Neveu: Sebring WEC Return to be a “Unique Event”

Photo: Wes Duenkel/Ford

FIA World Endurance Championship CEO Gerard Neveu believes its return to Sebring will produce a “super exciting and unique event” in the double 12-hour format.

The WEC announced last week that Sebring would return as part of the 2018-19 “Super Season” schedule, featuring a standalone 12-hour race running after the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, which will remain as part of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

A deal for the unique double-header in March 2019, featuring a two-hour gap between the races, was only inked last Thursday after a meeting in Miami between Neveu, ACO President Pierre Fillon and IMSA officials.

“We started to discuss this two years ago,” Neveu told Sportscar365. “We discussed with our partners at IMSA and said we’d really love to be back at Sebring.

“Always when we put the [idea] on the table, Scott [Atherton, IMSA President] explained to me that it’s not possible for many reasons, which I understood.

“On [Thursday] we set up a meeting with them. We put our idea on the table and said, ‘We sincerely believe that we have to continue to work very close together, which is important. And we have to see the long-term together.'”

Neveu said a shared race, which occurred at Sebring in 2012 between the WEC and American Le Mans Series, was not an option this time around for a number of reasons.

The event, which served as the inaugural race for the WEC, saw compromises from both series, including a limited grid for ALMS competitors as well as seperate classifications and podiums.

“After many discussions and many simulations, we understood to be there at the same time on the track is impossible,” Neveu said.

“I fully understood they have a strong championship and they didn’t want to damage the grid. They don’t want to eliminate any cars and I’m exactly on the same position as them for my championship.

“We asked, ‘How can we do a shared weekend? That could be a value for you and for us… For the American fans and for both championships, without any damage.’

“The idea is to do it like this.”

The double-header will see the traditional 12-hour run from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., with the WEC race getting the green flag at midnight and running into a Sunday afternoon finish.

“For the fans, I feel it’s more fun to have the two races run consecutively, more or less, because of the action, but with the same length,” Neveu said.

“It means 12-12, you have day, night, sunset, sunrise, action, etc. That’s very good.

“We’re able to respect the DNA of each championship and sharing the same weekend to get the fans.

“Sebring is a huge event and this format will be super exciting and unique event.”

Neveu said details on the logistics involved to put on such an event have yet to be worked out, although admitted they have time to finalize the details.

Questions such as paddock space, pit lane configuration and the overall weekend schedule will have to be answered.

“That’s a problem we’ll have to manage and we have a year and a half to work on it,” he said.

“When you are between reasonable people we will find a solution I’m sure. We’ll find a way to do it for sure.”

With their renewed link with IMSA, Neveu hopes the joint Sebring weekend can only grow the relationship between the two sports car championships.

“I think that’s the wish from Pierre and from Jim [France, IMSA Chairman], to say we’re not against [each other],” he said.

“We’re doing a parallel way together and we have to advance together with the same spirit and the same view.

“For this reason, for us to be in America, if we tell you what the paddock suggests, it makes sense to be [at Sebring].”

53 Comments

  1. Joe

    September 5, 2017 at 9:05 am

    I go for race day…so while it sounds great…I’ll be going home at the end of the official 12 hr race. Here’s to hoping they don’t jack up the price for something I won’t be attending.

    • Andy Flinn

      September 5, 2017 at 9:49 am

      I’ll enjoy them both. It will be like a Rolex24, only at Sebring with a built in potty/nap/snack break.

      As someone who has been to Sebring multiple times since 1978, I’m looking forward to Sebring 2019.

      • Johannes275

        September 5, 2017 at 3:15 pm

        Sebring is not supposed to be a 24 hour thing though. It’s ONE twelve hour race that gets a lot of attention

        • Andy Flinn

          September 5, 2017 at 4:57 pm

          Uh, it won’t be a 24-hour race.

          It will be TWO 12-hour races.

    • Punisher

      September 5, 2017 at 5:04 pm

      I to am looking forward to the extra event. How much of the WEC race will I watch before sun up remains to be seen as I don’t stay up all night at Daytona either. This is also taxing on the Factories, such as Porsche, as they support teams in both series and will have to be up all night. I guess they will bring in more people. Lot’s of things, but mostly, exciting.

