Following a three-month break, the FIA World Endurance Championship returns to action this weekend at Circuit of The Americas, kicking off a busy stretch of five races over the next 11 weeks. (En Français)
With nearly 30 cars on the grid for the American round, the budding global championship has continued to gain momentum as it reaches the completion of third year, or first cycle, in the words of series boss Gerard Neveu.
Endurance-Info caught up Neveu to get his thoughts on the state of the championship and look ahead into 2015 and beyond.
How has the series management stayed busy during the summer break?
“The summer was spent studying, because endurance racing lasts over time. We are already planning for 2015 in both championships (FIA WEC and European Le Mans Series) and are currently negotiating contracts with circuits.
“We’re restarting the season with extensive travel. The break was long but good to help us recover. Personally, I’m very happy to see the return of OAK Racing in three of the final races. The grid is constant.”
What is the feeling heading into this weekend’s round at COTA?
‘The Austin meeting promises to be a major event with a fireworks display during the race, a concert and the presence of more than 400 Porsches and a large group of Corvettes, etc.
“There’s real enthusiasm for the Lone Star Le Mans but also for the rest of the year.”
Has the new LMP1 regulations helped develop the championship?
“Thanks to the technical regulations, but also the sporting side of it, the FIA WEC has become the best World Championship. For proof, you only have to look at the number of lead changes since Silverstone.
“The purpose of the FIA WEC is to spread the values of the 24 Hours of Le Mans worldwide. The championship is a very good vitamin and things are moving at the desired pace.
“There is a growing interest from constructors. We have many of the best drivers. Just see what Andre Lotterer did, making the F1 grid at Spa. The show is guaranteed and it gives us great pride.”
Will the 2015 schedule be released in Austin?
“There is no obligation to do that. The 2015 calendar is being drawn up but it’s not a revolutionary [change]. It will be announced shortly but no date has been scheduled yet.”
After three races, what’s the verdict on the FIA WEC App?
“This has been a real success but we must continue to develop the product. There is not a team of engineers who developed the application but rather a working group of people who have knowledge of motorsport.
“We haven’t stopped making changes and there will be some more adjustments before the end of the season. It’s important to engage fans.
“The goal was to offer a quality application. We were hoping to have 150,000 or 200,000 downloads but we’re already nearly at 400,000. This gives us great satisfaction.
“From Austin, users cam have video, tracking and live scoring on the same screen. The price has also been adjusted as a result of the number of remaining races. It will also soon be possible to [stream] the video on a TV.”
Nearly three years after the debut of the FIA WEC, it reaches the end of its first cycle…
“Exactly! We’re getting close to the end of the first three-year cycle that saw the incubation period and birth of the FIA WEC.
“You must not forget the skepticism at Sebring in 2012: There was a [new] relationship between the FIA and ACO and the implosion of the grid after Le Mans, with unstable regulations and the withdrawal of Peugeot…
“Two and a half years later, where are we? Those doubts have gone away. The Austin race this weekend will be broadcast live on FOX Sports 2, the FIA WEC App is growing, more media are making the trips to races.
“We know where we’ve come from and we know where we’re going.
“We’re going to start a new three-year cycle. We have already extended the collaboration between the FIA and ACO. The visibility is good, even though we should always monitor costs.”
Is it now easier than it was three years ago?
“We cannot say that because we must always work. Costs must be controlled and of course, the interest of the FIA WEC is growing and the stakes are high over the next three years.
“We need to increase the marketing side as well as improve the sporting and organizational value. We’re living through the FIA WEC like a human experience and those working here are happy to share it.
“It’s imperative to keep this a human experience. This is the best way to guarantee our future. You cannot have a big head and you have to stay humble.
“The baby has grown up, he’s walking and now it’s up to us to make him run.”