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Neveu: WEC Took “Biggest Interests” in Mind for Fuji Date Change

WEC took “biggest interests” in mind for Fuji date change, which now clashes with PLM…

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

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.”

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 Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John



  1. Brifred

    February 9, 2018 at 5:07 pm

    So Neveu’s response is that IMSA needs to find a solution to the problem he has created.

    • BrandenburgNoir

      February 9, 2018 at 6:41 pm

      Exactly, I can only eyeroll.

  2. Tyler Sanders

    February 9, 2018 at 5:10 pm

    The circus never ends

  3. Tim

    February 9, 2018 at 5:11 pm

    “Global interest” to make one person happy they screw 10 others. This is the biggest joke I’ve ever seen in motorsports lol

    • AudiTT

      February 9, 2018 at 5:55 pm

      It’s not one person. It’s to satisfy the extra 30k-40k, or however many, extra Japanese fans who will turn up on top of the 50k regulars. It’s to satisfy the increased media interest……all of which benefits the whole paddock. It’s also a key play to ensure Toyota and Alonso are long-term entrants in the WEC, a presence that could attract new teams, manufacturers and fans.

      And if we are talking about a global perspective, these two races aren’t even on the same day. Most of the affected drivers are on lucrative contracts, we’re not talking journeymen racing to make ends meet.

      • TF110

        February 9, 2018 at 6:20 pm

        Why people don’t get this is beyond me. It’s not a great scenario to clash with plm but getting Alonso to make the race(s) especially in Japan is a big deal for the series itself.

      • Northstar

        February 9, 2018 at 7:55 pm

        Do you honestly think 30-40k more people will show up just to watch Alonso drive for 1/3 of the race? It won’t even be his first race so the novelty won’t even be there any more so the media will have moved on as well.

        • Kyle

          February 9, 2018 at 9:19 pm

          It’s Fuji; they’ll be watching him sit on the grid in the pouring rain rather than race for two hours.

        • Paul.

          February 10, 2018 at 8:51 am

          Yes!!!! End of story.

        • Silky

          February 10, 2018 at 2:59 pm

          I’m guessing yourself, and many in the comments section, are from the US. Reality is the Weathertech Championship isn’t a big deal outside the niche that follow the sport in North America.

          Alonso at Fuji will be a huge even for the WEC and the international motors audience-

          • Andy Flinn

            February 10, 2018 at 4:21 pm

            Yeah, Silky.

            IMSA isn’t a big deal at all.

            That’s why Alonso raced in the IMSA race at Daytona two weeks ago.

            But let me guess, he’s just slumin’ ’til the WEC season starts. Right?

            The arrogance of WEC officials and its fans is on full display here.

          • Jordan

            February 11, 2018 at 4:48 pm

            Yeah, Flinn,

            WEC isn’t a big deal at all.

            That’s why Alonso is racing in every WEC race in 2018.

            The stupidity of IMSA fans is on full display here.

          • Matt

            February 11, 2018 at 8:32 pm

            You can’t deny that IMSA is the better series. The fans are more passionate about it, many drivers claim they prefer racing in IMSA vs. the WEC, and the US tracks are much better. The competition is much better in IMSA. Outside of the small following in Europe, nobody gives a crap about the WEC.

      • Ernie2492

        February 9, 2018 at 8:37 pm

        But does Japanese fans really care about Fuji as much as Americans with PLM..?

        And IMSA didn’t change the date..

        • Matt

          February 10, 2018 at 5:33 am

          They could’ve made the WEC date the Saturday before the F1 race to let Alonso race at Suzuka on Sunday. That would’ve been an epic weekend. But no, let’s schedule the race to directly conflict with Petit Le Mans and screw over our regular drivers/teams.

      • Neveu will kill the WEC in 2019

        February 9, 2018 at 10:44 pm

        Where is the evidence to show that increase? First Fuji had usually sold out without El Savior so doubtful you’d see much increase. Second, the totals are in, outside of test day streaming, Alonso didn’t move the needle a LICK for the Indy 500 internationally. Their highest ever day 1 streaming and then crickets. No one gave a crap after they could say, well we saw that, what’s the next cool thing to say we did.

        It’s a farce that it’s more than one guy. It’s to accommodate one team, the only team who didn’t tell him your rules are the dumbest thing out there and quit. It’s purely to keep Toyota from quitting the day after LM. And other reason is made up bs to make you feel smarter than everyone else. It’s not and he has said it multiple times that it was top allow Alonso to race. Mostly because he thinks a world championship in sportscars matters to Alonso. It doesn’t and won’t, LM matters and that’s it. If he were to win this year, he’d quit and push for McLaren back at Indy in 2 seconds flat

        • Alex

          February 10, 2018 at 9:38 am

          Factually wrong. Alonso’s presence cost a tremendous increase in international viewership.

