Endurance Racing News and Stories

OPINION: WEC are right to take time over expanding the calendar

Phil Oakley

It is quite incredible how much the FIA World Endurance Championship has changed in the past few years.

Let’s look back on the first year of the then-new Hypercar regulations, in 2021. There were three teams: Toyota, with the GR010 Hybrid; new entrant, the American-flagged Glickenhaus with the 007 LMH; and Alpine, with an ex-Rebellion R13 LMP1 car, ‘grandfathered’ into the rules, mostly so WEC’s new rules format to replace LMP1 wasn’t seen as a failure with only two teams.

The pandemic-affected calendar, meanwhile, started at Spa-Francorchamps in April, before heading to Portimao in June, then Monza in July. This was the first visits of the WEC to the latter two circuits, drafted in due to the ongoing health crisis.

Le Mans was next, in August, followed by two races in Bahrain to close out the season.

Today, in 2024, the calendar has gained a race in Qatar, at the Losail International Circuit to begin the season, with Imola taking Monza’s now-regular spot as the Temple of Speed undergoes renovations. Similarly, Brazil’s Interlagos has joined the calendar, for the first time since 2024, with the circus then heading to the Circuit of the Americas in Texas for Lone Star Le Mans, which has replaced Sebring as the US’s round of the championship.

Fuji then hosts its traditional 6 hour race, with the season finale at Bahrain.

Compared to 2023 this is one extra race, when the season had two 6 hour races after Le Mans, followed by the 8 hour finale at Bahrain.

And, comparing it to 2021, just three years ago, this is an extra two races. The calendar now stands at eight races, giving us 72 hours of WEC race action over the year. And yet there are portions of the fanbase that want to see more races added to the calendar.

On the other hand, the WEC series organisers have said now isn’t the right time to expand the calendar. As always, the 2025 season calendar will be announced at the ACO press conference on the eve of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, next month.

That’s a lot of racing. Compare this to Formula 1, with its 24 races at maximum 2 hour lengths. That’s a sum of 48 hours of racing — and as we know there are frequent and common complaints from teams, drivers and sometimes fans that the F1 calendar is oversaturated with too many races.

Back in 2016 and 2017, the heyday of the LMP1-H ruleset, the calendar had nine races, the most it has ever had. While this is one extra race compared to 2024, the race lengths were generally shorter; while nowadays the calendar has a 10-hour race at Qatar and the 6 Hours of Bahrain has had two hours added to it to make it the 8 Hours of Bahrain.

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This means the longest calendar length (when the WEC season has been held over one calendar year), in terms of hours of racing, has been 72 hours — in 2016, 2017, and 2024.

This makes the question of expanding the calendar, to 9 races or even 10, as has been suggested, look a bit more tricky than it may initially seem. If two 6 hour races were added, this would expand the calendar to 84 hours, 12 more than has ever been held in a WEC season. Even if it were only one 6 hour round, this would still mean the total would be 78 hours.

So why would this be a problem? More racing is a good thing, right?

The F1 comparison isn’t a direct comparison really. While the problem with the F1 calendar is the relentless, unending travel for the team members and the time spent away from their families, it’s a bit different for WEC.

For WEC it’s a bit more nuanced. More hours of racing means more strain on finances for the teams, because it means the cars themselves are doing more racing, meaning parts and components get more use, and need replacing more often. While this may not be a problem for the bigger manufacturer teams, the smaller privateer or customer teams may struggle with this.

You also have a personnel problem — more races means that the teams, as corporate entities, need to pay for more travel and accommodation to the extra race, or races, for the team members.

Put these two things together and you begin to see that this may start to pose a financial strain.

While calendar expansion may be possible in the future, taking time over it instead of relentless expansion, and have teams pull out or even go bust, seems like the correct decision.

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