On Friday afternoon, the FIA announced new plans for the FIA World Endurance Championship. First off, the series is switching to what they’re calling a winter “Super Series.” The next season will have eight races over 13.5 months, starting at the Circuit de Spa-Francochamps in May.
Silverstone, the Nürburgring, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, Bahrain International Circuit and Circuit of the Americas have all been dropped from the schedule. The only addition was a somewhat surprising return to Sebring International Raceway in Florida for a 12-hour race. Here’s the kicker. This 12-hour race will be the same weekend as the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring. However, they will race in a separate 12-hour race, as opposed to the joint race between the WEC and the American Le Mans Series in 2012 that featured nine separate classes. The WEC’s 12-hour race at Sebring will start at midnight, roughly two hours after the IMSA race ends, creating 24 hours of racing in 26 hours.
Shanghai Circuit and Fuji Speedway will return with their Fall dates as well. There is currently a race weekend to be determined for Feb. 2019. Afterwards, the season will end with Spa and Le Mans once again. Beyond 2019, the season will end every year at Le Mans. For the 2019-2020 season, there will be a reduction down to seven races.
The FIA is selling the changes as a massive cost-cutting decision for teams. Air freight will no longer be used after the current season to get equipment to flyaway races. That will be replaced be sea freight that will cut shipping cost by two-thirds. Also, fewer races would mean fewer consumables are being used.
The schedule announcement in Mexico City came along with new regulations for the LMP1 class that are designed to help boost car count. First off, there will no longer be a distinction between the LMP1 cars with hybrid systems and those without. That means no more subclass for the non-hybrid entries. The only non-hybrid LMP1 team to compete in the WEC in 2017 has been the ByKolles Racing Team.
More importantly, the FIA stated that there would be the “…same potential of performance independent of the type of engine power used.” What that means is that hybrid and regular gasoline engines will be balanced, giving teams running non-hybrid LMP1 prototypes a legitimate chance to win races. In addition, the FIA will institute what they’re calling an “Equivalence of Technology” between teams running turbocharged engines and those running naturally aspirated engines. Such a setup may end up working similar to the current Balance of Performance system for the GTE classes, which is fully automated.
More chassis and power options for LMP1 cars are on tap for 2018, once again designed to boost car count. Ginetta has been developing a new LMP1 car for months now for a 2018 debut. Perrinn was also trying to do so, but lost their customer. As a result, they’ve shifted to a potential Garage 56 entry for Le Mans in 2019.
Finally, the proposed 2020 LMP1 regulations unveiled at Le Mans in June will more than likely be scrapped. Those rules, created when there were still two full-time factory hybrid teams in LMP1, would have seen a substantial expansion in electric technology. Running a substantial distance on electric-only power would have been required as well. They are no longer seen as sustainable.