WEC moves Fuji race so Alonso can enter

World Endurance Championship

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The organisers of the World Endurance Championship have moved the date of the Japanese round of the series which will allow Fernando Alonso to take part in the race.

Fernando Alonso, Toyota, Bahrain, 2017
Alonso not planning F1 exit: “He just wants to win Le Mans”
The planned change, revealed last week by F1 Fanatic, means Alonso will be able to participate in Toyota’s home race as well as all other WEC rounds being held this year.

McLaren has confirmed to F1 Fanatic that Alonso will be allowed to race in Fuji, as he will do in every other WEC round this year.

The race has been moved forward one week to October 14th, meaning it no longer clashes with the United States Grand Prix. It will be held on the same weekend as Petit Le Mans, the final round of the American IMSA series.

The move to change the date, which was instigated by Toyota, prompted a mixed response from drivers. Before the change was confirmed Oliver Jarvis said: “I understand the benefit for commercial reasons for WEC, Toyota and Fuji but what about all the drivers who have already done deals based on the current calendar and who have been a loyal part of the championship for many years?”

Olivier Pla, who was scheduled to participate in both races, criticised the decision after it was announced.

“Many thanks WEC,” he posted on social media. “I can’t believe you did it.”

“Your lack of consideration and respect for the drivers who had a [contract] with a team in IMSA to race in NAEC the same weekend are unbelievable. I’m sure I will be not the only one to be impressed with what you did.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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52 comments on “WEC moves Fuji race so Alonso can enter”

  1. Mixed about this. Great that Alonso can do the whole season, it will bring extra exposure and commercially interesting for Toyota. But totally wrong to impact the schedule of so many people for one individual which is a complete stranger to the serie.

    If it was in their plans from the beginning, they should have moved the race as soon as possible ‘to avoid clash with US f1 gp’ and then announce Alonso’s participation. Would still be wrong but at least done the right way.

    1. I think they had to do it. WEC is on a downward trend, losing manufacturers. Having Alonso in for the whole season is too big an opportunity to pass up. It might even encourage other F1 drivers to follow. Look what he did for Indy last year.

      Sympathy to the drivers who have had their contracts disrupted but WEC is fighting for survival. I don’t blame them for doing this at all.

      1. +1 Agree

      2. Yeah, that is probably the rational @spawinte. And we also have to remember that WEC is probably VERY much interested in keeping the sole manufacturer that is left in the sport happy and I am sure that Toyota would have been clearly in favour of moving it back to the original date.

    2. How is that an impact on the schedule of anyone? Fuji is in October. Has anyone made reservations already?

  2. I wonder if Alonso asked Toyota if they could do this or not. I want to hear his side of the whole story. Very mixed feelings on the whole, I am a very hardcore Alonso fan, but it would be super selfish and not nice at all if he pushed Toyota for the change.

    1. One thing seems clear to me and that is that FA has committed to running all the F1 races this season. Perhaps that is all he had to say, and the rest was up to Toyota and WEC to work around that.

      1. Could be. Doesn’t sound nice to me. I think everyone could cope with the date change but there’s so many other drivers competing in Petit Le Mans so it makes no sense for the WEC to allow the new guy control the calendar to that extent. No amount of fame and publicity justifies that.

    2. I don’t think Alonso would even have needed to ask or express any such wish @xenif1.

      It is clear that Alonso needed McLaren to agree on him joining the WEC. It is already a pretty big thing that they allow him to do MOST of the WEC season. Certainly one cannot expect McLaren to allow their top driver to just miss a race. That would have been a clear no go from his employer.

      But since Toyota is the sole manufacturer left in LMP1, and WEC is not in a healthy state after Prosche, Audi and Peugeot before them left, the series has to be very much aware of wanting to keep Toyota happy.
      And then there is the aspect of having a top star like Alonso be a genuine contenter for the championship (which he would not be if he missed one of the races), that alone will give the championship a healthy dose of status and attention, so they would have been crazy to NOT do all they can to make that happen.

      1. You make good points and i understand. Guess i’m just a bit too empathic for the other drivers who have to choose now between the WEC race and Petit Le Mans

  3. Yeah not sure of the chronological timing of it all originally. By that I mean that originally WEC had both the Japan and the Road Atlanta races running on the same weekend. So to me, for at least some amount of time, some participants knew they would have to choose. Unless of course the clash was realized immediately and changed before anyone had a chance to have to decide.

