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Laudenbach Urges Caution Over Calendar Expansion

Laudenbach feels WEC’s current “visibility” doesn’t justify budget increase for ninth race…

Photo: Porsche

Porsche Motorsport boss Thomas Laudenbach has urged the FIA World Endurance Championship to take a cautious approach towards calendar expansion amid talk of a potential ninth race being added for 2025.

The addition of the Qatar 1812km this year brought the number of races on the WEC schedule up to eight, one shy of the maximum figure of nine that was last seen in 2017.

WEC CEO Frederic Lequien suggested last year that a ninth race could be on the cards for 2025, saying that a return to Silverstone for the first time since 2019 could fill the slot.

However, as talks progress ahead of a likely 2025 schedule reveal in the summer, Laudenbach said he feels that the WEC would have to be certain that a ninth race, regardless of the location, would justify any added expense for teams.

“It’s a question of budgets,” he said. “You always have to ask yourself how much additional benefit it brings with the budgets going up with transcontinental traveling.

“If we increase the marketing, the visibility, the fan base… we clearly have to work on that. This is not only the job of the promoter, but all of us together. Then I think you can increase the number of races. But for the moment I think we have to be careful.

“I don’t think that we should increase the number of races with this approach we have right now. I think it’s already tricky on the financial side, and I think we should be careful anyway. Don’t forget the GT teams, they are not all factory-backed.

“Of course these are great times in endurance racing, but we’ve seen other times. I think we should be wise and not assume this will be the case forever.

“From my perspective, it needs to go in conjunction with increasing the marketing value, and the awareness, and we can increase opportunities to gain more sponsor money, also for the privateers.

“We see other series with more than 20 races, which is fine if you can afford it, if the return on investment is there. This needs to go in parallel.

“For the moment, I would be rather careful. I would love to see great times in endurance racing not only now, but also in ten years.”

In the event that the WEC adds a ninth race to the schedule, Laudenbach indicated he would favor either an additional race in North America or a return to China given the importance of those markets to Porsche.

A race in the U.S. at Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been mooted as a future option for the WEC, albeit not for 2025, while some have suggested that the series could return to Shanghai for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Laudenbach also questioned the need to have two races in the Middle East, with Qatar joining fellow Gulf nation Bahrain on the schedule this year.

“For me… do we need two races in Bahrain and Qatar?” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, [I have] nothing against these countries, it’s just we have two out of eight there.

“I understand it needs to work financially and therefore I fully accept that one, but if we take this [consideration] away I think we would choose a different distribution.

“I would be happy to do two races in North America. It depends on the calendar, but it’s a huge market so I think we could live with two. At least one race in China, and I would say another race in Asia, which we have now with Japan for example.

“One race in the Middle East is fine, and then at least three races in Europe, with the manufacturers we have.

“I understand having a race in Italy, because we have Ferrari and Lamborghini, and for everybody it’s nice to have a home race. We have the big one in France [Le Mans], which is great for Alpine and Peugeot. We would love to have one too, no question.”

The WEC last raced in Germany back in 2017, which marked the championship’s third and final visit to the Nürburgring.

Asked whether he regarded the Nürburgring as the only viable host for a German round of the WEC, Laudenbach replied: “We could race at Hockenheim.

“I’m not saying this is a better racetrack than this one, but as a German car manufacturer, we would be happy to have a race in the country, and if we can’t do the Nürburgring, then we would be happy to race at Hockenheim.”

Jamie Klein is Sportscar365's Asian editor. Japan-based Klein, who previously worked for Motorsport Network on the Motorsport.cоm and Autosport titles, covers the FIA World Endurance Championship and SUPER GT, among other series.

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