Drivers and teams in the FIA World Endurance Championship are in general support of the changes made to the series’ calendar for the 2020-21 season.
Last week’s schedule announcement saw classic venues Kyalami and Monza (pictured above) confirmed for their WEC debuts while the Shanghai round and four-hour race formats were scrapped.
The annual pre-season test formerly known as the Prologue was also shifted from being a standalone event to a part of the season-opening week at Silverstone.
AF Corse driver Francois Perrodo, who competes in GTE-Am with a Ferrari 488 GTE Evo, told Sportscar365 that the changes likely prevented him from quitting the WEC at the end of the current 2019-20 season.
Perrodo is one of the WEC’s amateur drivers, who are typically full-time businessmen competing in the championship as a spare- or part-time activity.
There are currently 14 such drivers racing in the series, across GTE-Am and LMP2.
“I wasn’t sure what to do next year and I was probably going to stop in WEC had the calendar stayed the same,” said Perrodo.
“The plan was then to do some VLN and maybe the Nürburgring 24. But I like this new calendar, with no more four-hour races.
“I’m based in Europe, so replacing a long trip like Shanghai for Monza… and also having South Africa which is far but in the same time zone is quite exciting.
“For us businessmen, every day counts. [Unlike with] a race like Fuji, you can be back to be in the office a day earlier. It’s not bad and I’m tempted.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do yet but it is a nice calendar.
“And for endurance fans, there are two big tracks that are back on the calendar. Kyalami has a history and I saw the [IGTC] race a few weeks back and the track looked awesome.”
One of Perrodo’s GTE-Am competitors, Mike Wainwright of Gulf Racing, echoed the Frenchman’s sentiments about the appeal of the new calendar to pay drivers.
Wainwright, who is the COO of international commodity trader Trafigura, suggested that the series could go even further to introduce a two-day format rather than the current three-day timetable.
February’s Lone Star Le Mans race will run to a two-day format after it was drafted in as a late substitute for the now-canceled fifth round of 2019-20 at Interlagos.
“I’m happy about Silverstone and six-hour formats,” said Wainwright. “Six hours makes sense, for sure, and [the Bahrain] race at eight hours works great.
“I think they should follow the COTA format for all the races going forward. They’re doing Saturday and Sunday, rather than Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
“For the customer teams, we lose one day less work and gain one day’s holiday back. I think that format works better.”
Toyota: Calendar as “Good as it Can Be”
Toyota Gazoo Racing technical director Pascal Vasselon reckons next season’s calendar gives Le Mans Hypercar teams enough time to prepare for the first race of the new formula.
2020-21 will mark the first campaign for the upcoming Hypercar class which has at least four constructors including Toyota on the books for the inaugural season.
Toyota is known to be working to a tight deadline, with its prototype racer not expected to be seen out on track until July, two months before the opening race.
Last July, Vasselon told Sportscar365 that a later start to the campaign and specifically a later pre-season test would “help the planning of the new car.”
“It’s what we expected, with the first race at Silverstone pushed more towards September,” said Vasselon of the calendar announcement.
“The [pre-season test] is not too early. It’s as good as it can be considering the timing of the regulations.”
Vasselon also accepted the introduction of Monza, which was brought in as the second round of the season to give the European-based Hypercar teams extra time to develop their cars before heading to the overseas rounds.
“For sure it’s good to have a second European race and we’re reasonably happy with Monza,” he said.
“It’s a place where we went for the 2017 Prologue. It’s a good move.”
John Dagys contributed to this report