April 5 & 6 The Prologue, Circuit Paul Ricard (FRA)
May 4 & 5 WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps (BEL)
June 16 & 17 24 Hours of Le Mans (FRA)
October 13 & 14 6 Hours of Fuji (JPN)
November 03 & 04 6 Hours of Shanghai (CHN)
February 2019 Place and event TBC
March 15 & 16 2019 12 Hours of Sebring (USA)
May 3 & 4 May 2019 WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps (BEL)
June 15 &16 June 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans (FRA)
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 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 include the WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps twice and a double helping of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
President of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, Jean Todt said, “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.
“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.
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.
The FIA claims 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 the headlining LMP1 class technical and sporting regulations from 2018/2019 regulations include:
- 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 is convinced that technology including Hybrid systems must keep its place of "honor" in Endurance racing, but not at any price. The exit of Audi and Porsche clearly showed the budgets invested over these last years in LMP1 Hybrid are no longer sustainable and there needs to be a return to reasonable budgets.
Todt added, “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.”
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