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Lequien: Qatar Date Forced ‘Modification’ in U.S. Round

WEC CEO Frederic Lequien explains reason to drop Sebring for COTA…

Photo: Marius Hecker/WEC

The proximity of the new season opener in Qatar to Sebring forced the FIA World Endurance Championship to “modify” its plan in the U.S. according to championship CEO Frederic Lequien.

The WEC will make its return to Circuit of The Americas for the first time since 2020, as a replacement for the ‘Super Sebring’ event that saw three editions of the joint WEC and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship event.

While Lequien stated at the time of the Qatar announcement late last year that Sebring was still “in the plan” ACO President Pierre Fillon admitted in January that the WEC was taking a “rethink” of the fan-favorite event.

It has instead struck a one-year contract with COTA, with the race taking place as the sixth round of the season on Sept. 1.

The Qatar round, which will be 1,812 kms (1,126 miles) in length or ten hours, is scheduled for March 2, two weeks before the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

Of note, it is the same gap between the COTA race and the event at Fuji Speedway in mid-September.

“One of the consequences to open the calendar with Qatar was that we were obliged to modify our plan in the U.S. and we found a super agreement with COTA,” Lequien told reporters at Le Mans.

“The layout of the track is fantastic for the drivers. It’s a city which is full of young people.

“The goal is to have a lot of spectators. the timing is good on the first of September.

“We’re going to have eight races and now we are reaching the level that the WEC should have.”

While no longer sharing an event with IMSA, Lequien stressed they’re still in dialogue with the North American sanctioning body to avoid date clashes between the two series.

The 2024 seasons should see only one overlap, between the WEC Imola round and WeatherTech Championship race at Long Beach, compared to two clashes this year.

“They are growing, we are growing. We try to avoid clashes,” Lequien said. “It’s not a surprise for them and it’s not a surprise for us.

“We discussed that before the release of the calendar. We all know that we did our best to avoid that. Unfortunately, for logistics and TV broadcast reasons, we will have only one [clash].”

Lequien said expanding the Qatar race from the originally announced six hours to a likely ten-hour contest was met with the approval of teams.

“They all agreed,” he said. “It makes Qatar happy and us happy. The name of the race, 1812 km is linked to [their] national day.

“We tried to have a good balance in terms of format with the calendar. Starting with a ten-hour race is not a bad idea.”

The other big change comes with the return of Interlagos for the first time in a decade, an event that Lequien said was a “dream” to make happen.

The WEC was due to visit Sao Paulo in February 2020 but was moved to COTA due to a “major issue with the local promoter.”

“We are a world championship and we need to travel and be present on different continents,” Lequien said.

“To me, it was a dream to make this possible. We started some discussions with the Mayor of Sao Paulo a long time ago. He showed a very strong motivation.

“If we go there it’s not only for marketing reasons. It’s because it’s going to be a very huge, popular success. We are going to have a lot of spectators with a lot of promotion.

“It’s a nice return. We are very proud of that. It’s one of the lands of motorsport.”

Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for and SPEED Channel and has contributed to numerous other motorsports publications worldwide. Contact John

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