WEC's GTE qualifying race idea put on hold

Plans to have extra qualifying races for GTE Pro cars have been put on the back burner through the FIA World Endurance Championship's new 'superseason' in 2018/19.

WEC's GTE qualifying race idea put on hold

The principle of a qualifying sprint race on the day before the regular six-hour WEC race had been agreed with the manufacturers and was expected to come into force next year.

But the radical revamp of the WEC as it transitions to a winter series climaxing at the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2019/20 has forced series promoter the Automobile Club de l'Ouest to delay the plan. 

WEC boss Gerard Neveu explained that a drive to keep the cost of competing in the superseason at the same level as it is in 2017 was behind the decision to delay the idea of qualifying races. 

"It is more expensive than doing a few laps in qualifying; this is a race with the chance of damage," Neveu said. 

"We are saying we have to save money, so if we are saving money on one hand and pushing them to spend more money on the other, it doesn't make sense.

"I don't think it is serious to try to introduce this format now with the superseason; we have other priorities."

He said the introduction of a 12-hour race at Sebring on the same bill as the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship event of the same duration also mitigated against the introduction of qualifying races from the start of next year. 

John Gaw, motorsport boss at Aston Martin partner Prodrive, explained that efforts needed to be made to raise the profile of a class in which BMW will join the British manufacturer, Ferrari, Ford and Porsche in 2018.

"I don't know whether qualifying races was the right thing to do," Gaw said. "But we will have five manufacturers fighting for the championship next year and efforts need to be made to increase the exposure of that."

The idea of the qualifying sprints had been agreed by the five GTE Pro manufacturers, though the duration of the races, the number of points to be awarded and TV coverage were points yet to be finalised.

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