FIA World Endurance Championship CEO Gerard Neveu says they have to “seriously investigate” the potential of adding Kyalami to the calendar in the future, although downplayed the chances of it being an imminent replacement to February’s Sao Paulo round.
Neveu attended last weekend’s Kyalami 9 Hour Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli round as a guest of SRO Motorsports Group founder and CEO Stephane Ratel, as part of a fact-finding mission that included meetings with track owner Toby Venter.
The South African circuit, which previously hosted rounds of the previous-iteration of the WEC in the 1980s, is understood to have been a leading favorite from competitors based on a questionnaire sent to teams last month.
“All year we’ve been looking for the new places where there’s interest for motorsport and endurance,” Neveu told Sportscar365.
“Kyalami is a circuit that we have to seriously consider because this is a place that has history.
“It was a good opportunity to visit my friend Stephane Ratel. We had time to have a good dinner and enjoy the event, which is always very good.”
Neveu said he was “very impressed” with the upgrades made to the circuit since Venter’s purchase of the facility in 2014, that includes a state-of-the-art pit building as well as modifications to the track.
“They’ve refreshed the track very well but they kept the spirit of the track and everything,” he said.
“It’s Kyalami 2.0, the new version, and it’s very good.
“I’ve been discussing with the teams and drivers, because there’s many WEC drivers in the [IGTC] paddock. All of them look very enthusiastic.
“I’ve taken the opinion of the media also and it looks like the media is very happy also.
“I feel like the local people are very involved and committed on this story. This is one possibility we have to seriously investigate.
“We were here to see if we have to open the door. Now I think we have to see what is behind the door for sure.”
Kyalami “Looks Very Difficult” as Last-Minute Sao Paulo Replacement
Neveu downplayed that Kyalami could serve as the replacement round for the Six Hours of Sao Paulo in February, which is in question due to financial issues involving the promoter and local government.
“You have to be realistic,” he said. “To set up an event at a track you’ve never visited before takes a certain amount of time.
“The size of WEC is bigger than this weekend, so you have to face a bigger challenge.
“In two-and-a-half months, with the Christmas period in the middle, this is not serious.
“At the same time, you have to make a deal. You have to discuss now and you have to find a win-win deal, especially in this type of country.
“Next year, in three months, doesn’t look very reasonable. But to one day bring WEC [to Kyalami] makes sense.”
Neveu said he “cannot speak” on the current situation with Interlagos, reiterating that they will communicate a final decision on the situation in the next week.
Sportscar365 understands that Circuit of The Americas and Mexico City are the likely backup options, although Neveu refused to comment on the possibility of COTA.
The home of the U.S. Formula 1 Grand Prix is understood to be out of service next month and January as it undergoes track repairs and resurfacing.