Sebring cancelled as WEC moves first 2021 race to Portugal

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The first race of the 2021 WEC season will now take place in Portugal after Covid-19 forced the cancellation of the 1000 Miles of Sebring

2020 European Le Mans Series at Portimao

Portimao hosted the European Le Mans Series last year

Paulo Maria/DPPI

The dawn of sports car racing’s new Hypercar era will have to wait a little bit longer after this year’s 1000 Miles of Sebring race was cancelled due to the Covid situation.

The World Endurance Championship’s season-opening race will now take place in Portimao at the beginning of April, a fortnight after the American round was scheduled.

Changing the venue allows more time for travel restrictions to be eased and avoids a lengthy shipping process for the majority of teams, which are European-based.

This year’s pre-season test will also move from Sebring to Portugal at the end of March.

It’s the second year that the race has been called off as a result of the pandemic: A US ban on most European visitors resulted in the 2020 race being cancelled nine days before it was due to take place.

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“Unfortunately the Covid-19 pandemic continues to cause issues worldwide,” said Pierre Fillon, President of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), which organises WEC. “We are saddened not to see our American friends and can’t wait for the day when we can return to the USA to race alongside IMSA for Super Sebring.

“We remain focused on continuing to build our long-term relationship with both IMSA and the Sebring International Raceway and the intention will be to return to Sebring in the future.”

Last week, Toyota unveiled the new-generation Hypercar that it will race this year. WEC has confirmed two entries for the Japanese manufacturer, alongside two Hypercar slots for Glickenhaus and one for Alpine, which is entering a grandfathered LMP1 car.

WEC said that it hopes that the rest of the calendar will remain unchanged, with Spa scheduled to host the second round in May, followed by Le Mans in June. Monza, Fuji and Bahrain make up the rest of the six-race season.

“Over the past few months we have seen that the pandemic is extremely unpredictable and after several discussions with key parties, the decision was made for the beginning of the season to remain in Europe where most of our teams are based,” said Frédéric Lequien, CEO of WEC. “The consequences of a last-minute cancellation would have economic implications for the entire WEC family, so we took a responsible decision.

“Portimao has provided some extremely close racing in the European Le Mans Series and has excellent facilities, we are very much looking forward to getting our new season underway with an eight hour race there in April.”

2021 WEC calendar: updated schedule

Date Race Country
April 4 8 Hours of Portimao Portugal
May 1 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps Belgium
June 12-13 24 Hours of Le Mans France
July 18 6 Hours of Monza Italy
September 26 6 Hours of Fuji Japan
November 20 8 Hours of Bahrain Bahrain