Porsche’s exit from the LMP1 ranks at the end of this year “pushed” the FIA World Endurance Championship to move to a winter calendar earlier than expected, according to series boss Gerard Neveu.
Neveu and ACO President Pierre Fillon revealed Friday a revised “Super Season” schedule for the championship, an eight-race season spanning from May 2018 to June 2019, as a transitional period to a winter schedule that’s set to begin in 2019-2020.
While the concept had been under evaluation for a number of years, Neveu admitted the German manufacturer’s withdrawal prompted the WEC to move up its winter schedule integration plans by at least one year.
“The fact they left pushed us to change immediately and to provide the Super Season,” Neveu said.
“Five years ago when WEC was created, we expressed the desire to work on an inverse calendar with the idea that to finish at Le Mans makes sense.
“We had been looking for that and it has been impossible until now. Now it’s possible.”
The transition season, which includes two editions of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, sees the elimination of at least four existing rounds, with events at Silverstone, Nürburgring, Mexico City, Circuit of The Americas and Bahrain not on the 2018-19 calendar.
A to-be-announced event in February 2019 could potentially see Mexico City return, or another venue in Central or South America, prior the the Twelve Hours of Sebring in March.
“It can be any date [in February], somewhere we can race at this period of the year, regarding the weather,” Neveu said. “Three places are under discussion for that.”
Neveu hasn’t ruled out Silverstone, which has been on the WEC schedule since the championship’s launch in 2012, potentially returning in the seasons to come.
He reiterated that the 2019-2020 schedule, which will feature seven rounds and concluding at Le Mans, has not yet been finalized.
“It was impossible to keep all the races [for the Super Season] and impossible to keep a race in the middle of the August with the [time required] after Le Mans,” Neveu said.
“We really appreciate the people from Silverstone. We have established a long-term job. The question will be on the table for the following season.
“It’s not impossible to see one or two races that have disappeared for the Super Season coming back at this period, depending on how we can manage and organize the system.
“The fact is that we’re going to Le Mans and Spa [twice] because it was the only way to switch correctly.
“To do a championship in three races makes no sense, so the super season was absolutely logical.”
Neveu said one of the other benefits of the shift to a winter schedule will be reduced costs, with the aim to utilize sea-freight for the majority of the season, which would cut travel budgets by two-thirds.
Despite the addition of Sebring, which will be a 12-hour event, the seven-round 2019-2020 season will have less run time compared to the nine races on this year’s schedule.
“It will result as a cost reduction for the team,” Neveu said. “Less entry fees, less running costs, less running hours, new logistics.
“We’ll be able to transport the [equipment] by [sea-freight] and not necessarily by plane.
“The idea is that the super season will cost the same as the teams today with nine races.”
The 2019-2020 season, meanwhile, is projected to cost 20 percent less, for a LMP2 team, than this year.