World enduro title is back
Long-distance sports car racing will have a World Championship next season for the first time since 1992.
The Intercontinental Le Mans Cup has been granted world status for 2012 and will become the FIA World Endurance Championship. The new series revives a championship that ran under a variety of names (including the WEC in 1981-85) from 1953 until the demise of the Sportscar World Championship in ’92.
The new-look WEC will, like the ILMC, include the Le Mans 24 Hours as a double points-scoring round at its heart. The plan is for a further six races, two each in Europe, America and Asia.
Unlike the ILMC, which is in its first full season in 2011, the top drivers will get a chance to be crowned World Champion. Titles will be awarded to the winners in the manufacturers’ and drivers’ overall classification, which effectively means they will go to LMP1 entrants.
Derek Warwick, who won the SWC in 1992 together with Yannick Dalmas and Peugeot, welcomed the return of the series. “To have a proper World Championship again has to be good for the sport,” he said. “Drivers of the calibre of Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Nicolas Minassian would all be worthy World Champions and should have the chance to try to put it on their CVs.” Eight-time Le Mans winner Kristensen said: “Everyone wants to race for a World
Championship, whether you are a manufacturer or a driver. That’s why this is so great.”
FIA president Jean Todt revealed that he had been talking to the ACO about re-forming a world sports car championship since shortly after his election in October 2009. “When I become president, I had a look around and realised a world endurance championship was missing,” he said. “It was not an easy decision to make. Like all marriages, we had to get to know each other first.”
ACO boss Jean-Claude Plassart said: “I don’t know who had the idea first, but it soon became normal that the ILMC should become a World Championship.”
The WEC has been dubbed a partnership between the ACO and the FIA. The Automobile Club de l’Ouest at Le Mans will promote the series and retain the TV rights, while the FIA will take a significant involvement in the rule-making process.
Plans for the WEC were given the green light at the June meeting of the FIA’s legislative body, the world council. It also rubber-stamped Stephane Ratel’s plans for a change in the rules for his FIA GT1 World Championship, which is run to a sprint format without refuelling.
A World GT class has been created, which will bring together existing GT1 machinery and GT2/GTE and GT3 cars on the same grid. They will then be performance balanced to ensure a level playing field.