After the announcement that the 89th 24 Hours of Le Mans has been postponed to August, the FIA World Endurance Championship revealed changes to their 2021 calendar, postponing the start of the season once again.
In January, the 1,000 Miles of Sebring was cancelled, with a decision to start the WEC season in Europe being made to help teams combat the international travel restrictions that are in place due to the continued COVID-19 pandemic. Portimao was announced as the new opening round and was due to take place two weeks after the Sebring event. Further developments and the move of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a bid to enable spectators to the event has pushed WEC’s hand to make changes themselves.
The Portuguese round will now take place on the old Le Mans weekend (13 June). This choice was approved by the FIA Motor Sport Council as Portugal is one of the most heavily impacted countries in terms of COVID travel restrictions. With the move to a Summer race, the chance of teams, media and spectators being able to travel to the race is greatly increased.
The 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps remains on its 1 May race date, but with no races planned before it this becomes the season opener. The delay to the start of the season, now 6 weeks on from the initial proposed start date, will also see Spa-Francorchamps host the Official Prologue of the season on the 26-27 April. It has already been confirmed that the race, as part of Spa-Francorchamp’s 100th anniversary celebrations, will be held behind closed doors with no spectators in attendance.
The remainder of the WEC calendar stays as was previously planned, as the global travel restrictions have a greater chance of being lightened and closer to normal for the second half of the year. The calendar holds onto six races, which is the minimum races needed for the season to be deemed a championship.
Frédéric Lequien, CEO of the FIA WEC, said: “I would like to thank our teams, suppliers, partners, the FIA, the Portimão and Spa-Francorchamps circuit organisers, the LMEM team and many others for their cooperation in what continues to be a difficult time for everyone. The new date for Portimão will give us a better chance of allowing fans to attend and we are certain that the change in schedule is more favourable for all concerned.”
“In the reality affected by the global health crisis, all sporting calendars have to be considered fluid and nothing is set in stone.” Richard Mille, President of the FIA Endurance Commission added. “Having said that, I’m full of praise for the efforts of the promoter of the FIA World Endurance Championship for their flexibility and reactive approach. Delaying the start of the season should be beneficial for everyone involved, from the competitors to the fans.”
The delayed start to the season works in favour of those teams who were worried about having their cars ready in time for the start of the season, notably some of the Privateer Hypercar runners. With an additional month in hand before the Prologue, it is almost guaranteed the full 33-strong grid should be on show for the opening round at the start of May.
Updated FIA World Endurance Championship Calendar:
- Prologue, Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps – 26/27 April
- Total 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps – 1 May
- 8 Hours of Portimao, Autodromo Internacional do Algarve – 13 June
- 6 Hours of Monza, Autodromo de Nazionale Monza – 18 July
- 24 Hours of Le Mans, Circuit de la Sarthe – 21-22 August
- 6 Hours of Fuji, Fuji International Speedway – 26 September
- 8 Hours of Bahrain, Bahrain International Circuit – 20 November