Start, World Endurance Championship, Fuji, 2016

Fuji’s WEC race could be moved so Alonso can enter

World Endurance Championship

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The Fuji round of the World Endurance Championship could be moved to a different date to allow Fernando Alonso to participate in the race.

Fernando Alonso, Toyota, Bahrain, 2017
Alonso could do one more race this year
F1 Fanatic understands a change of date is being seriously considered to allow the Formula One champion to take part. The race is currently scheduled for October 17th, which clashes with the United States Grand Prix.

Fuji’s round of the championship was originally scheduled for the preceding weekend but was moved back one week to avoid a clash with the Petit Le Mans endurance race at Road Atlanta. The option of moving Fuji back to that originally planned slot is now under consideration.

Toyota holds significant sway in the talks as it pays for the race at its home track. The Fuji round is one of only five World Endurance Championship races being held this year compared to nine last season.

Rescheduling the race would clear the way for Alonso to participate in every round of the 2018-19 WEC ‘super-season’. Yesterday McLaren confirmed he had been given permission to contest every round of the championship apart from the Japanese race, because of the clash.

Moving the race to accommodate Alonso holds an obvious attraction for Toyota and the championship organisers because of the publicity he attracts. For Alonso, not racing in Fuji presents a significant obstacle to winning the World Endurance Championship crown as his team mates Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima would still be able to take part and score points.

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...

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  • 45 comments on “Fuji’s WEC race could be moved so Alonso can enter”

    1. I’m not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand it would be great to have Alonso compete two full seasons alongside each other and see how he gets on. On the other, it doesn’t seem right that the schedules of 100’s of people (drivers, teams, mechanics, organisers and all respective families) are being tampered with to accommodate one person. If the sport wants more current Formula One drivers to compete, then I suppose it’s a good move to make sure there are no clashes.

      It may be that come the US Grand Prix, Alonso would rather enter the Fuji WEC with a chance of a title there and no chance in F1… I wonder what the odds are on Lando Norris to win the US Grand Prix at the moment!

      1. @ben-n

        it doesn’t seem right that the schedules of 100’s of people (drivers, teams, mechanics, organisers and all respective families) are being tampered with to accommodate one person.

        The question is, are their schedules really being tampered with, would the rescheduling really be noticeable? We’re talking about a race that will take place in almost 9 months, a race that (according to the article) has already been moved once.

      2. Heh, it’s not like that doesn’t happen with the LIVES of thousands of people, so a bit of a change in the schedules of hundreds, so that someone important can be part of their world, I don’t think that’s too much of a stretch.

      3. @ben-n As tough I understand your feeling I don’t think it’s about ‘accomodating one person’. They don’t do it for Alonso but for the publicity he attracts.

        From a pure commercial point of view it would be foolish not to try to move it back. Millions of F1 fans will talk (or are already talking) about the Fuji WEC race. Millions of potential new watchers, even maybe tens of millions? Alonso is just the mean to reach more success and audience.

        1. Exactly @spoutnik, the difference is a large chunk of the potential TV audience as well as a surely welcome boost to the tickets sold for the event. Something that would be an advantage to all teams racing, since more attention should also be good news for their sponsors.

        2. @spoutnik

          Absolutely right precisely what I was going to say. Alonso racing the full season is a major coup for the WEC. In a year where Toyota are essentially racing themselves, Alonso’s presence will help to maintain media and fan interest. I for one will be following the WEC with a lot more interest this year, and I’m sure there will be a significant amount of F1 fans who will do the same.

      4. There are also teams who have cars in both Petit and the WEC round, and drivers who run in both. The race was moved to accommodate more than just one person. Moving it back would require a LOT more work than just saying hey, we’re racing here. I doubt it will move and likely will cost them multiple entries for series that already can’t afford to tick off GT teams.

      5. If they move it so he can race, I can guarantee the car will have an engine failure after 3 laps.

        Seriously though, it does make sense to move it. Alonso is creating a lot of publicity for WEC, and it makes sense as well to have all the races separate from F1 to get the maximum viewers. Also, it allows for other drivers to compete in WEC and F1, I can see Norris doing the same in the future as he seems to love sportscars. Re it changing the lives of people, it’s 9 months away, I doubt they have plans set in stone that can’t just be moved a week forwards or backwards.

