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Neveu: “More Spectacular” Qualifying Format Needed

WEC looking to shake up qualifying format to make it easier for fans to understand…

Photo: James Moy/Toyota

FIA World Endurance Championship CEO Gerard Neveu says he would like to evolve the qualifying format into something “more spectacular” for the fans in the future.

The current system, launched in 2013, takes a combined two-lap average from two drivers in each car to determine the grid in split 20-minute LMP/GTE qualifying sessions.

Neveu explained the unique format was introduced after he and ACO president Pierre Fillon witnessed the lack of on-track action during the 6 Hours of Fuji round in 2012, when typically a car would only complete one or two flying laps.

“What we’re trying to think, with the whole organization team, is how we can push for a better show for the fans, for the TV, everything,” Neveu said.

“For me, qualifying has to be more spectacular again.

“If you start to do regulations where the guys will go slower to protect the car or take less risks, does it make sense?

“I like that qualifying is the pure demonstration of the driver with the car, with the fastest lap, [what] he can do. It’s good for the brand and good for the cars and teams.

“The race is a race. Many things can happen but in qualifying, you can identify who has the capacity of doing something very well.”

Neveu admitted the current format is too difficult for fans to follow and confirmed various options are being looked at within the FIA Endurance Committee.

“Ideally we should have to find a better solution because it’s a little bit sophisticated and difficult to understand and read the lap time table when you have this sort of qualifying,” he said.

“If we want to change that we have to make sure that the car will stay [on track] and continue to run during qualifying. 

“We are working on different process, the committee and sporting working group, are trying to investigate different solutions. I hope that one day we will be able to propose something a little different.

“To maintain the show but to simplify the reading and understanding of qualifying.”

The WEC proposed the concept of qualifying races for GTE cars in 2017, although it was put on hold amid the championship’s transition into a reverse calendar ending with the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Neveu said he wouldn’t rule out anything at the moment, including moving qualifying to race day morning, although admitted it could result unintended consequences.

Any sporting changes for the 2020-21 season would need to be agreed upon in the FIA Endurance Committee before being taken to the World Motor Sport Council for final approval.

The WMSC has two meetings, in Geneva on March 6 and in Chiang-Mai, Thailand on June 19, prior to September’s season-opener at Silverstone.

Two-Day Events Unlikely for Future; Saturday Races Preferred

Neveu said last weekend’s Lone Star Le Mans event at Circuit of The Americas, which featured a compressed two-day schedule, is more of the exception than what could happen in the future.

The WEC boss explained that they “had to adapt” the weekend schedule due to the fact that COTA was a rescheduled race from the originally planned 6 Hours of Sao Paulo.

It marked only the third time the WEC had a two-day event, the other two previously occurring at Spa-Francorchamps in 2012 and 2013.

“We did it this weekend,” Neveu said. “We’re doing this when we have the possibility to do it but this [is] nothing automatic.

“We will take some time to analyze. We’ve already discussed with some teams. They didn’t say it was wrong, they just said in case of any problem… You have to consider everything.

“The weather for example or anything that’s unusual; you don’t have any spare time to save the situation. If we have a huge storm it’s impossible to delay. 

“The thing we’re looking more for the future is, during the format of the race weekend, if we can race on Saturday, we like the idea.”

Only two of the seven regular-season rounds on the 2019-20 calendar were held on Saturdays, although Silverstone will switch to a Saturday race for the 2020-21 season-opener, while also returning to a six-hour format after the WEC’s attempt at introducing four-hour races this season.

Neveu admitted the four-hour length, which was also used in Shanghai this season, “didn’t work” for various reasons.

“We’ve already raced at Spa, for seven years, on Saturday. Bahrain has been a Saturday race for a long time [too],” he said.

“This is the format we will try to develop more, which would also avoid any clashes on TV with any other major motorsport program.”

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

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