Start, Le Mans, 2018

WEC cuts some races to four hours on 2019-2020 calendar

World Endurance Championship

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The World Endurance Championship has revealed the provisional calendar for its 2019-2020 season.

It will begin with a four-hour race at Silverstone, shortened from the usual six hours. The third race of the season, to be held at Shanghai, will also be cut from six hours to four.

Brazil will return to the championship in 2020 for the first time since it held the 2014 season finale. The Bahrain International Circuit, which is absent from the current ‘super-season’, will also rejoin the calendar.

The latter will be one of two eight-hour races on the schedule, along with Sebring, whose final date is yet to be confirmed. Three of the other races will run to the six hour format which is typical of most current events. The other exception will be the Le Mans 24 Hours, which remains the season finale.

The variation in race length has come about in response to a survey of fans. WEC CEO Gerard Neveu said: “Our fans spoke, we listened and have reacted.”

“Naturally we have had a period of consultation with our partners and competitors, and we believe that this new calendar will meet their expectations and requirements as well as please the fans who are so important to us all.

“Our aim is to introduce an additional round to the 2020-2021 calendar so that there is more or less an event every month to help maintain interest.”

The World Endurance Championship will hold the third race in its eight-round 2018-19 ‘super-season’ this weekend at Silverstone.

The 2019 F1 calendar has not yet been revealed.

Provisional 2019-2020 WEC calendar

Round Date Venue Duration
1 1st September 2019 Silverstone Four hours
2 13th October 2019 Fuji Six hours
3 17th November 2019 Shanghai Four hours
4 14th December 2019 Bahrain Eight hours
5 1st February 2020 Sao Paulo Six hours
6 TBA (March 2020) Sebring Eight hours
7 3rd May 2020 Spa-Francorchamps Six hours
8 13th-14th June 2020 Le Mans 24 hours

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Keith Collantine
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21 comments on “WEC cuts some races to four hours on 2019-2020 calendar”

  1. So… the 8 hours of Sebring?

  2. FlyingLobster27
    17th August 2018, 12:05

    Despite only 8 rounds, this is quite an aggressive calendar. Fuji clashes with the 10-hour Petit Le Mans again, and Interlagos clashes with the Bathurst 12 Hours, so going up against IMSA and SRO. Not in the same time zones, so people can watch both (I won’t), but kind of a slap in the face for drivers and teams who may have been hoping that this year’s Fuji-PLM clash for Alonso’s convenience wouldn’t happen again after he left F1.

  3. I’d like to know what’s the reasoning behind this. 4 hours almost feels like a sprint race, it’s not even 3 GP lengths. Besides, just in 2 of the events? What’s even the point? It’s just a mess with all kinds of race time distances. And anything other than the 12 hours of Sebring is a bit disappointing. Is it another effort to give even more importance to the Le Mans 24h?

    1. My guess is they polled fans and got answers asking for more diversity of the races @toiago – that could be why they kept a few races the same distance, have shortened others and made some longer, to have races all have a more distinct and varied feel.

      Wether that really is something most fans want, and how it will work in practice for fans watching (and for how races play out) will remain to be seen. Another question is, should a 4 hour race give the same amount of WEC points as a 6 hour race or an 8 hour race? Or will they change points to reflect the distances. Should they?

      1. Good point @bascb. Now I do remember that they put up a survey for fans some time ago. Thats the problem with this kind of thing, it never pleases everyone.

        Since the difference between 4, 6 and 8 hours is not that huge maybe it is not really necessary to change the points awarded for then as they do for Le Mans. It is a good question though.

        1. They could almost have a single driver to drive for 4 hours…

          1. @jeanrien
            Almost? Stint lengths of 4 hours are far from unheard of. Occasionally, there have been entries in the Le Mans 24 hours with only two drivers (the third driver having been excluded from the event, with no replacement driver available). If there are drivers that can drive at least 12 hours in one day, 4 hours in one go should be a walk in the park, relatively speaking.

        2. @toiago I think it pleases most people. The ones that are not pleased are the older and/or more hardcore fans who are much more reticent to change. I don’t think of this as a bad thing. It’s evolution. It will upset a few, but it’s in the interest of the future of the sport.

      2. @bascb, there was indeed a fan survey by the ACO, and they did ask about the preferred length of the races (you can find the results here )

        However, the most popular choice was the 6 hour format, with around a third saying that was their preferred race length – after that, the next most popular choice was a 24 hour race. The popularity of 24 hour races was more variable though – it was most popular in Europe (about 35%), but much less popular in the Americas (around 27%) and Asia Pacific (less than 25%), suggesting that there was a strong bias in Europe towards the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

        The idea of a 4 hour race, though, was fairly unpopular – barely 5% of those who responded seemed to like the idea. They didn’t ask about an 8 hour race, but they did ask if people were interested in 9 hour races – and that was the most unpopular idea of all, with barely 2-3% of the audience liking that idea.

