FIA WEC CEO Gerard Neveu has confirmed that the proposed GTE Pro Qualifying Races could take place as soon as next year, the format change being proposed as part of the transformation of the class to a World Championship for this season.
“The idea is not new, we’ve been looking at it for one year. We investigated with the manufacturers as soon as GTE Pro was granted World Championship status, but the process to put it in the sporting regulations takes a lot of time,” Neveu said, “which is a good idea because you need to take into consideration all the parameters.
“It was not possible for 2017 because we needed to investigate all the different parameters and that’s the reason why this is now between the people from the sporting and technical working group and the manufacturers. If there’s still an optimistic view from the partners it will be introduced for ’18.
“Yes, the idea is to do something different, and something very attractive,” he continued, confirming that the races would take place at the regular WEC races outside of the Le Mans 24 Hours. “You have to update the show for the fans on site and on tv. The format is still under investigation.”
Neveu also commented in the roundtable discussion with the media about the evolution of the WEC’s calendar and race format going forward.
“We have to consider changes to the calendar, do we scale back to eight races, stay at nine or do 10?” he explained. “We need to consider the needs of the manufacturers and teams in each category, especially with cost. The length of races is also under discussion, there are many different opportunities.
Do we find somewhere to do a shorter race, a longer race, or a big race at the end of the season? Our job is to try and estimate and work in the best interest of the global paddock. If you do one less race, but make another double the length you don’t save any money.
“When you sign circuits for three years you don’t have to keep going back and talking to them. This year the contract for Fuji and Mexico is up. Of course with Fuji we will be back for another three years there’s no doubt about that.”
Neveu also mentioned that Bahrain is also at the end of its three year contract, making it another circuit with a question mark over it as discussions for future calendars take place.
In terms of the grid, Neveu also expressed the concern of costs in LMP2, spoke about other wildcard entries could arrive this year and what it the field could look like in 2018.
“We have to keep an eye on LMP2, it’s good that we have the four chassis and single engine, but there are ways people need to spend less money. I found out that in the ELMS people replace the wheel guns twice a year for example, once after Le Mans, in the WEC it’s after every race because they want to gain a fraction of a second in the pits, this costs 10 thousand euros each time.
“The race-by-race entries for this year is all about opportunities. We know that there’s interest for additional cars at China, Japan and Mexico. The big advantage with LMP2 is that there’s chassis all around the world, and we are always happy to welcome them, especially if they race Le Mans.
“Next year,” he said, “We are convinced you will see some Ligiers, some Orecas and maybe even Dallaras.”