A massive overhaul of the World Endurance Championship (WEC) has been revealed with significant changes to the LMP1 prototype category, and an extensively revised calendar that leaves the 24 Hours of Le Mans as the final round of the series.
The changes are a reaction to the departure from the WEC of sports car racing stalwarts Audi and (at the end of this season) Porsche, leaving Toyota as the only manufacturer competing in the top level LMP1 class. Rumours suggest Toyota won’t stay if there is no serious competition from other manufacturers.
In an attempt to reverse sagging manufacturer support of the LMP1 class, the series is set to make a raft of big changes.
The plans include several innovative features to make the racing even closer, while also offering participants a viable and sustainable business model for the future. This means much-reduced costs.
Putting on brave faces, the FIA and ACO insist the withdrawal of certain manufacturers has offered an opportunity to accelerate the evolution process, which was already happening, and to develop an exciting and enticing vision for the future.
The ACO and the FIA remain wholeheartedly convinced that technology including hybrid systems must keep its place of honour in endurance racing, but not at any price. The budgets invested over these last years in LMP1 Hybrid are no longer sustainable, and a return to reasonable budgets should allow all manufacturers to compete in this discipline.
From 2018/2019, and the season following, all LMP1 prototypes will be treated equally, with performance levels of hybrid and non-hybrid (turbo and atmo) cars managed via equivalence of technologies, importantly allowing private LMP1 teams to compete with the manufacturer(s).
This means no competitor in LMP1 will be disadvantaged performance-wise (although obviously the hybrids will get tactical gains due to lower fuel consumption).
The provisional 2018/2019 calendar has four races taking place in 2018 and four in 2019, as part of a 15-month “Super Season” – and for the same budget as this year, the WEC insists.
This transitional championship season includes the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps twice and, even better, a double helping of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The 2019/2020 championship schedule will then reduce to a normal format of seven races closed by Le Mans.
WEC 2018/19 “super” calendar
• 5 & 6 April: The Prologue, Circuit Paul Ricard (FRA) **
• 4 & 5 May: WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps (BEL)
• 16 & 17 June: 24 Hours of Le Mans (FRA)
• 13 & 14 October: 6 Hours of Fuji (JPN)
• 03 & 04 November: 6 Hours of Shanghai (CHN)
• February 2019: Place and event TBC
• 15 & 16 March 2019: 12 Hours of Sebring (USA) *
• 3 & 4 May 2019 WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps (BEL)
• 15 &16 June 2019: 24 Hours of Le Mans (FRA)