    2. While I appreciate the sentiment, this doesn’t feel right to me. Alonso may be a legendary F1 racer, but should an entire race be moved just to accomodate one person’s racing ambitions? That one person who, actually, hasn’t even expressed much of a desire to take the WEC WDC? I can’t imagine this happening for any other driver, even true Le Mans legends like Kristensen. If I had booked time off work, arranged hotels, childcare, etc, to attend the race, I’d feel massively frustrated to be told I had to rearrange everything just so some fly-by-night gaijin can become world champion.

      1. It doesn’t feel right, but they have moved races for all kinds of ridiculous reasons.

        If FIA had half a brain they would minimise the overlap of races between their main series anyway.
        Better for each of those series to get the full attention.

      2. @mazdachris I couldn’t agree more with you.

      3. Alonso may be a legendary F1 racer, but should an entire race be moved just to accomodate one person’s racing ambitions?

        @mazdachris you totally miss the point.
        The WEC wouldn’t do it just for the sake of pleasing a person, don’t be silly. It’s a very beneficial BUSINESS and SPORTIVE move for the WEC.
        Alonso’s appearance brings the series prestige and high marketing boost. And if he is in the fight for the championship, his absence in the season finale would be a painful anti-climax and a lost opportunity at making headlines all over the sporting world. Also, if Alonso lost the champioship only because of not competing in the final race, it would painfuly diminish the value of the eventual champion.

        Enabling Alonso compete in all 5 races is sth the WEC organisation and participants can only profit from. The exposure he will provide to the series, will turn into profit for all the teams and drivers as well.

        1. @damon I’m with you on this. I think it is perfectly fine if this happens, and it makes sense.

        2. Really, shows you don’t really actually follow sportscars. There are teams running, or supporting cars in both series, IMSA and WEC, hence the reason it was moved once already. There are also factory drivers who have rides in both for their manufacturers. But hey let’s hurt those already in the sport so one guy can MAYBE move the needle.

          And FYI, the numbers have been in for a while. Alonso didn’t move the needle positively for the Indy 500. Actually the worst ratings and attendance in 20 years. I’m not banking on a long term growth for the WEC because he might kinda possibly win a title.

          1. @Ex F1 fan I understand what you are saying but I will trust WEC to do what they think is best for all concerned, not just FA. If they originally had the race weekend at the same time as Road Atlanta, that tells me they originally thought that conflict was acceptable. Then they made an accommodation for whatever reason, but now they feel even greater impetus to switch it back to where they originally had it when they knew there was going to be a conflict with the Petite but scheduled it anyway.

            As to your commentary about ratings, you made me curious so I looked it up. Yes the Daytona ratings were down this year from last year, but last year had unusually high ratings and they say that is because of Jeff Gordon’s participation. He is a far bigger name in NA than Alonso. The numbers this year were up over 2016 however. But you are selectively strictly taking the numbers of the television carrier in NA, and not considering viewership in other parts of the world and via social media. Haven’t taken the time to research that but suffice it to say Spanish people and other Europeans likely took far more interest in Daytona than they normally would, and searched for streams etc as happened here in this site, and could not possibly have access to Fox or Fox Sports to view it. Many who just simply could not view it any which way, may have at least cared to learn how Alonso did in the race once it was done and being analyzed.

            As to Indy 500 ratings. Again yes the trend has been downward in general, and there was a big downward trend last year over 2016 but that is because in 2016 they lifted the local TV blackout for the race so viewership went way up. But again, you are speaking of just numbers for the TV broadcaster in NA, and are not accounting for the huge draw FA’s presence created for the rest of the world, particularly in Spain and in the rest of Europe through streaming, live timing, and then there’s those who didn’t see or follow any of it but wanted to know how FA did in the end. There is a chance that FA’s presence last year turned some people outside of NA on to Indy, so it will be interesting to see the ratings this year.