      • Blaneysellstrashbags@Ring24

        September 6, 2017 at 8:12 am

        Three totally separate teams. Porche North American GTLM has nothing to do with Porche GTPro or LMP1. Granted I did see a couple of the Porsche guys from the IMSA ream in the pit area at CoTA observing the WEC GT team but they are totally separate for the most part

  2. Seth

    September 5, 2017 at 9:11 am

    This is gonna to be amazing, best sports car news this year. I can’t wait, this is going to be a great experience in person I’m sure.

  3. Change it up

    September 5, 2017 at 9:47 am

    I’ve been flying down to Florida for the Rolex 24 for the past 2 years now, the 12 hour race wasn’t long enough to justify flying down from the Northeast even though I’ve always wanted to go to Sebring. I’m definitely going to this versus the 24 now! Such an exciting event to come!

    • Andy Flinn

      September 5, 2017 at 5:01 pm

      Change, it won’t be an either or deal for me.

      Just like last year, this year and next year, I plan on going to both Daytona and Sebring in 2019.

  4. jason

    September 5, 2017 at 9:49 am

    I think they should start the race the next morning during or after sunrise not midnight. Just a bit too much. It will deter teams from wanting to run both events. Such as the WeatherTech team for instance.

    Also it could prevent a team like Ford from being able to run 4 cars in one race.

    Still it gives us something fun to talk about!

    • Change it up

      September 5, 2017 at 9:58 am

      A 3am start would be nice. getting 5 or 6 hours of sleep for a 24 hour spectacle is always nice.

      • jason

        September 5, 2017 at 1:23 pm

        That could work as well. Need more time to set up pit lane and clean the track. 90 to 120 minutes would be a rush.

        I would not be surprised if that the start is modified.

  5. Kurt

    September 5, 2017 at 10:05 am

    Incredibly ironic, that WEC is now saying ‘we need to work together’ as soon as the lmp1 class is in danger. Didn’t seem to be interest in anything IMSA was doing before. That schedule will be crazy but excellent for the fans!

    • Kevin

      September 5, 2017 at 10:53 am

      Right? Isn’t that funny??? Now DPi is a consideration. 😒

      • Blaneysellstrashbags@Ring24

        September 6, 2017 at 8:16 am

        Yea Scott Atherton has played this very cool. Indicating no interest to deal with the ACO all the while knowing the ACO would have to come to him and not the other way around. I kije how all the DPi naysayers are suddenly quiet

  6. Taylor

    September 5, 2017 at 10:05 am

    How will pit lane work for the WEC event? Will the WEC crews jump over a pit wall?

    • Mike

      September 5, 2017 at 10:12 am

      There are no garages at Sebring anyway, so this would have been the case no matter what they did unless they were to decide to build a brand new backstretch pit lane tomorrow.

  7. Kyle

    September 5, 2017 at 10:09 am

    I’ve always thought a joint weekend with IMSA for the WEC US round is a must. It gives us NA fans a lot of bang for the buck and creates a very exciting weekend. I’m very much looking forward to the joint Sebring race. It’s nice to see WEC returning to a track with history and character instead of boring CotA.

    However, my one big concern is crossover. With only a two hour gap and the strain Sebring puts on cars, how are teams going to run both events? Corvette seems to like to run WEC NA events, and we usually get a good handful of WEC teams for the two Florida races. But unless you have an extra car, can both events be realistically be done?

    • Helmut

      September 6, 2017 at 9:37 am

      Not really. You would have to go carefully and slow down during the first race to ensure that you’re still around when the second race starts, and even then you obviously have a disadvantage compared to those who just compete in the second race.

  8. Parker

    September 5, 2017 at 10:14 am

    Take Rebellion for example. Will they now skip the 12 Hours of Sebring to focus solely on the WEC event? Is this a case where the addition of the WEC event will lead to a reduced number of entries for the IMSA race.

    • Travis McBee

      September 5, 2017 at 11:00 am

      And skip Petit Le Mans…

    • Lanky Turtle

      September 5, 2017 at 12:04 pm

      Absolutely. No way any of the WEC teams will run the actual 12 Hour when they have their own 12 hour race to do. I guess there’s a slight chance a team could bring over an extra car and prepare for what would essentially be a 24 hour race, but that would be a huge increase in budget and resources.

    • Bakkster

      September 5, 2017 at 12:21 pm

      It’s an interesting question, though we don’t even know what Rebellion plans to race in 2019.