    I do feel for anyone negatively affected by this such as Oliver Jarvis, but have to trust WEC that the negatives are outweighed by the positives of the draw FA will create to their series.

    1. FlyingLobster27
      9th February 2018, 17:02

      The clash was noticed very quickly, and some drivers spoke out about it pretty strongly. The date was changed, and everyone could sign their WEC and NAEC* contracts trusting that they could do both. So not only are drivers going to have to choose between WEC and Petit Le Mans, but they’re going to have to get out of a firm commitment.

      To me, it just begs the question: is there anything people WON’T do for Alonso?
      Deny a team-mate victory a year after a crash that injured him? No, that happened.
      Give up an Indy 500 drive? No, someone did that.
      Crash on purpose? Nope.
      Change an event’s date? *sigh* Oh go on then.

      *The North American Endurance Challenge is made up of IMSA’s four longest races: Daytona (24h), Sebring (12), Watkins Glen (6), and PLM (10). Because the IMSA season starts so early, NAEC teams tend to be announced in time for Daytona. So yes, I insist: some drivers will have signed for both WEC and NAEC by now. Alonso, meanwhile, had not committed to Fuji.

      Make other drivers rewrite their contracts? Check.

      1. @FlyingLobster27 Ok thanks, that is more info than I knew. Seems like WEC will have to sooth more ruffled feathers than I had hoped on behalf of the now jammed up participants.

        As to your question is there anything people won’t do for Alonso? Lol yeah seems like they won’t build him a Championship winning McLaren. Deny a teammate a victory? Well FA didn’t start nor cause the one-rooster concept at Ferrari. Give up an Indy 500 ride? Yeah for sure and others have had to do so in the past too. Crash on purpose? Yeah that happened. Change an events date? Yeah that happened too.

        But I wouldn’t be surprised if an unwritten commitment to Fiji had been in place all along, as in, I envision FA would have said to them weeks if not months ago, I would love to come to Fiji but there’s no point talking about it since I will be driving every F1 race this season. WEC then had to adapt, or not, to that information.

        1. Teams orders were illegal though. Even so (probably because the car was red) the result still stands, like Singapore, but better not to stir that pile again

          1. (he says while stirring it casually)

          2. Lol, yeah team orders were illegal but that was always a bit tongue in cheek, no? I mean, it seems we all agreed that a team can hide an order a hundred different ways anyway. I was no more fussed by that order in FA’s favour against Massa as I was about the orders in LH’s favour against VB last year. If the difference comes down to illegal vs legal that is pretty small potatoes by F1 standards.

          3. They all make it tongue in cheek depending to whom the penalty is.

            They got a fine nevertheless

        2. FlyingLobster27
          9th February 2018, 18:15

          lol, @Robbie, though Alonso’s career at McLaren isn’t over yet…
          Driver reactions have started, reported so far by Endurance-Info (article in French, but the tweets are in English), and Oli Pla is as unhappy as he was when the first clash was announced. Only now, of course, he has signed for both the WEC and the NAEC.

          The tweet from the British GT Championship made me chuckle. The article itself compares the date change to “Paris Saint-Germain’s league match being postponed by one day so that Neymar can get over his birthday hangover”.

      2. FlyingLobster27
        10th February 2018, 8:15

        Just as I was cooling down to the idea that “yeah, I guess Toyota having its season-long line-up in Japan for its local fans is cool (doesn’t make up for it, but it is cool)”, it’s been brought to my attention that the date change also affects Super GT.
        There are two stages of daft in this one. First, Super GT, like IMSA, “shot first”, setting its dates before the WEC’s Drawn-Out Season was announced. WEC announced its calendar, moved to avoid a clash with Petit Le Mans, which put it in a clash with Super GT, which moved its race to 14th October… which is where the WEC race in Fuji ended up.
        Second, this calendar change was clearly made at the request of Toyota, who also has a big factory presence in Super GT. The fact that two of its drivers would have to miss Super GT is anecdotal, as this isn’t the only clash the WEC has managed to create despite having 15 months in which to place its minute number of rounds, but it creates two big sportscar races in Japan on the same weekend. And if Alonso is the “fan drain” the WEC hopes he’ll be, that’ll reflect negatively on Super GT… and Toyota in the Super GT.