            All in all even if you could claim that FA’s presence made no difference, which is simply untrue when going beyond just NA, you’d have to admit his presence could not possibly have hurt. Just as will be the case if FA can make it to Fuji, it is about far more than just local turnout and viewership in Japan.

            1. @robbie, as you say, judging by the data that came out afterwards, the decision to revert back to showing a recording of the race instead of live coverage in the local area does seem to have been a significant event in causing that decline compared to 2016.

              Equally, you are right that the data for the international audience showed that there did seem to be an increase in interest outside of the US. Predictably, the Spanish audience for the Indy 500 was stronger than in the past, whilst the Monaco GP saw the number of viewers in Spain fall by a third compared to their normal viewing figures.

              You do also have a point that the traditional viewing figures do seem to be flawed, given that I believe they do not include those who might have watched via online streaming services (due to it being much harder to quantify those figures). It does create a slight problem in comparing the viewing figures therefore, because it is possible that part of the longer term decline in TV viewing figures may be because people have moved to online streams that cannot be easily captured in surveys.

        3. Yeah, I am with you on this too @damon. It makes a huge difference, as being able to put up headlines saying “will Alonso win the WEC 2018” would bring not only the Fují race a lot of extra viewers, it will help enhance the whole title fight and lure in badly needed viewers, and possibly even sponsors.

          When the WEC LMP1 category is this close to collapse (the lack of manufacturers already forced them to do this superseason to at least keep Toyota on board for 2018 AND 2019 LeMans) they would be crazy not to jump at the opportunity @mazdachris.

          Just look at the boost this the 2017 Indy got internationally (and surely a bit in the US too) from him competing, and you can easily see that this is about the health of the series as such.

    3. The Fuji round is one of only five World Endurance Championship races being held this year compared to five last season.

      I believe you meant 9 races last season @keithcollantine :)

    4. If Alonso won’t come to the mountain, move the mountain to Alonso!

    5. This is getting ridiculous now!

      1. Why? Toyota sees the marketing benefits of helping Alonso achieve maximum points and victory. It’s business. If they believe it’s worth the upheaval, then it probably is.

        1. Gavin Campbell
          31st January 2018, 10:28

          I mean it will be framed so it “doesn’t clash with F1” as there will be possibily a significant uptake in viewership with Alonso’s entry. Shame he can’t do Indy 500 this year again!

        2. @shimks, delayed reply and I apologize.

          But please do check out other drivers voicing their opinion on the internet and you’ll have the “why” of my comment.

          1. Wow, that is eye opening! It never even crossed my mind that they would change the date if it would affect other drivers. I see that was naive of me!

            Very many thanks for sharing that link!

    6. A lot of effort for a 12th place finish.

    7. I personally admire Alonso’s skill and determination to extract the best imaginable performace from his material, even if it’s a rubber boot on wheels. And it’s great to see that his respect for other racing series is met with great enthusiasm from fans and officials alike, which is helping to build bridges where there used to be trenches.
      But I have to admit that this is a bit uncanny.

    8. What?

      no driver should be bigger than the whole series…

    9. What an amazing logic. Bothering to even ponder about altering something just because of one person. In hindsight, they shouldn’t have moved the Fuji round of the WEC season away from its original slot in the first place, and the reason for doing so sounds even more ridiculous perhaps than this or at least similarly ridiculous.

      1. like plenty of other people have said, it’s not about Alonso, it’s about the money. If I were on the fence about going to a to the race, getting to see Alonso drive might be the tipping point to make me decide to go. That’s potentially more ticket sales and more people watching it on TV. They wouldn’t be doing their job if they didn’t at least look at it and see if they thought the benefits would outweigh the costs of changing the date.

    10. @jerejj
      “What an amazing logic. Bothering to even ponder about altering something just because of one person.”

      You fail at logic. It’s not because of “one person”, but because of thousands of persons and thousands of possible Euros/dollars. Thousands of motorsport fans who would not be deprived of an exciting series showdown between the best drivers, thousands of fans who may be hooked on the series if the last race makes headlines with Alonso that it won’t make without him, thousands of fans who will tune in to the last race and blow up Twitter and Facebook convincing the sponsors that engaging in the WEC is a worthwile investement.
      You have to apply business logic, not a child’s “Mom, why does Timmy have a better toy than me?” logic.

