The WEC calendar is undergoing a bit of a shake-up. For a while series organisers have wanted the season to run across two calendar years with the championship finale taking place at Le Mans in June. From 2019 that’s exactly what’s going to happen, when the season will begin in October and finish in June the following year.
But in order to get onto the new schedule, that means there needs to be a bit of a transition period in 2018, and that means things are going to get a little bit…well, weird.
The eight-round ‘superseason’ will visit Spa, Le Mans, Fuji, and Shanghai in 2018, and continue into 2019 with a yet to be announced race, a return to Sebring, and then further visits to Spa and Le Mans. So Toyota will have two chances to throw away a Le Mans win in the same season!
That means that the current rounds of the championship at the likes of Silverstone, Nurburgring, COTA, Mexico and Bahrain are looking likely to drop off the calendar.
The return to Sebring is good news though; the 12-hour race will run from midnight to midday and take place on the same weekend as IMSAs 12-Hours of Sebring, making it a bumper weekend of action for fans.
Le Mans will also no longer be a double points race, though bonus points of some kind will be on offer (as they also will at Sebring) to compensate for the longer races.
Provisional 2018-2019 schedule
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)
Part of the reason behind the shake-up is an attempt to reinvigorate the championship after the loss of Audi this year and Porsche next year, leaving Toyota as the only manufacturer entrant in the LMP1 class.
The sporting director of the ACO (the organisation which runs Le Mans) Vincent Beaumesnil said that this transition period would be a great time for privateers to jump on board with the championship:
“When we had three manufacturers we made regulations that allowed the privateers opportunities to fight. Now there is only one manufacturer we are going to try to bring them even closer. This transition period is a good window for privateers to join.”
He also suggested that manufacturers will now be able to join the LMP1 category without having to build a hybrid car, and that hybrids and non-hybrids will be equalised to the same levels of performance to make the top class more competitive.
Costs are being kept down for the ‘superseason’ thanks partly to the relatively low number of races and also the news that cars and equipment will now only be shipped by sea and not air.
Of course the whole point of this is to get the championship to a point where it can start at the end of the year and finish at Le Mans, something series boss Gerard Neveu says is a no-brainer.
“The 2018/19 season will be a season of transition. Five years ago, when the WEC was created, we worked on the idea of finishing at Le Mans, but before it was not possible. The football World Cup finishes with the final and without Le Mans, there is no WEC, so it makes sense.”
It’s an interesting concept and hopefully the transitional period can entice a bit more competition at the front end of the grid.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments!