WEC: what the changes means for us

As the fall­out from Porsche’s LMP1 exit con­tin­ues, Ben looks at what the WEC’S shake-up means for him in GT-AM

Total 911 - - Motorsport -

As I write this over the Fuji race week­end, we still have two rounds of the FIA World En­durance Cham­pi­onship to run but at­ten­tion is al­ready on next year. Ac­tu­ally, make that the next two years as the re­leased cal­en­dar spans both 2018 and 2019, with two Le Mans 24 Hours and a sur­prise ad­di­tion in the US. They are call­ing it a ‘su­per­sea­son’ as the cham­pi­onship un­der­goes a rad­i­cal change to put more em­pha­sis on Le Mans, the blue riband event.

In or­der to fin­ish a cham­pi­onship at Le Mans when it was only an­nounced in Septem­ber has ne­ces­si­tated a lit­tle cre­ative think­ing – but who’s com­plain­ing about a sea­son that has two Le Mans 24 Hours in it?

The FIA in­sists that it’s a one-off cal­en­dar just to get the cham­pi­onship into its new win­dow and there have been a cou­ple of ca­su­al­ties but they can be ad­dressed once things are steady. I am gut­ted that both the Cir­cuit of the Amer­i­cas and Mex­ico City have bit­ten the dust for 2018-19, and not just be­cause I’m a fan of both venues. I’ve al­ways seemed to do well there – and Gulf Rac­ing fi­nally made the podium in Mex­ico this year, so there are plenty of good mem­o­ries, too.

The good news is that the se­ries still gets to race on the other side of the At­lantic and at one of the big­gest sportscar meet­ings of all: Se­bring! While it won’t be mix­ing it with the IMSA se­ries boys, the WEC will get its own 12-hour race run­ning on the same week­end but start­ing at mid­night, which will be some­thing dif­fer­ent. Bring­ing the two big­gest se­ries to­gether is huge for the long-dis­tance dis­ci­pline and it should be an epic week­end, with back-to-back 12-hour events.

With Se­bring not slot­ted un­til mid-march 2019, los­ing the two races in the Amer­i­cas also makes for a quiet 2018 with only five races across the year and noth­ing un­til the sea­son starts at Spafran­cor­champs in May. At least they’ve man­aged to keep my home race on the sched­ule, even if the se­ries goes to Sil­ver­stone in Au­gust rather than April. Given the Bri­tish weather, how­ever, that might not be a bad thing – es­pe­cially for the fans!

There was talk of the 2019 ‘half’ of the sea­son start­ing in Fe­bru­ary but, with noth­ing con­firmed since the cal­en­dar came out, we’re just go­ing to have to see if any­thing comes up. Ob­vi­ously, I hope it does as the more rac­ing we do, the bet­ter.

To that end, hav­ing an­other long dis­tance event on the sched­ule is great. In my opin­ion, the cal­en­dar needed some­thing other than six-hour races in ad­di­tion to Le Mans and, short of find­ing space for us at the Day­tona 24 Hours, run­ning for 12 hours at Se­bring is a pretty good choice. The 2018-19 sea­son, un­usual and unique as it will be, is look­ing pretty good and I hope to be a part of it.

Be­fore that, how­ever, there is still 2017 and the fi­nal swing through Asia to China and Bahrain be­fore the mid­dle of Novem­ber. As I write this in Ja­pan, we’re fac­ing a wet week­end but we’ll be fac­ing some dif­fer­ent con­di­tions be­tween here and Bahrain, so hope­fully we’ll have some­thing good to re­port...

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