      1. Except the business logic model fails even more incredibly. The series has more than one team in it and those teams have supported the series. Now after they have signed their drivers, crew members, etc, and importantly gotten their factory drivers together you’re going to move the race to accommodate one team?? Sorry but it’s a net LOSS for the business of the series as teams may choose to tell the Fuji round to pound sand as they have in the past to run at Petit.

        And as I listed further up the page, the Alonso effect has been fleeting at best. The numbers were in for the Rolex and yup, that didn’t really move either. So he is 0-2 in moving the needle for actual viewership of the event. He may be in news stories but those don’t move viewers to the events it seems.

        1. @Ex F1 fan See my comment above. The numbers you speak of are only for the North American broadcaster, and do not account for what FA’s presence did to the global audience and interest in the event. An example is this site carrying the live timing and the links that some posters provided so that one could stream the race etc etc. FA’s presence likely helped the overall viewership and/or interest in the event increase, when you consider all countries and all media…but you choose to downplay that to suit your argument. The same will happen if he can attend Fuji…it is about the global draw, not whether or not more tickets are sold or more people watch on TV in Japan.

    11. Can’t have anyone or anything stand in the way of Alonso accomplishing his circa 2014 goal of cementing himself as the “greatest driver ever”.

      1. Said as if it was just FA pulling the strings and commanding people to bow to his whims, like he himself can just make all this happen. Rather, it is taking the support of Toyota, WEC, McLaren, and F1 amongst others, to make this happen so he obviously has a lot of folks believing in him and his talents. And after all, one can’t really begrudge such a potent driver from trying to do whatever he can while age is on his side and he’s got the Championship cache to have all this happen. Like with all drivers including your LH, time runs out so they have to get done what they want to in a fairly limited amount of time and set of opportunities. And when they’re already partway there to the Triple…gotta go for it before it’s gone.

    12. Such decision is very welcome to accommodate Alonso. This situation is something special as Alonso would set precedent for others and in future we may see more drivers Seriously thinking of competing in multiple series.
      If he competes at all rounds of WEC that means he will be contesting in 2 different series simultaneously and that would be very very unique and exciting.

    13. Seems reasonable… of course Toyota would want their star attraction at their home race at their own circuit.

    14. If Alonso wins Le Mans in 2018, he has no need to compete at Fiji.

    15. It does feel strange to me to move heaven and earth for one driver, and slightly demeaning to the rest of the participants. Would the Indy 500 have moved its date just to attract Alonso?

      But arguably, Toyota has a fiduciary responsibility to its shareholders to maximize the benefits of Alonso’s campaign. It’s paying him to drive their very expensive cars; and they’re doing WEC a massive favour by not abandoning the series. It would be irresponsible to its shareholders (and, in a way, to its legions of fans in Japan) if they didn’t try to bring Alonso to Fuji. Forget publicity—the sponsorship opportunities alone of Alonso at Toyota’s own circuit are ones it simply can’t ignore. That they happen to have a very strong hand with WEC—and that it would be beneficial to the series as well—are, in a sense, secondary considerations.

    16. If Alonso races in WEC I will watch it. I watched Rolex 24h all because of him.

      I wonder how much viewership increases with a star driver present?

      I think atleast 20-30% maybe more. Alonso is one giant eye magnet.

    17. this is ridiculous!!

      1. It’s all about money.

    18. Ant Davidson will be pleased to hear of his one reserve shot going west when the entire series moves calendar one week.

    19. I have to admit I didn’t think Alonso wielded this much influence/popularity.
      I think it will be great if the race is moved to accommodate him. He will fill in those long voids between F1 races, at least a few of them.
      I’m not convinced the brutal schedule won’t affect him negatively but I admire him for taking it on. He’s not afraid of failure for sure.
      I think he is making enemies as not just F1 drivers must be a bit envious of all the publicity he is garnering.
      Good luck lad!

    20. Really? this is just stupid.

    21. Alonso should leave F1 already.

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