      • Contracts

        February 10, 2018 at 7:48 am

        So essentially you’re saying “the other drivers make money, so they’ll be okay.”

        It’s not about money for them. It’s about the fact that they have legal contracts with two teams in two different series and championships on the line in each. And now because of one driver, all these other drivers have to determine how to go back on their word, and which contract they can break with as little legal mess as possible. So that FA can run one third of a race.

      • Contracts

        February 10, 2018 at 7:50 am

        You really think affected the drivers are upset about paychecks? I think they’re more worried about the legal contracts they’ve signed, and the fact that they have to choose which one will result in less damange when broken. They promised themselves to both teams, and now they have to go back on their word and throw one championship away and let a whole team down because FA is doing one third of a race.

      • YAAAS

        February 10, 2018 at 9:33 am

        If you’re expecting that big of a gate increase, I have prime real estate in Greenland to sell you.

  4. Jason

    February 9, 2018 at 5:14 pm

    The high priest Neveu says we must bow to our lord and savior Fernando. Sometimes we must make sacrifices if we are to receive his graces.

    • Matt

      February 9, 2018 at 6:02 pm


    • Other Matt

      February 9, 2018 at 6:51 pm

      Fonzie be praised!!!

  5. Alexx

    February 9, 2018 at 5:21 pm

    This being the same group that IMSA IS ALLOWING to dilute the Sebring 12hr race. I’m tired of IMSA kissing this groups behind. Never ends

    • getaclue

      February 9, 2018 at 5:50 pm

      How is WEC diluting the Sebring 12 Hour?

    • Blaneysellstrashbags@Ring24

      February 9, 2018 at 6:27 pm

      Explain your accusation of WEC diluting Sebring 12 hour race?

      • Alexx

        February 9, 2018 at 7:13 pm

        In 2019 there will be a WEC race following the 12 hours of Sebring. Wake up. Next, they’ll say that any driver competing in the 12 hours of Sebring won’t be allowed to race in the WEC race following. Wait and see. They’re taking a staple American race and diluting it in their best interest of course. Fools don’t yet see that

        • Blaneysellstrashbags@Ring24

          February 12, 2018 at 6:54 am

          Nope…I see a wild weekend at Sebring. Once the 12 is over at 2200 all the lightweight fans can pack up and head home and allow the real fans to enjoy wec…Man ya really need to get out more

  6. Alexx

    February 9, 2018 at 5:27 pm

    Quote: We took the biggest interest in mind #our own.
    There is one, count it, one Factory P1 car for the entire season. Perhaps IMSA should ask to stage a 24hr of LeMans race the day after the 24hrs of LeMans. Ef these clowns…

    • ViperJay

      February 9, 2018 at 6:11 pm

      Two cars.

      And, being a European, I’d love to see such a race.

  7. Matt

    February 9, 2018 at 6:01 pm

    Lol. Well move the date of our race, but now we need you to move yours! XD

  8. Jorden

    February 9, 2018 at 6:54 pm

    It’s an unfortunate situation for fans and drivers. However, I don’t think the ACO had much of a choice. Toyota and Alonso are too much of a priority at this moment. Of course the privateers play a huge part as well. I just think Toyota hold majority of the cards in this scenario. It’s just a situation that people are going to have to deal with. Hopefully all participating parties will learn for the future.

  9. John

    February 9, 2018 at 7:15 pm


    On what should be a very good news day, with a salvaged P1 class, a full grid, and an unprecedented upcoming super season, the FIA finds itself on the defensive, and all the talk is on the highly debatable move of changing the schedule for one carpetbagging driver.

    Typical FIA.

    I fully understand where it, Toyota, and Fuji are coming from; they have every reason to do what they did.

    But in the bigger picture, if I’m a “partner,” or a regular participant in the series, I have to wonder what’s being traded off for what is only assured to be a short term gain? If Toyota and Alonso get their LM24 win and tick off the item on their bucket lists, will they be back? There are no guarantees that they will, or are in it for the long term. If they leave after 2018-19, the FIA will look foolish and be left holding the bag and back to ground zero. And shown itself more than willing to kowtow to others. For all the guff that the ACO and FIA get about their authoritarianism and incompetence, now everyone can be sure who really holds the strings and pulls them as needed. Within the FIA, if it wasn’t already, it’s clear which series is the favored child, when one F1 driver moonlights to benefit the stepchild.

