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
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...