The 2021 FIA World Endurance Championship will now start at Spa-Francorchamps on May 1 after the series announced the postponement of the 8 Hours of Portimao to June.
Algarve International Circuit near the southern Portuguese city of Portimao was due to host the WEC season-opener on April 4, but this date has now been scratched.
The world championship has postponed its first visit to Portugal to June 12-13, on the original date of the 24 Hours of Le Mans which was rescheduled to August earlier this week.
It means that the 6 Hours of Spa, which had been provisionally penciled in as round two, has been made the opening round on the first weekend of May.
The official Prologue pre-season test will take place at Spa on April 26-27.
The date change was confirmed in today’s FIA World Motor Sport Council meeting.
According to the WEC, the decision was made due to “uncertainty surrounding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic” and restrictions compromising travel to Portugal.
Coronavirus case numbers have dropped to less than 1000 a day in Portugal. However, current travel measures include a mandatory 10-day hotel quarantine for people heading directly from Portugal to the United Kingdom, and a 14-day quarantine for arrivals into Portugal from five European countries including Slovakia, where WEC LMP2 team ARC Bratislava is from.
“Due to the ongoing pandemic situation, we have to be extremely flexible in our decision-making,” said Pierre Fillon, President of the ACO which runs the WEC alongside the FIA.
“We are continually adapting to government decisions, especially restrictions on travel between different countries. Following discussions with WEC competitors, we have no choice but to delay the start of the season.
“We have, however, managed to keep all the rounds on the calendar which is our number one priority. We now look forward to the opening race at Spa in May and to seeing the Hypercars do battle on track for the first time.”
The Portimao postponement marks the second time that the WEC has altered the venue and date of its 2021 season kick-off.
The mid-March 1000 Miles of Sebring was originally due to represent round one, but international travel complications brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the series to cancel its planned American round in late January and introduce Portimao.
An entry list for the Portimao race, including a GTE-Pro appearance for Corvette Racing, was published last week. An updated entry for Spa has not been issued.
The WEC had also announced that Portimao and Spa would be taking place behind closed doors, but it hopes that the June date for the former will allow that to change.
“The new date for Portimao will give us a better chance of allowing fans to attend and we are certain that the change in schedule is more favorable for all concerned,” said WEC CEO Frederic Lequien.
“I would like to thank our teams, suppliers, partners, the FIA, the Portimao and Spa-Francorchamps circuit organizers, the LMEM team and many others for their cooperation in what continues to be a difficult time for everyone.”
In addition to the latest schedule change, the Bahrain season finale is now listed as an eight-hour race. It was labeled the 6 Hours of Bahrain on earlier versions of the calendar.
2021 FIA World Endurance Championship schedule (revised)
May 1 – 6H Spa
June 13 – 8H Portimao
July 18 – 6H Monza
Aug. 21-22 – 24H Le Mans
Sep. 26 – 6H Fuji
Nov. 20 – 8H Bahrain