The FIA World Endurance Championship will return to a calendar year schedule beginning in 2021, with series boss Gerard Neveu citing the expected economical downturn as one of the major reasons for the change.
The globe-trotting series introduced the so-called winter championship with the 2018-19 ‘Super Season’ that included two editions of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in response to the withdrawal of Porsche from the LMP1 ranks.
Season 8, which started at Silverstone last September, was due to finish at Le Mans in June but has been extended through November with a replacement round in Bahrain to ensure an eight-round season.
It has also enabled the championship to reset to a calendar year format, which last featured in 2017.
“You find a solution to a problem and when you have another problem, this is exactly the opposite solution that you can apply,” Neveu explained to reporters in a video conference call on Friday. “This is what we’re doing right now.
“We applied the ‘Super Season’ where we were facing the quick [withdrawal] from Porsche and Audi in LMP1 and started a concept like this.
“Now, regarding the economical situation with the difficulties we’re facing, we have to simplify as [much as] possible to make life [easier] for the people of the paddock and for everybody.”
The change will also result in a delay in the rollout of both the Le Mans Hypercar and LMDh technical regulations to March 2021 and 2022, respectively, which Neveu believes will benefit all parties involved.
He said it would have been technically impossible to have LMH debut this September, as originally planned, due to supply chain delays associated with ongoing coronavirus pandemic that has seen many factories shut down or repurposed.
“The [debut] of LM Hypercar will be March 2021, which is absolutely more conformable than September 2020, no question,” Neveu said.
“The big advantage is that we’ll [now] be on very similar timing to the IMSA championship.
“As we have planned to launch LMDh in 2022, and it’s also planned to introduce the new LMP2s in 2023, for us it makes sense that it will be on the exact same timing.
“It will make the life of the manufacturers, the chassis [constructors] and all the people involved in these new categories, easier.”
Sebring Poised to Serve as Season Opener
Neveu wouldn’t outright confirm that the 2021 season will kick off at Sebring although he admitted that it’s his current plan.
In its revised 2019-20 calendar release, the WEC stated that the 2021 season would not start until March at the earliest, and ending in November.
“The way we have exchanged [dialogue with IMSA so far] shows me that yes, we will be at Super Sebring [in 2021],” Neveu said. “You have no idea how much we were frustrated in not being able to do the race this year.
“We have established a long-term relationship with our partners from IMSA, so, of course, it makes sense that we will be at Super Sebring. That’s my plan.”
Neveu said it would be “very arrogant” to speculate or discuss what the 2021 calendar would look like before being able to confirm the conclusion of the 2019-20 season, which remains in flux depending on the timeline of the virus pandemic.
He said “everything is possible” for next year and admitted that a reduction in the amount of races has not been ruled out.
“The fact is that this is a world championship and not a European championship so we’ll have to travel a little bit for sure,” Neveu said. “But we’ll have to reconsider many different things.
“I think we are not the only one in this position, probably all the world championships will be facing the same situation.
“If we start the season in March, we will communicate on the calendar for that season by the end of this year.
“In between we have a lot of time to discuss, to observe, and to try and take the right decision.”