Neel Jani will not return to the FIA World Endurance Championship in 2019-20 as the former 24 Hours of Le Mans winner shifts his entire focus to the ABB FIA Formula E Championship with Porsche’s new Formula E operation.
The 2016 WEC champion, a longtime member of Porsche’s LMP1 operation, has elected to put his full concentration in the all-electric championship, potentially ending a streak of 11 consecutive starts at Le Mans.
While his decision was made a few months ago, the development comes in the wake of likely clashes between the two championships for 2019-20 that could force numerous high-profile drivers to choose one series over the other.
For Jani, the decision is bittersweet, as the 35-year-old Swiss credits much of his racing success to Le Mans.
“I don’t know for how long [I’ll be out of WEC],” he told Sportscar365. “Never say never.
“It’s a shame in a way because I have 11 years here at Le Mans in a row. From [being] a hopeful young driver, I was able to become a factory driver and win Le Mans, and so on.
“I have a big thank you to the series and the race because they’ve been a big part of my career.
“In that way, I really hope to come back at some stage, that is clear.
“But at the moment with Porsche and Formula E, it doesn’t work. Who knows what comes with the new rules. Life may change.”
Jani said the level of commitment now required in Formula E was a driving force in his decision.
His Rebellion Racing teammate Andre Lotterer, who has yet to decide whether he’ll continue to undertake a duel program next season, missed the 1000 Miles of Sebring due to simulator commitments with his DS Techeetah Formula E team.
“Plus you’d travel so much with the two championships,” Jani added. “And Formula E you need so much preparation.
“I don’t want to do half things. If I come back, I will come back fully. And who knows in 2021 what will happen with the new rules coming.”
Rebellion’s 2019-20 Driver Lineup Undetermined
Rebellion team manager Bart Hayden said ‘there’s not much he could say’ at this point regarding the team’s driver lineup for 2019-20, which could see the Swiss squad lose up to three of its full-season drivers.
It’s already known that Jani and Thomas Laurent will depart, with Lotterer appearing increasingly unlikely as well, also due to Formula E.
Rebellion utilized Mathias Beche, who was replaced by Nathanael Berthon at the start of the calendar year in the No. 3 Rebellion R13 Gibson, as a substitute to Lotterer at Sebring.