The FIA World Endurance Championship’s first full ‘winter’ schedule has begun taking shape, with up to nine rounds possible for the 2019-20 season, according to series boss Gerard Neveu.
The WEC, which is set to kick off its 14-month ‘Super Season’ next month encompasses two editions of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, will transition into a more traditional winter calendar in the second half of 2019.
So far, Le Mans, which will serve as the season finale, and the recently announced return to Interlagos have been confirmed rounds for 2019-20, with Neveu indicating plans for Sebring to again be on the calendar in March 2020.
Spa-Francorchamps, a staple on the WEC calendar since its launch, is also expected to continue, along with a return to Fuji Speedway, which has a long-term contract with the championship, and a likely continuation of Shanghai.
Despite not featuring on the upcoming 2018-19 season, Bahrain could return to the calendar, with discussions underway with other new and existing venues, according to Neveu, who is targeting to release a provisional calendar this summer.
“Going back to a regular season of seven, eight, nine races is the plan,” he said.
“We will have a race once every month, more or less, and we will have a quiet period around Daytona because we have to respect this period [with] IMSA, which makes sense.”
A firm date for Interlagos, which hosted the WEC in September 2012-13 and served as the season finale in November 2014, has yet to be finalized, with Neveu admitting they have “many options” for the Brazilian date.
It’s believed the race could take place in February 2020, as part of a North/South America swing.
Neveu said they’ve yet to exactly establish when the season will begin, although it’s likely to be sometime in September 2019.
“Very frankly, there is no decision at this moment,” he said. “We have already engaged in some discussions but it is too early.”
Confirmation of the 2019-20 schedule is expected to come sometime this summer.
“If we could do it one year in advance [of the start] that would be perfect,” Neveu said. “It means around Le Mans/Silverstone time somewhere in the summer. That is clearly the target.”
Formula 1, Formula E Clash Avoidance Takes Priority
Avoiding date clashes with Formula 1 and Formula E races, the FIA’s two other major circuit-based championships, remains the top priority according to Neveu.
He said that European Le Mans Series events, which are run by LMEM, the same organization as the WEC, as well as major IMSA endurance races, are next in importance, although admitted it would be “mathematically impossible” to avoid clashes with all IMSA races.
“When we can avoid a clash, we avoid it,” Neveu said. “But when we can’t, it’s impossible.
“The thing you have to understand is that there is absolutely no interest for us to clash with a major sports car event.
“It is easy to understand that if we are not running on the same weekend as Formula 1, we get more exposure, so if we can do it then we do it.
“What we are trying to do it to protect the interests of the ACO and the FIA.
“After that, we pay attention to IMSA and other partners around the world. It’s very challenging.”
Different Race Formats an Option
Neveu said they remain open to varying race lengths but believes the minimum duration has to remain at six hours in order to preserve the endurance formula.
Next year’s Sebring event, originally announced as a 1,500-mile/12-hour race, has since been reduced to 1,000 miles/8 hours due to the compact time schedule on Friday.
“Sebring is very special,” Neveu said. “It has to be a special place to do more than six hours.
“Ideally it would have been 12 hours, [but was] difficult to do, so that’s the compromise we have to accept.”
The possibility of additional extended races will depend on the overall shape of the calendar, he said.
“You have to consider first of all the financial aspect, so you have to be careful,” Neveu admitted. “It depends on the number of races you have on the full calendar and you will estimate what is the best way to do it.”
Neveu said that GTE qualifying races, which had been under evaluation, is “no longer a priority.”