    If I’m a regular driver in the series, I’ve basically been told that my, and my fellow drivers’ value to the series is secondary, the supporting act to the big band that’s coming to town. That must be encouraging.

    If I’m Scott Atherton and Jim France, I’ll smile, take the hit, learn, and use it to my advantage.

    There is no right answer, and I’ve always tried to see each series as individual entities, but I fall on the side of this being a bad precedent, and a short-sighted move that could be detrimental long term for sports car as a whole.

    Just because the girl at the party who’s out of your league flirts with you and agrees to a date, doesn’t make her your wife. More than likely, you’ll be the one who is dumped.

    • Frank

      February 9, 2018 at 7:32 pm

      Very well said. The whole thing looks like an act of desperation just as the series was gaining traction with all the new privateer LMP1 teams and increased GTE field. If the presence or absence of Fernando Alonso will make or break the WEC, they may as well close the doors today.

      • Andy Flinn

        February 12, 2018 at 12:35 pm

        Frank, so clear an insight voiced by you and many others, yet so hard for WEC stooges like “Jordan” (not Jorden) to understand.

        • Jordan

          February 12, 2018 at 4:33 pm

          Basic facts, such as the fact that ten-tenths got tired of listening to his stupidity so they banned him, make Andy Flinn and his socialist series look bad, which causes him to lash out at others in frustration.

    • Silky

      February 10, 2018 at 3:10 pm

      Well, at least you didn’t hide the bigoted views many in these comments sections hold.

      The problem is you all think the Weathertech series is the big show in town, when it’s but a blip on the global calender.

      • Kurt

        February 10, 2018 at 8:07 pm

        Funny how you accuse others of bigotry when that’s how YOUR comments come across. If the WEC is so great then why is it bleeding manufacturers left and right? Why does IMSA have more manufacturer interest? The WEC has one race that is watched on a global scale. You need to get off your high horse because, honestly, the WEC is nothing more than a blip in North America.

      • Andy Flinn

        February 12, 2018 at 7:32 pm

        Silky, I’m not sure about the rest of the world, but I can guarantee you that at Sebring, this year, next year and every year, the IMSA WeatherTech series will be the “big show in town.”

        Just ask ANYONE who has ever camped at Sebring.

        The problem is that the WEC keeps trying to establish a footprint in America yet they keep making these elitist decisions (change the WEC schedule to conflict with 20-year-old Petit Le Mans) and repeatedly shoot themselves in the feet!

  10. Davy

    February 9, 2018 at 7:46 pm

    What a clown this guy is. I hope IMSA has some backbone and doesn’t change a thing about PLM. Not like I was planning to watch any of their boring, sanitized races outside of the 24hr but this is definitely boycott worthy. Even if I wanted to watch them, I couldn’t, because they were dropped by Fox Sports!

  11. edo

    February 9, 2018 at 8:02 pm

    Yes, a very bad move from aco. If Fernando himself really want to race at Fuji, he can drop the shitty f1 gp as he did last year to do indy. I hope that there will be some kind of protests from drivers and teams against that joke. Marketing rule.

  12. Malthus Underestimated

    February 9, 2018 at 8:49 pm

    What a coup! Let’s go to Fuji and watch Fernando Alonso and Toyota play “David” to their “Goliath” P1 competitors…. Ummm, well…wait.

    Why would Japanese fans want to show up to watch Toyota lap the field regardless of who’s driving???

    I like Fernando but really, tell me again what the draw is here?? For any of the Super Season races? Anybody?

  13. Anonymous

    February 9, 2018 at 9:13 pm

    The race also clashes with Super GT at Autopolis, which Kobayashi and Nakajima would have been racing in.

    • FlyingLobster27

      February 10, 2018 at 2:23 am

      Wow, just as I was calming down over the idea that “yeah, I guess it’s cool for the local fans”, I thought I remembered a bizarre clash with Super GT, and I can’t believe it was this one too! And this means Toyota is messing with ITSELF (it has to find replacements for Super GT) just for Alonso!
      My guess is Super GT will be able to move its race though. It’s a big series in Japan, but it wil struggle on the same weekend as WEC, especially if the Alonso “fan drain effect” happens. But if the two are on at the same time, I know which one I’ll be watching.

      As for the “no other option” comment from Neveu… Come on. Your “Drawn-Out Season” spans 15 months and there was nowhere else to put a race in Japan?

  14. NaBUru38

    February 9, 2018 at 9:31 pm

    Biggest interests, we understood that.