        My guess is, Super GT will manage to move its date back to its original slot. But really, Toyota has messed around with a lot here, including their own plans, all for someone I personally have little regard for (can’t you tell). They’re spoiling the sympathy I have for them, pushing the envelope, and it might not stop there. If Toyota are 1-2 at Le Mans with half an hour to go, and Alonso is second, I will be very, very nervous. Anything could happen if it benefits Alonso, we’ve seen plenty of that.
        As for the Fuji-Super GT clash, if it happens, I know which one I’ll watch. And Petit Le Mans the night before, of course. Chances are I won’t tune in to Fuji in any case because I’ll have forgotten that the WEC exists between rounds.

  4. A tough but pragmatic decision. They will surely have taken note of the rise in interest around last year’s Indianapolis 500. And they need a story which isn’t just “Toyota are thrashing everyone because the other manufacturers left.”

    1. If Toyota trashes everyone. According to Mike Conway, it is not a given, because the privateer LMP1 team have more open rules which gives them more top speed (360 vs 340 kph) and more fuel to burn (thus allowing for more downforce).

      1. @silfen, I am a little doubtful given that those same regulations were also in place when Rebellion Racing were racing in the LMP1 category back in 2016. From the speed trap data at Le Mans, we know that Rebellion’s car had almost exactly the same straight line speed advantage – the fastest R-One was 12mph, or about 19kph, faster in a straight line than the fastest TS050 – and also had the same fuel flow advantages, but Toyota was around six seconds a lap faster than them.

        Now, whilst the ACO might be making a move to try and rebalance the field, given that Toyota had a fairly healthy performance advantage over Rebellion despite Rebellion having similar advantages to those you list, it doesn’t guarantee that the privateer entrants will be that much better off either. Equally, if the dailysportscar website is correct, then it sounds as if Toyota might have a fuel economy advantage of an extra lap per stint at Le Mans, still giving them advantages in other areas (over the length of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, that advantage in terms of pit stops is a noticeable one).

        On a wider note, I am not entirely surprised by the decision – this sounds like a decision driven by the ACO, as the ACO hasn’t always got on that well with IMSA and probably would make a decision like this just to spite them.

    2. Remember that Toyota own the Fuji Speedway, so it would’ve just been getting the FIA on board with it, which probably wouldn’t have been too hard as they’re the only team not to have left LMP1

    3. @keithcollantine @silfen @emu55
      I’m just glad Bernie is gone. He was such a spiteful person that he would have probably moved the USGP date to screw it up again for the WEC race. LOL

  5. Since both Formula 1 and WEC are FIA series and IMSA is not, I can understand the decision by the WEC/FIA to change the date back to the 14th. Good publicity for both series. IMSA is after all a competing series.

    1. +1 this is exactly what is going on

  6. I don’t understand.
    did they do it just so that Alonso can race at Fuji?

    1. yes and no. Alonso being there means more people watching so more money. so yes, they changed the date to get him there, but they did it for the money he’ll bring in, not for him.

  7. In hindsight, they shouldn’t have moved the Fuji round of the WEC season away from its original slot in the first place only to revert to it later, and the reason for moving it away from the original slot in the first place sounds even more ridiculous perhaps than this one or at least similarly ridiculous.

    1. @jerejj,
      Apparently the increase interest and publicity is worth more than the reputation of the championship itself. Also, the people like us finding it absurd are in the minority.

  8. That’s surely much of the reason for running Alonso in the first place. Toyota need the PR.

    Anyway my guess is Toyota thrash everyone else in all the races bar the 24h, where they will somehow contrive to still not win it.

  9. Imho this says a lot about WEC, they need a driver that was F1 champion 12 years ago to stay relevant.
    No disregard for Alonso’s talents but I remember when people said WEC would be bigger than F1, they can’t even be bigger than one F1 driver.

    This feels completely different from indy (which I will start following again). WEC has no appeal for me whatsoever this year, and Alonso won’t change that, not to mention the problems this will cause for other drivers.

    A bit pathetic if you ask me

  10. Can very much understand why Toyota were so very keen for it to happen, given that it’s not just their home race but their own track. And for WEC, I guess they need to keep their only manufacturer happy…

    Harsh on guys like Pla, though. Hadn’t thought about some drivers being down for IMSA on that weekend as well.

  11. I am unhappy with this decision. WEC has just told everyone that not only is one driver more important than everyone else (aside from the 15+ clashes with the Petit Le Mans and other races happening on that date, there are many people who had already booked their travel to Japan) but that their promises and agreements mean nothing. The reason for the clashes, and the bookings, is that the world-level races are required to have their calendars set in stone – bar force majuere scenarios – on the FIA December meeting. That rule is, itself, designed so lower-level series can select dates that don’t clash, if they are in a situation where they need a non-clashing date.

