Sebring and Petit to lose WEC status - "Too many backmarkers in way" UPDATE
Not only will the American Le Mans Series' Petit Le Mans not be part of the new FIA World Endurance Championship next year, but the eight-race WEC calendar announced over the weekend features a race in Bahrain on Oct. 20, 2012--the same date as the ALMS' season-ending 1,000-mile endurance race at Road Atlanta.
|ALMS boss Scott Atherton is said to be 'spitting mad' at the ACO for shunning the Petit LeMans to be part of the WEC|
Petit Le Mans was for the past two years part of the WEC's forerunner, the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, and its exclusion from the schedule has irritated ALMS president Scott Atherton and Krohn Racing's team manager.
"From the beginning of discussions on the concept of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup through its evolution into the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), the American Le Mans Series has worked to assist the [Automobile Club de l'Ouest] in advancing our sport on a worldwide basis," Atherton said in a statement issued Monday to Autoweek. "While we have agreed with the ACO that Sebring would be the opening round of this new championship, we were still in discussions with them regarding the 2012 Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda.
"After the 24 Hours of Le Mans itself, two of the world's greatest endurance sports car races are Petit Le Mans and the Mobil1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, fueled by Fresh from Florida. That is why it is an even greater disappointment to suddenly learn that the ACO has decided to schedule an event in conflict with Petit Le Mans in 2012.
"Even so, we're undeterred in our efforts to work with Road Atlanta to make next year's Petit Le Mans even greater than its record-setting success this year. It is and will absolutely remain one of the greatest sports-car races in the world today."
Jeff Hazell, sporting director for Krohn Racing--the only American team so far to confirm its intention to compete in the WEC--also criticized the date clash with Petit.
"Formula One has spent years trying to get two races in the U.S., and we are giving up a great event to go and race in front of one camel in Bahrain," he said. AutoWeek11/14/11 After months of speculation, the ACO confirmed the calendar for the new FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) Saturday at Zhuhai International Circuit. Featuring eight rounds in eight countries spread out on four continents, it’s no doubt a significant face lift over this year’s seven-race Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, which took the checkered flag for the final time on Sunday.
But the race, scheduled for Oct. 20, also has a direct clash with the Petit Le Mans, an event which was not included on the WEC schedule.
Speaking with SPEED.com, WEC general manager Gerard Neveau said they had no choice but to schedule the Middle Eastern race on the same weekend and admitted it would have been difficult to again race at Road Atlanta given the circuit’s size.
“For the World Championship, it would be difficult to do a race at Petit Le Mans like we did this year because there were too many cars on track and it can absolutely change the result of the race,” Neveau said. “You cannot imagine this is fair regarding the sporting race. It was already one of the main reasons.”
Instead, Sebring will be the only North American round next year, as well as being the only shared event with another series. Neveau admitted that could change in 2013 as he’s expressed interest in holding a standalone race in America, mainly on the ground of having a race run to full WEC regulations.
Next year’s Twelve Hours of Sebring will see season-long ALMS LMPC and GTC entries accepted, two categories not allowed in WEC competition, along with other modifications to the ACO rulebook, thanks to the newly agreed licensing renewal between the two parties, which gives the ALMS more technical freedom in modifying the base regulations.
“I think what we could possibly do a standalone race in the USA just to make sure we can keep the fair result and the fair condition of the races,” Neveau said. “If we do not do the races in Europe with the Le Mans Series, how are you going to do the races with the ALMS in the United States?”
However, Neveau stressed he’s willing to give next year’s combined event a chance. If successful, it could become a staple of the WEC calendar.
“We'll for sure be at Sebring in 2012, but for 2013, we're still discussing,” he said. “I don't want to close any doors. There are many things to do. The ACO is doing a great job with Don Panoz and the ALMS, so there's no reason [not] to continue in this way.
“But I think the first step is to do Sebring and [see how it goes]. We've changed the rules a little bit this year, so we'll have to see how it exactly works. If it works well, then there's no reason to not continue.” Speed.com