  15. Richard Reeves

    February 9, 2018 at 9:53 pm

    Donald Neveau’s next tweet after he learns IMSA will not move the Road Atlanta date: “Sad. Japanese fans are SO happy! Fernando: Happy! Toyota: so deserving. IMSA trying to rain on Fuji’s parade. And no it will not rain buckets at Fuji this year. Best climate scientists in world have promised me. Guaranteed. IMSA playing with fire. If Crooked IMSA execs don’t play along 24 Hours of Sebring will turn into 12 hour race again. Half! Just watch. IMSA playing hard ball? Well I know a thing about balls and mine are bigger than some American covfefe. #WeSurrender #FernandoCanDo

  16. pierre

    February 9, 2018 at 11:12 pm

    what a cluster. it always comes down to $$$

  17. Jason Elliott

    February 10, 2018 at 5:16 am

    I will be very disappointed if imsa change the date for petition le man’s. Coming from the UK for the race. Flights, hotels and tickets already booked and non refundable!

    • Rus'L

      February 12, 2018 at 12:29 pm

      IMSA already said they are not changing PLM date. You can exhale. 🙂 Enjoy Atlanta!

  18. juneracer

    February 10, 2018 at 8:31 am

    IMSA wont change it. likely not possible. PLM will go on regardless if a few drivers can’t make the race… its the French that look silly here…changing a race and creating a clash over one driver is ########…

  19. Paul.

    February 10, 2018 at 8:56 am

    It is frustrating as all get out for the guys who now have date conflicts with Petit and Fuji. Really sucks.

    However, I can understand wanting to have Alonso at Fuji. It IS A BLOODY BIG DEAL. I was at Indy last year, and while it may not have “moved the needle” much internationally, the electricity and buzz around the Speedway last year was absolutely incredible. He will make a huge difference in terms of attendance at Fuji.

    Bottom line is. Petit is going to happen regardless. It is going to draw huge fan support regardless. It is going to be a success regardless. It is simply unfortunate that teams are going to have to make plans for alternate driver arrangements for both events due to the date clash.

    I just hope that this doesn’t make things strained for the Sebring “Double” next year. Unlike those who just want the traditional 12 hour, I am absolutely stoked to see two huge events at Sebring next year. It will be a truly unique event.

    • Matt

      February 10, 2018 at 4:03 pm

      The fact he had little if any effect on viewership at the 500 should tell the ACO everything they need to know. The 500 is on another dimension relative to every WEC race(barring LM) and if he couldn’t bring eyes there, he sure as hell won’t do a thing for the 6h of Fuji.

  20. GridS2Plaza

    February 10, 2018 at 9:19 am

    The FIA/ACO changing the Suzuka round of WEC to accommodate one dI river speaks volumes about the desperate times for the WEC.

    I am a fan of Alonso and think cross-over drivers in sports car racing, be them F1, Indycar, Nascar, et al is always refreshing, added value and is a hat tip to historical traditions.

    However, making a move for one driver obviously with support of the only factory effort left just looks pathetic.

    FIA/WEC wants global cooperation as long as they always get their way. WEC is a “world championship” in name only.

    A return to an “Intercontinental challenge” world championship blending rounds from IMSA, ELMS, and Asian Lemans Series would be far more interesting that what WEC has going.

    • Jordan

      February 11, 2018 at 4:32 pm

      You thinking that the WEC is racing at Suzuka speaks volumes about your lack of knowledge.

  21. Haskellb

    February 10, 2018 at 2:42 pm

    The French Weasels strike again.

  22. Trevor

    February 10, 2018 at 3:18 pm

    So the WEC, members of FIA, move their race to avoid a scheduling conflict with F1, another member of FIA. Then tell the sanctioning body that appears to have their s*%t together that they need to move their final race of the season. Yeah, that sounds like the self absorbed EuroTrash that runs FIA.

  23. Tone1633

    February 10, 2018 at 7:41 pm

    What about drivers in both series, a number of them a paid on the number of races they do. They have also been hit by the lack of races this year in the super season…
    What about the guys including myself that work in both series,
    What about all the WEC teams who have booked travel, hotels for Fuji,
    They did not want to move Lemans last year to accommodate F1 so a number of F1 drivers could participate. Why is he so special
    The ACO and Alonso are the only winners here.

    • Coach Ep

      February 12, 2018 at 10:59 am

      The winners are clearly the Japanese race fans who are mad about their favorite mark/driver – we’ll see a record attendance at Fuji this year, torrential rain or not. If Toyota manages to win LM, we might see a turn out that could rival the 24H numbers!

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