The Automobile Club de l’Ouest and the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile used the annual press conference at Le Mans today to announce their plans for the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Five years ago the FIA and ACO started to work together to harmonise regulations. After Jean Todt, an avid endurance racing supporter, was elected as the new FIA President he realised that a great endurance championship was missing. Soon after he sat down with Jean-Claude Plassart and the result of those talks was more appeciation between the FIA and the ACO and the birth of the World Championship.
After three races in 2010 and seven races in 2011 as part of the 2011 Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, the partnership between between the ACO and the FIA sees the birth of the new World Championship. The initial contract between the ACO and the FIA will last for three years, with a new contract linking the parties for another ten years afterwards.
Even though no calendar was announced yet the current calendar will be the base structure of the new series. The 24 Hours of Le Mans will be the backbone of the new series, although the event itself will remain the exclusive property of the ACO. Joining Le Mans on the calendar are two events in Europe, two events in Asia as well as two events in the Americas. Pierre Fillon, ACO vice-president added to this that the costs for the 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship will be like the 2011 Intercontinental Le Mans Cup.
Frédéric Henry-Biaubaud, the ILMC general manager said: “We are focussing on seven events in 2012. Two of them will be on the American continent, not necessarily two in the United States. In 2013 we’ll be looking at other continents. We are looking at South America, India and Russia, in no particular order. The calendar could be a bit larger, but not too large. One or two extra races would be good.”
All races will be at least six hours and the final calendar will be confirmed at the FIA World Motor Sport Council later this year.
In accordance with the regulations in place for the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup the new championship will be open for the LM P1, LM P2, LM GTE Pro and LM GTE Am categories, while the point scoring system will be equal to the other FIA World Championships.
Titles in the World Championship will be awarded in six categories:
Manufacturers’ Endurance World Champion
Drivers’ Endurance World Champion
GTE Pro World Cup
FIA LM P2 Trophy
FIA GTE Am Trophy
FIA Trophy for the best private team (open to all categories)
With regards to television coverage it was made clear that the ACO will be the promotor and will be in charge of the TV rights. Henry-Biaubaud is looking at a TV deal “that will bring not only racing to the fans but also a good look behind the scenes.”
Despite the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup becoming the World Endurance Championship this doesn’t mean the demise of the regional series like the Le Mans Series and the American Le Mans Series. Henry-Biaubaud made it clear that the World Endurance Championship required the strong bases that are these series.
When asked Patrick Peter, the Le Mans Series promotor, said: “There certainly a future for the Le Mans Series. After everything is finalised things will be more clear, but clearly we will exist. There are several options for the Le Mans Series in the future; one without LMP1 cars and one with LMP1 cars, possibly not factory efforts. The Le Mans Series would become a feeder series to the World Championship. We currently have around 35 cars, the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup has 26 and I think they aim at 30-35 cars.”
Scott Atherton, CEO of the American Le Mans Series and currently in charge of operations in North-, Central- and South-America, did not have many answers yet after having spent most of his time on the Mosport sale that was confirmed last week. He said: “We have not had the opportunity to sit down with the ACO yet.”
When asked what his opinion on the American rounds, the World Endurance Championship and the impact on the American Le Mans Series was, he answered: “Our focus is on North America but it is too early to give a definitive answer. At the moment we have more questions than answers ourselves. The world championship will bring unprecented changes, which has potential for both sides (ALMS and WEC), but it is also a cause for concern.”
Scott Atherton is not as positive as Patrick Peter with regards of the regional series becoming feeder series to the world championship. “Successful regional series and a world championship? No.” In the next couple of days Atherton and his team will be in talks with the ACO and hope to get answers on their questions. “We’re rolling up our sleeves and we need to sweat out the details before going home.”