There are a number of talking points arising from the provisional Calendar released this morning for the 2019/20 FIA WEC Calendar, the first for the World Endurance Championship in its new ‘steady state’ as a ‘winter’ calendar with the season finale henceforth taking place at the Le Mans 24 Hours in June.
Mixed Race Formats
After a first seven seasons of the WEC which have been dominated by events featuring a six-hour race length, with the only exceptions thus far being the Le Mans 24 Hours and the races at Sebring in 2012 (12 Hours) and 2019 (1000 Miles/ 8 Hours), the new season will see a distinct shift.
Only three of the eight races will run to the six-hour format (Fuji, São Paolo and Spa), with two shorter, four hour races at Silverstone and Shanghai, and three longer races, Bahrain (eight Hours) joining Sebring (provisionally listed with a repeat to the 2019 1000 Miles/ 8 Hour format) and of course the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Silverstone is confirmed as an ELMS/ WEC double-header again, both races will be to the four-hour format.
WEC CEO Gerard Neveu has said that the changes have come with several motivations, they react to fan feedback towards a wish for a more varied calendar, with the shorter races in some cases timetabled to allow more flexibility for teams and fans to travel from the out of town venues more easily.
Almost inevitably there are clashes, in some cases significantly so.
The season opener at Silverstone looks set to clash with the Blancpain Endurance Cup finale at Nürburgring.
Shanghai looks set at present to clash with the FIA GT World Cup at Macao, though the Chinese date has, we believe, a degree of ‘wiggle room’. Fuji though looks certain to clash again with the IMSA season finale, Petit Le Mans, for the second year in succession, the Road Atlanta fixture is a week later than usual having moved in 2018 to accommodate a football game.
Beyond that the need to maintain a sensible logistics timetable, and the tricky autumn window for international motorsport slots have combined to remove any available flexibility for the WEC it seems.
In 2020 the major issue looks set to be the 6 Hours of São Paolo, it’s 1 February date may see a clash with the Bathurst 12 Hour, a round of course of the Intercontinental GT Challenge though the Brazil date has also been selected to take advantage of a city-wide festival and its associated promotional opportunites. The Aussie classic though may have ‘wiggle’ room too.
Prologue and ‘Rookie’ Test
Both of these features of the current calendar cycle look set to change somewhat. The need for a season-establishing Prologue disappears with the shift to a summer start for the season though a significant pre-season test at Silverstone in the week or two before the opening round looks set to become a reality.
The ‘Rookie’ test at the end of the season will also fall victim to the change in calendar emphasis, but there is likely to be a post-race test mid-season in Bahrain, with the opportunity for young talent who follow a more traditional racing calendar to be involved.
2019-2020 FIA World Endurance Championship Provisional Calendar **
01 September 2019 – 4 Hours of Silverstone (Great Britain)
13 October 2019 – 6 Hours of Fuji (Japan)
17 November 2019 – 4 Hours of Shanghai (China)
14 December 2019 – 8 Hours of Bahrain (Bahrain)
01 February 2020 – 6 Hours of São Paulo (Brazil)
xx March 2020 – 1000 Miles of Sebring (8 hours) (USA) *
03 May 2020 – 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium)
13-14 June 2020 – 24 Hours of Le Mans (France)
*To be confirmed
** Subject to approval by the FIA World Motor Sport Council