The ACO has revealed the complete 2021 WEC Calendar, a six-race season that includes the 2021 Le Mans 24 Hours and a new six hour race at Monza and an eight hour race at Portimao.
Update: Bahrain double-header brings 2021 season to a close
Updated 16:30 Wednesday 4th July 2021. The FIA World Endurance Championship calendar has been updated once more, after the continuing Covid-19 pandemic and issues with vaccine rollout in Japan led to the cancellation of the round that was set to take place at Olympic venue Fuji Speedway in October.
Instead two rounds will now be held in Bahrain, back-to-back in late October/early November. On October 30th the 6 Hours of Bahrain will take place, followed just a week later by the 8 hours of Bahrain, on November 6th. These also replace the original Bahrain event, which was due to take place on November 20th, and will bring the season to a slightly earlier than expected conclusion.
The opening round, which had been set to take place at Sebring in March before being moved to Portimao in April, will now take place at Spa on 1st May. Both the opening round at Portimao and the scheduled second round at Spa were due to take place behind closed doors, but now the Portuguese race has been moved due to ongoing issues with quarantine regulations – especially relating to the need for a large number of UK-based teams to hotel quarantine on return.
As a result the Season with kick off with a Prologue test at Spa on 26th/27th April before the first round on the Belgian circuit on 1st May. There will then be a gap of just over a month until the race at Portimao on 13th June before another month gap precedes the round at Monza – the WEC’s first visit to the Italian circuit – in July.
The double points paying Le Mans 24 Hours will follow in August before the final two rounds – in Japan and Bahrain – take place as originally intended. Pierre Fillon, President of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, which organises the championship with the FIA, said: “Due to the ongoing pandemic situation, we have to be extremely flexible in our decision-making. We are continually adapting to government decisions, especially restrictions on travel between different countries. Following discussions with WEC competitors, we have no choice but to delay the start of the season. We have, however, managed to keep all the rounds on the calendar which is our number one priority. We now look forward to the opening race at Spa in May and to seeing the Hypercars do battle on track for the first time.”
Update: Le Mans 2021 postponed
Updated 14:30 Thursday 4th March. Following on from the news last week that the Portimao and Spa rounds will run without crowds, the ACO and FIA have confirmed that the Le Mans 24 Hours will move for a second season in a row.
The race will now take up a slot in the middle of August (21st-22nd), leaving a significant gap between the second round at Spa in May and the third at Monza in July. This should not cause too much issue for the teams though, given there is normally a lengthy summer break after Le Mans, this break will now come in the run up to the Monza race, with the Italian round now acting as the warm-up. The other races in the championship remain unaffected by the change.
Update: Sebring cancelled, Portimao subbed in
Updated: 14:20 22nd January 2021. The opening round of the 2021 World Endurance Championship at Sebring has become the latest casualty to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. The 1,000 mile race, which was set to support the Sebring 12 Hours in March will no longer take place, replaced instead with a race in Europe, at Portimao in the Algarve region of Portugal.
The tie-up with the Sebring 12 Hours began in 2019, with a highly successful double-header weekend, which saw the WEC cars race in a 1,000-mile race into Friday evening before the IMSA cars battled for the historic 12 hours on Saturday. The two series used separate paddocks and a second pitlane was constructed for the WEC cars to use on the back straight. The double event was due to take place for a second time after proving popular with both fans and teams in 2020, but was a victim of the pandemic, along with the 12 Hours, at short notice. While the 12 took place later in the year, the WEC stayed away for 2020, but expected to return in 2021. Now the continuing global uncertainties have meant that the WEC has chosen to move the round to Europe, with most WEC teams based on the continent.
Explaining the decision, a statement from the WEC said: “Due to the rapid evolution of coronavirus, as well as various changing directives from governments in different countries including travel restrictions, the WEC did not want to take any unnecessary risks.
"With freight due to be sent to the USA imminently, a decision needed to be made early to help teams prepare for the 2021 season."
There are upsides to the decision though, with US-owned, but EU-based, Glickenhaus now more likely to take part in the event. With the time needed to ship the cars across the Atlantic for Sebring taking the cars out of commission for several weeks, Glickenhaus was due to keep its Glickenhaus-Pipo 007LMH testing in Europe. With the opening round now only a truck drive away, the chances of the team making its debut in the opening round have increased.
While Portimao has held European Le Mans Series races several times, and hosted its first Formula 1 race in 2020, it will be the first time that the WEC has raced in Portugal. As well as a move for the opening race, the traditional pre-season test will now also take place at the circuit a week ahead of the race, allowing for teams to focus their travel on just one area.
When does the 2021 WEC season start? How many races are there?
For the first time since 2017, the World Endurance Championship will start and end in the same year. The last few years have been ‘Super Seasons’, spanning about 13 months apiece and two Le Mans 24 Hours, a response to Porsche and Audi’s departure from LMP1. Now a move to a single year season has been made to make life easier on the teams and businesses that support the WEC. “We listened to our manufacturers, teams and partners,” said Gérard Neveu, CEO of the WEC, “and responded with a calendar featuring fewer events than in the past to allow them all time to deal with the current economic crisis.”
There are six races, the first now the 8 Hours of Portimao on 4th April, replacing the cancelled 1,000 Miles of Sebring in March. Pre-season testing is due to take place on 30th-31st March at the same circuit. The Six Hours of Spa will follow on 1st May with the 2021 Le Mans 24 Hours on 12th-13th June after that. Race number four is new to the calendar, the Six Hours of Monza on 18th July, with the Six Hours of Fuji on 26th September and the Six Hours of Bahrain on 20th November rounding out the season.
Which tracks are missing from the 2021 WEC Calendar?
The sad news for British motorsport fans is that there is no race at Silverstone in 2021. Formerly the Six Hours of Silverstone and then the Four Hours of Silverstone for 2020, the race appears to have been dropped entirely. There’s also no race in Shanghai, China, and nothing at the Circuit of the Americas, USA.
Le Mans Hypercar regulations
The 2021 WEC season will see the introduction of the Le Mans Hypercar regulations, and with them the end the current Le Mans Prototype rules that have governed the fastest prototype racers at Le Mans for nearly 20 years. The aim is to simplify the fastest cars on track and make it easier for lower budget teams to compete against the likes of Toyota – in fact the new rules should make it more appealing for any manufacturer to enter the series, which is why Toyota will race its new ‘Super Sport’ from 2021 with Peugeot set to join in 2022. The hybrid system will come solely from Williams Advanced Engineering, combined peak power cannot exceed 500kW (680PS) and every car must have a minimum weight of at least 1,030kg.