    WEC Fuji moved date by a week in the first place because it managed to have a clash with Petit Le Mans, and it knows many of its drivers like to be the 3rd driver in that race (most IMSA races have 2 drivers, but Petit Le Mans, along with a couple of other longer races on the calender, has 3 drivers). IMSA and WEC discussed this, and WEC decided to move to accommodate the 10-20 drivers that have that arrangement in a typical year. That was “set in stone” at the FIA December meeting. Driver contracts were made on that basis.

    Then WEC decided to move back, all because only one driver was due to arrive in the series…

    It’s also worth saying that IMSA, WEC and the ACO have something of an uneasy relationship, as they have series and events that potentially could conflict with one another. A fairly complex series of informal agreements exists to prevent the various power interests from going into open warfare and seriously damaging the category (a particularly ferocious WEC/ACO argument was part of the reason Category C collapsed in the early 1990s). This is part of the reason why things that would probably be relatively easily (if noisily and argumentatively) done in F1, such as moving one race by a single week several months before it was due to happen, end up resembling the build-up for World War III in sportscars.

    1. You won’t believe how hard I’m laughing because I read “manure situation” instead of “majeure”.

      And jeez is this some manure

  12. Cue Fuji round being canceled due to bad weather..(again)

  13. Is there a precedence for this?

    Moving entire event at cost of many?

    Hard decission. But for me, he is the difference between watching WEC or not watching WEC.

    And I’m not even a fan of Alonso. But I am a fan of F1 and top drivers.

    I hazard a guess if Ham or Vet turned up even more people would watch.

    Without Alonso first race is just lame round with a single hybrid lmp1.

  14. Wow! My first reaction of this possibility was “this is becoming ridiculous now!”.
    It still hasn’t changed. Changing a WEC event’s date just for one single driver. Wow!

    Having a hard time wrapping my head around this absurdity. This will have some long lasting effect on Motorsports.

    1. Hmmm, I disagree. I think it is a unique one-off situation that perhaps WEC will learn from and won’t repeat, but I certainly don’t think this is just for one driver. This is going to skyrocket the popularity of the event for everyone involved including the local economy at Fuji.

      1. I’d happily accept that if we were talking about a business or an entertainment fixture. But this is still a sport, isn’t it, @robbie?

        Maximizing the commercial interests at the cost of the basics. Sports are supposed to uphold some core values or codes, however unimportant they become. Diminishing the perceived status of a Championship event with decisions that have to be defended based on the commercial aspects, this couldn’t be the only option.

        1. True it is a sport, and a business, and entertainment as well. My suggestion about the commercial aspect needn’t be the final say, but I think it is a key one. I’m not sure how the perceived status of a Championship has been diminished here.

  15. Given he is in the WEC primarily to win Le Mans I wonder why this was necessary.

  16. Why can’t naec or imsa move their date so the drivers could participate?

  17. What a joke

  18. Pathetic. Total joke.
    So Nando needs to be World Champion again. And with no real competition.
    Yeah! “Best driver”!

  19. Very simply, Alonso is a not only a great driver but as many race fans worldwide found out at Indy, he’s intelligent, humble, funny and fearless and has become an rock star of sorts because of it.

    Funny thing is, his situation is totally due to Honda’s ineptness to deliver an engine that would have enabled McLaren to be competitive – he surely wouldn’t have given a thought to Indy if he were getting podiums. This defies the old adage that one “cannot make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.” It was nothing short of a stroke of genius, especially since it benefits McLaren also.

    The WEC surely noticed the fanfare at Indy and wants a piece of the pie and they would be crazy not to. It isn’t Alonso’s fault the race was rescheduled so why all the venom aimed at him? I don’t think they should have rescheduled the race but that’s business!

    I give him credit for risking his driving reputation by trying another series. I hope it goes well for him and would feel the same if it were Lewis, Seb, Max etc.

    1. Humble?? Wow you’re blind

  20. They could’ve gone to September 23rd or November 4th and avoided conflicting with both F1 and IMSA. 52 weeks in a year and this is the best they could do? Seems more like a calculated insult to IMSA from a series that is teetering on the brink of irrelevancy or dissolution.

  21. WEC has really dropped if they are moving a whole race weekend to accommodate the 5th best driver in F1.

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