FIA World Endurance Championship CEO Gerard Neveu said they took their “biggest interests” in mind to move the date of the Six Hours of Fuji to allow Fernando Alonso to race, and has now called upon IMSA to change its date of the Motul Petit Le Mans to prevent the newly formed clash.
WEC officials confirmed Friday that the Japanese round has been moved forward by one week, to Oct. 12-14, in order to guarantee that Alonso can take part in Toyota’s home race, and thus every event on the 2018 calendar year.
The move puts the race back into a clash with the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale, which the WEC initially averted in a calendar revision late last year.
“We work always to protect the interests of the championship and this is first and foremost what we took into consideration,” Neveu said.
“How could we have someone like Fernando Alonso in our paddock, racing for Toyota and say we are going to Japan without him in their car?
“For Japanese fans, to respect what Toyota is doing, and for the championship as well… Alonso is racing for a World Championship and to win that he can’t miss a race.
“It was logical and if you ask the Japanese fans they are very happy.”
The change has already led to criticism from numerous drivers on social media who have been contracted to do both races.
The list of conflicted drivers includes Mike Conway, Olivier Pla, Renger van der Zande, Harry Tincknell, Nick Catsburg, Augusto Farfus as well as Joerg Bergmeister and Patrick Lindsey, whose Project 1 Porsche was granted a full-season GTE-Am entry, while at the same announcement on Friday.
Neveu however, has now called upon IMSA to change the date of Petit Le Mans to prevent the clash.
“We understand this causes trouble for some other drivers and my hope – a big hope – is that maybe that IMSA can find a way to move the date because we have done it before and it’s possible,” he said.
“We are a partnership with them, and we know it’s very difficult to change dates, but we will try for a solution but it’s a big challenge.
“We of course informed IMSA about this weeks ago and they fully understood – believe me they completely understand the added value that a driver can bring.”
An IMSA spokesperson confirmed they they did “respectfully consider” the WEC’s request of changing the Petit Le Mans date but has been unable to do so, for a variety of reasons.
“Due to some factors such as television coverage, IMSA’s year-end banquet on the same weekend and competitor and manufacturer logistics already being in place among others, it was determined there were too many hurdles to overcome to move the event,” a statement from IMSA read.
“Therefore the 2018 Motul Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta will take place as scheduled Oct. 10-13.”
Neveu, meanwhile, has stressed they were left with few options but to change the date for the “global interests” of his championship.
“The fact is that first we took into consideration the biggest interests of the championship and to have Alonso with us in Japan was just that,” he said.
“We know it’s very difficult for those drivers who are disappointed, but we are trying to look after global interests and that’s very important. In the end, for us, this made sense.
“I am sorry for the drivers who now have a clash, and I hope we will find a solution with our partners from America. There was no other weekend possible for us to move our Fuji race to.”