Shanghai could be dropped from the 2020-21 FIA World Endurance Championship schedule, as part of a shakeup that may also include an additional race and visits to new continents.
While having been a staple on the WEC calendar since the championship’s launch in 2012, Sportscar365 understands that the future of the Chinese round has come under doubt, due to feedback from privateer teams as well as some current manufacturers that don’t have significant activation in the market.
WEC CEO Gerard Neveu declined to comment regarding the status of the Shanghai round on the calendar although admitted it’s “not the easiest race” the championship organizes, due to various factors.
Teams were recently given a questionnaire covering a wide-range of calendar-related topics, including ranking the current and potential new venues, as well as their thoughts on an additional race for next season.
Neveu said the data will prove useful in shaping future decisions.
“The questionnaire to the teams was a consultation,” Neveu said. “That’s my job to have a clear overview of what the feeling is from the paddock.
“So I asked them, ‘What is your ranking for the places we’re going? What is the ranking for these potential places we could go one day? And are you in favor of one additional race or not? Do you want to change this or not?’
“I’ve asked several questions to the [paddock] and this is just an indication for me. It’s not the final decision.
“If one race is in the last position, and this is clearly a majority, it can help for my decision. But this is only one of the parameters.”
Among the current circuits not on the calendar that teams were asked to rank included Kyalami, Sepang, The Bend Motorsport Park in Australia as well as the new Igora Drive circuit in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Both Barcelona and Monza, which have hosted editions of the pre-season Prologue test, were also included in the questionnaire.
“If there is any new good place or refreshed place in the world, we have to investigate and to see what is the right opportunity,” Neveu said.
“We’re trying to imagine the calendar not just for next year but the coming years.
“When you ask a question like this, it allows people to open the debate. It’s very interesting to know what they think about.
“A calendar is something in perpetual evolution.
“If you [have] the same calendar for 20 years it can be boring in the end. I’m not speaking about Le Mans, but for the other races, if you have the chance to move, you investigate and check what is possible.”
Additional Round Possible Only if “Good Opportunity”
A return to a nine-round championship, last seen in 2017, will only be made under the right circumstances, according to Neveu.
“To add or cancel a race is not a question. You have to do what’s good for the paddock,” he said.
Toyota’s Pascal Vasselon told Sportscar365 that an additional race would be a “welcome” move for the championship.
“It’s always a bit tough on the budget, but it’s always better to have one more race,” he said.
When asked on any preferred venues, Vasselon said they are discussing those options with the WEC, especially on potential new markets, likely in reference to South Africa, Australia and Russia, which appear to be potential options.
Neveu, meanwhile, said he feels the 2020-21 schedule, which will be released next month in Bahrain, is already “80 to 85 percent complete” although said that could change depending on the future of the Sao Paulo round, which is currently in question for 2020.