      For Rebellion specifically, they now have three chassis, with one specifically staying in the US. It wouldn’t be an issue of hardware, but of whether they want their drivers and crew to be tired.

  9. Mike

    September 5, 2017 at 10:18 am

    Thoughts:

    1) Good on IMSA for not backing down on the combined 12, even though it would the better spectacle if they could come together to resolve the issues (grid capacity, tires, classes, pit stops, etc). The reality is IMSA has them by the balls for participation in their race right now and the WEC would need to concede a lot to change that.

    2) The “we’ve done many simulations and had discussions and a joint 12 would not be possible” shtick is lazy from both sides. You could resolve many of the issues, though any rumors about it leaking could upset current partners (for example — the current Continental tire partnership expires in 2018, an agreement could/would need to see an IMSA DPi/P2 tire change).

    3) I really think they should revise the WEC race back an hour or two. 0100 or 0200 start time still gives the “into the light” effect but also gives more potential for a better spectacle — cleaner track, more potential crossover entries, etc.

    • Lanky Turtle

      September 5, 2017 at 12:08 pm

      That’s what I’d like to see too. Make it a 10 hour race and start later, or preferably the day after or before.

  10. Sol Shine

    September 5, 2017 at 10:26 am

    Oh yeah, fabulous. Except where are they going to get the volunteers to run the bloody thing? Racing doesn’t happen without corner workers, who are volunteers, and who are getting burned out by these super long days. More and more are leaving the sport, this kind of thing isn’t going to help. At most events they don’t have enough volunteers to give anyone a break. The 24 hour is bad enough, this is now a 26 hour. Did the big heads really think this through all that well? Not one commenter here even seems to be aware of this problem that threatens road racing on this continent, which seems to be pretty normal for racing “fans” that really don’t know what happens behind the scenes.

    • Coach Ep

      September 5, 2017 at 10:35 am

      It’s a minor issue as races are more and more run by race control with tv/security cameras anyway, for on track incidents safety crews are being used, no need to have large numbers of marshals/corner workers, just a few will do as long as they have communication in place to fill in the blanks or correct the images as shown on the cameras. Nurburgring 24H for example is staffed with 4 marshals per station/turn for the entire race that alter in shifts to cover 12 hours per team of two. Same can be done at Sebring 2019.

      • Larry

        September 5, 2017 at 5:27 pm

        Coach, you have no idea what you are talking about.

        Ever worked a corner or driven in a race?

        I doubt it.

        Ever even been to Sebring?

        • NaBUru38

          September 5, 2017 at 8:42 pm

          If there’s not enough volunteers, they could offer money…

  11. Coach Ep

    September 5, 2017 at 10:28 am

    I wonder how many cars the WEC 12 hours will host, have we seen anything over 30 cars on the grid for any of the non LM WEC races? The average grid has been closer to 25 I think. Providing similar entertainment with almost half the cars than the IMSA 12H grid seems doubtful.

    • Blaneysellstrashbags@Ring24

      September 6, 2017 at 8:19 am

      Suspect by 2019 WEC will be back to its normal field of 30 35 cars.

      • Helmut

        September 6, 2017 at 9:39 am

        Highly unlikely 😉

  12. Get Your Own Races WEC

    September 5, 2017 at 10:31 am

    This is dumb, it will take away from the IMSA race… Shall we run a second 24hrs of Le Mans too? I mean they won’t let IMSA into that race…

    • Slicks in the wet

      September 5, 2017 at 12:18 pm

      Lol. This is a strange reaction. I welcome more endurance sports car racing anywhere. If WEC wants to mirror every IMSA weekend, do it!

  13. Steve Zilliox

    September 5, 2017 at 11:12 am

    Why screw with tradition. NASCAR tried to change the Southern 500 at Darlington and we, the paying fans, said NO!!! We, the paying fans, say if the WEC wants to have a 12 Hour at Sebring, have their event in May as a ‘tune-up’ or ‘qualifier’ for Le Mans. Leave our 12 Hours of Sebring alone.

    • Kirk

      September 5, 2017 at 1:25 pm

      They did. The 12 Hours is still the same race. You can enjoy it and then either choose to watch the WEC race or not.

  14. Lanky Turtle

    September 5, 2017 at 12:14 pm

    I’m excited to have the WEC back at Sebring and prefer this arrangement to not having it at all. I just think it’d be better if it was a 6 to 10 hour race that runs Friday or Sunday. The one thing I don’t like is since they will have their own race at Sebring, and a TBA race in February, I think it will be much less likely that we’ll have teams coming over to run the Rolex 24 and NAEC races.

