FIA World Endurance Championship CEO Gerard Neveu believes its return to Sebring will produce a “super exciting and unique event” in the double 12-hour format.
The WEC announced last week that Sebring would return as part of the 2018-19 “Super Season” schedule, featuring a standalone 12-hour race running after the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, which will remain as part of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
A deal for the unique double-header in March 2019, featuring a two-hour gap between the races, was only inked last Thursday after a meeting in Miami between Neveu, ACO President Pierre Fillon and IMSA officials.
“We started to discuss this two years ago,” Neveu told Sportscar365. “We discussed with our partners at IMSA and said we’d really love to be back at Sebring.
“Always when we put the [idea] on the table, Scott [Atherton, IMSA President] explained to me that it’s not possible for many reasons, which I understood.
“On [Thursday] we set up a meeting with them. We put our idea on the table and said, ‘We sincerely believe that we have to continue to work very close together, which is important. And we have to see the long-term together.'”
Neveu said a shared race, which occurred at Sebring in 2012 between the WEC and American Le Mans Series, was not an option this time around for a number of reasons.
The event, which served as the inaugural race for the WEC, saw compromises from both series, including a limited grid for ALMS competitors as well as seperate classifications and podiums.
“After many discussions and many simulations, we understood to be there at the same time on the track is impossible,” Neveu said.
“I fully understood they have a strong championship and they didn’t want to damage the grid. They don’t want to eliminate any cars and I’m exactly on the same position as them for my championship.
“We asked, ‘How can we do a shared weekend? That could be a value for you and for us… For the American fans and for both championships, without any damage.’
“The idea is to do it like this.”
The double-header will see the traditional 12-hour run from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., with the WEC race getting the green flag at midnight and running into a Sunday afternoon finish.
“For the fans, I feel it’s more fun to have the two races run consecutively, more or less, because of the action, but with the same length,” Neveu said.
“It means 12-12, you have day, night, sunset, sunrise, action, etc. That’s very good.
“We’re able to respect the DNA of each championship and sharing the same weekend to get the fans.
“Sebring is a huge event and this format will be super exciting and unique event.”
Neveu said details on the logistics involved to put on such an event have yet to be worked out, although admitted they have time to finalize the details.
Questions such as paddock space, pit lane configuration and the overall weekend schedule will have to be answered.
“That’s a problem we’ll have to manage and we have a year and a half to work on it,” he said.
“When you are between reasonable people we will find a solution I’m sure. We’ll find a way to do it for sure.”
With their renewed link with IMSA, Neveu hopes the joint Sebring weekend can only grow the relationship between the two sports car championships.
“I think that’s the wish from Pierre and from Jim [France, IMSA Chairman], to say we’re not against [each other],” he said.
“We’re doing a parallel way together and we have to advance together with the same spirit and the same view.
“For this reason, for us to be in America, if we tell you what the paddock suggests, it makes sense to be [at Sebring].”