        In fact, 12 hour races were far more popular than both of those alternatives put together – European audiences were less keen, being about 12% in favour, but closer to 20% of those in the US and Asia were interested in 12 hour races, perhaps because that type of race is much more common there. The 1000km race, another more traditional race format, was also more popular than 4 or 9 hour races, albeit still not having widespread support.

        All in all, whilst those who watch the WEC might be interested in a bit more variety in the length of the races, the ACO seems to have taken it upon themselves to pick the two least popular options that they could have done.

  4. 4 hours ?………..hardly enduring.

    My missus would not be amused if I told her 4 mins was the new 6 mins.

    1. Hahahahha
      You stud

      I like it, I tend to miss the 6 hour races, with only 4 hours I can watch the race while my girlfriend gets ready for us to go out

  5. I suspect this is about trying to get more people coming to the track and watching on TV. A four hour race is something you can comfortably watch from start to finish, and having a shorter race may encourage teams to push even harder than they already do.

    It’s the six hours of Silverstone this weekend, and I can guarantee you that half the grandstands will be empty. When I’ve been in the past, they haven’t even bothered turning on half the screens. £40 a ticket isn’t astronomical, so I think part of the problem is the length of the race. Six hours is too long to hold your attention, but too short to be worth wandering around the track and doing things whilst the race is going on. Hell, sitting in one of those nasty little seats in the rickety scaffolding grandstands at Silverstone is a miserable experience, so I can see why being forced to sit there for six hours could put people off!

    Personally, I’m a purist, I’d have all the races be 12 or 24 hours. Otherwise the E in WEC seems a bit ridiculous. But I think from a business perspective, it makes sense. Silverstone has a massive amount of race fans on its doorstep; it should be filling the stands. If six hours isn’t working for them, then by all means it makes sense to switch it up. Though personally I’d make a weekend of it – have a sprint race on the Saturday and then an endurance race on the Sunday. Appeal to both demographics. But at a time when the championship is struggling to retain manufacturers and audiences are dwindling, I can absolutely see the sense in making changes. As disappointing as it is for us endurance heads.

    1. Good point about 6 hours being a bit in between – to short to really do something else in the middle, too long to sit around for.
      As I mention in my comment above @mazdachris, I think also that having more variety in races might make for more interest. Or maybe they are just trying to see what works.

      1. @bascb Yeah I can imagine it making a strategic difference. Also, currently the maximum driver stint length is 4 hours. Does that mean that a single driver could complete one of these rounds? I know the pit rules have been changed to make that less beneficial, as well as pretty much eliminating the benefit of running multiple stints on the same tyres, but it would be interesting to see whether any teams would do that. I suppose technically a driver completing a 4 hour race from start to finish would be exceeding the 4 hour limit – perhaps the limit will be removed for the short races.

        I’m pleased to see Sebring going to a longer race. Personally I’ve always had the Sebring 12hr of old up there are the ultimate test of a racing sports car/prototype. Much more of a car breaker than the 24h Du Mans. Hopefully an 8 hour race will give the event some of its bite back.

        1. I agree with that yeah. It is a shame that Le Mans is the only really long race currently.

  6. I can see the reasons for reducing race lengths – encouraging viewership both at the circuit and by broadcast. Will people attending the Silverstone event (for example) see a commensurate reduction in the cost of their ticket though? If not then it is no different from Cadburys reducing the size of their Dairy Milk bar whilst keeping the price the same.

  7. Michael Brown (@)
    17th August 2018, 15:04

    No COTA?

  8. Ending with Spa and Le Mans is exciting and brilliant. But they have no races in the summer periode of July and August. That is always strange for me.
    But a nice lineup.

  9. I am in curious how much input the various circuits had on deciding these race lengths, maybe Silverstone with a 4 hour race would has better opportunities to provide support categories on the race day itself? Or maybe there are noise/time restrictions that benefits from running a shorter race?

  10. Actually I’d like to see them go the full Blancpain route and have distinctly sprint races (2 hours) and endurance races (6 hours plus).

    Separate mini championships for each with the total points for the overall championship, or something like that. Doubt it will happen though.

    Sometimes I want to watch those cars and teams but I don’t have a spare 6 hours…

  11. Larry Osolkowski
    18th August 2018, 14:55

    It’s my understanding that the WEC race at Sebring is in addition to the regular 12 hour IMSA race. Some comments above sound like some people think the 12 hours of Sebring is being shortened. We’ve been going to Sebring for a number of years, and I like the idea of two endurance races on one weekend, but two 12 hour races would be a bit much. We also go to the Watkins Glen 6 hour every year, and I find that’s long enough to watch from several spots around the track.

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