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Le Mans/Baku clash “a shame for motorsport”, says WEC boss

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Le Mans/Baku clash “a shame for motorsport”, says WEC boss
By:
Feb 9, 2016, 10:29 AM

WEC boss Gerard Neveu has described the clash between the 2016 Le Mans 24 Hours and the European Grand Prix in Baku as “a shame for motorsport”.

WEC CEO Gérard Neveu
#19 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Nico Hulkenberg, Nick Tandy, Earl Bamber
Baku atmosphere
LMP1 podium: class and overall winners Porsche Team: Nico Hulkenberg, Nick Tandy, Earl Bamber
Gerard Neveu, Promoter of WEC
#19 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Nico Hulkenberg, Nick Tandy, Earl Bamber heads to recon lap
Gerard Neveu, WEC CEO

The inaugural Formula 1 race in the Azerbaijan capital is scheduled to take place on the same weekend as Le Mans (18-19 June), preventing any active Grand Prix drivers from following in Nico Hulkenberg’s footsteps and contesting the French endurance classic.

And while the Baku race will start late enough to avoid clashing directly with Le Mans, qualifying will take place just as the 24 hour-race gets under way.

Speaking at the recent Le Mans entry list unveiling, Neveu expressed his disillusionment that the gentlemen’s agreement that has protected race from clashing with F1 Grands Prix in recent years had not been upheld.

“It’s a shame for motorsport that we didn’t make sure that Le Mans weekend - and only this one - doesn't clash with other major motorsport events,” Neveu told Motorsport.com.

“[Bernie Ecclestone] has 20 or 21 races to plan; in WEC we have nine, so it has to clash at some point. It's inevitable, especially as we don't race during the winter and summer breaks.

“F1 do their calendar, they do their job and they probably do it as well as they can, and we do our own.

“But in the interest of drivers, for whom racing in Le Mans is a dream, and in the interest of fans, it's a shame to miss that opportunity."

He added: “I will remind you that 20 or 30 years ago, our predecessors were able to do it. I think it's a shame that nowadays, while we're supposed to have evolved, we can't do it anymore.”

Asked if WEC had been consulted over the scheduling of the Le Mans and Baku events, Neveu said: “They [F1] spoke with the FIA, not with us.

“But you know, the 24 Hours of Le Mans had 250,000 spectators two or three years ago when it clashed with F1; there will be 250,000 again this year.”

Interview by Basile Davoine and William Zinck

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Series Le Mans
Author Jamie Klein