Gerard Neveu, the CEO of the FIA World Endurance Championship, insists it was an obvious decision to make to switch the date of the 6 Hours of Fuji in 2018 to allow Fernando Alonso to compete, even if the date chosen now clashes with Petit Le Mans, the season finale of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
Alonso’s Formula 1 commitments with the McLaren F1 Team had looked likely to rule the Spaniard out of the Fuji round, but the recently-confirmed Toyota Gazoo Racing driver will now be able to compete in the whole of the 2018/19 super season thanks to the date switch.
“When you take a decision like this you know that always there will be some people who are happy, and some who are not,” said Neveu. “We work always to protect the interests of the championship and this is first and foremost what we took into consideration.
“How could we have someone like Fernando Alonso in our paddock, racing for Toyota, and say we are going to Japan without him in their car? For Japanese fans, to respect what Toyota is doing, and for the championship as well … Alonso is racing for a World Championship, and to win that he can’t miss a race. It was logical and if you ask the Japanese fans they are very happy.”
Neveu insisted it was with the best interests of the championship to move the Fuji date thanks to the Alonso factor, but there was not any other date they could have moved the event to aside from the weekend of Petit Le Mans, and he hopes something can be done to switch the date of that race at Road Atlanta.
“We understand this causes trouble for some other drivers and my hope – a big hope – is that maybe that IMSA can find a way to move the date, because we have done it before and it’s possible,” said Neveu. “We are a partnership with them, and we know it’s very difficult to change dates, but we will try for a solution but it’s a big challenge.
“We of course informed IMSA about this weeks ago, and they fully understood – believe me they completely understand the added value that a driver can bring. We know it’s very difficult for those drivers who are disappointed, but we are trying to look after global interests and that’s very important. In the end, for us, this made sense.”
Unfortunately, it looks as though IMSA will not be able to make a date change of their own, and although they explored that possibility, a statement from IMSA insists the date will have to remain scheduled for 10-13 October.
“WEC did ask IMSA to change the date of this year’s Motul Petit Le Mans. IMSA did respectfully consider this request and explored doing so,” said an IMSA spokesperson to RACER.
“Due to some factors such as television coverage, IMSA’s year-end banquet on the same weekend and competitor and manufacturer logistics already being in place among others, it was determined there were too many hurdles to overcome to move the event. Therefore the 2018 Motul Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta will take place as scheduled Oct. 10-13.”