The FIA World Endurance Championship is set to maintain its shortened calendar into next season, with a return to the standard eight-race schedule currently looking unlikely.
Automobile Club de l’Ouest President Pierre Fillon said during last weekend’s 8 Hours of Portimao that the ongoing impacts of the coronavirus pandemic mean the series is exercising caution over the number of races it runs in 2022.
A calendar for the next WEC season has yet to be released, although Sebring is expected to hold the season-opener as part of the world championship’s joint weekend with IMSA.
An eight-round campaign was initially proposed for 2020-21, before the coronavirus pandemic and related concerns about an economic downturn prompted the WEC to scrap that proposal in favor of a single-year season consisting of just six events in 2021.
This move resulted in the shortest WEC season to date, for a championship that has never previously held fewer than eight races in a single term.
The first four seasons from the WEC’s inception in 2012 involved eight events, while the arrival of a six-hour race in Mexico produced an expansion to nine for 2016 and 2017.
The 2018-19 campaign presented the shift to a schedule covering two calendar years and a return to the traditional eight-race length, which continued through 2019-20.
“Due to the COVID situation and the economic situation related to COVID, I think it is too early to imagine to come back to eight races,” said Fillon. “I think it will be between six and seven.”
Fillon noted that the ACO and FIA are “discussing” whether the WEC continues with six races or adds a seventh next year. The additional round, if introduced, would likely be in Europe on grounds of lower costs and ease of access for the largely European grid.
“Everything is open” in terms of circuit choice in Europe, according to Fillon, while WEC CEO Frederic Lequien added: “It is not only a question of budget. It is a question of making the calendar safe because of travel restrictions.”
Outside Le Mans, the WEC’s European leg has previously taken in Spa, the Nürburgring and Silverstone, while Monza is due to stage a race for the first time next month.
Past visits to Monza, Paul Ricard, Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya and most recently Spa have been made for the official ‘Prologue’ pre-season test.
When asked about Portimao’s long-term status on the WEC calendar after a successful maiden event behind closed doors last weekend, both Fillon and Lequien expressed interest in returning to the 4.6 km Algarve International Circuit.
“It is a very good place, a nice track, the drivers love this place and it’s in Europe,” Fillon said.
Fillon also suggested that a return to Silverstone is an option despite the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, which has been a leading factor in SRO Motorsports Group forgoing the venue with its GT3 championships and support series.