    • Slicks in the wet

      September 5, 2017 at 12:20 pm

      I agree most extra entries won’t happen. Not when their championship has actual rounds so close to calendar.

      I can’t say no to this setup. But I’d more quickly say yes to a slightly tweaked setup.

  15. fourloko

    September 5, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    too much racing for 1 day. like the split so theres not as long of a gap between imsa/wec races

  16. Jay

    September 5, 2017 at 1:28 pm

    I love the idea – watching both the IMSA series (Weathertech and CTSCC) and the WEC at COTA last year was awesome. Gives us NA sportscar fans lots of racing across a broad(er) spectrum of cars and technology. Getting to see the WT dP’s and GTLM’s combined with LMP1 and GTE-Pro on the same day was really cool. I’d be all for a later WEC race start time, but as a Northwest native I’ll need to find a way to get down to Sebring 2019!

  17. Juan Manuel Transmission

    September 5, 2017 at 1:47 pm

    It will be a great weekend for sports car fans. Why not try this and if it doesn’t work, make adjustments for the following year? I know I will be there! It is a great venue and we will be watching history.

    • John

      September 5, 2017 at 8:58 pm

      I agree. And they have plenty of time to work out the details.

      I can be critical as well, but it seems that some “fans” only want to focus on the negatives. It has turned at least one racing site’s comments section into a cesspool.

      Sebring is a historic circuit, and will be hosting not only the the top NA sports car series, but also the top international series…in the same weekend. Add in some one-offs from the ELMS and ALMS, and it will be a helluva weekend.

  18. Axl Rose ate my Buick

    September 5, 2017 at 1:59 pm

    Cool, but for gods sake, can someone repave that thing? It looks more like a rally stage than anything else.

    • Larry

      September 5, 2017 at 5:25 pm

      Repave Sebring???????????

      Hell no! It’s part of the mystique.

      If you don’t get that, maybe you should refrain from posting.

      Audi says that they test at Sebring because it’s the only track that can break their car.

    • Name

      September 5, 2017 at 5:44 pm

      How about no? This isn’t F1 where even the street circuits are glass smooth.

    • Slicks in the wet

      September 5, 2017 at 8:08 pm

      1-that’s the point..It’s what gives it character over other WW2 airfield tracks
      2-many would argue a lot of the bumps and crappy surface HAS been replaced over the years already, sadly

  19. NaBUru38

    September 5, 2017 at 8:32 pm

    It should be a GT race on Saturday ans a prototype race on Sunday.

  20. WBrowning

    September 6, 2017 at 2:23 am

    Could this be a precursor to the new LMP1/DPi derived class and IMSA and FIA cars running together in the Florida 36 hours in 2020?
    Also the GTE/GTLM cars could both run but probably with IMSA BoP, as they would be their (IMSA) races. LMP2 cars would be the new IMSA PC cars and they are all the same already.

    • Helmut

      September 6, 2017 at 9:41 am

      Why should any of the WEC teams enter the IMSA event when there are points to earn in the WEC event?

  21. Bjones

    September 6, 2017 at 2:49 am

    DId anyone notice the race will be live at 6:00am till 6:00pm in Europe. Its a great start time for WEC. It will be taxing on the workers as as one that has worked it for over 25 years, your are not to frisky on Sunday morning, I all in though. For who ever said repave, no way, Sebring is Sebring, a real road course. Not a track for wienies. I am assuming Europe is six hours ahead.

    • Helmut

      September 6, 2017 at 9:45 am

      It’s a great time, but the WEC has always been a niche product in Europe, also in Germany, despite the two German manufacturers involved in LMP1 and Toyota having their headquarters in Germany as well. In Germany motorsports usually means Formula 1, DTM, and the Nürburgring 24 h. And for the few enthusiasts that are into sportscar racing time doesn’t really matter anyway.

  22. WBrowning

    September 6, 2017 at 5:29 am

    The UK is 5 hours ahead and most of the rest of Europe is 6 hours, if Florida is on standard not daylight time.

  23. Marco

    September 8, 2017 at 4:56 am

    So instead of 2 daytime races at COTA we get a daytime and nighttime race at Sebring. Great!.
    Just curious how the pit work will plan out.

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