WEC cancels Sebring opener, Portimao named as replacement

The scheduled opening round of the 2021 FIA World Endurance Championship at Sebring set for March has been replaced by a new fixture at the Algarve circuit in April.  

WEC cancels Sebring opener, Portimao named as replacement

The season will now kick off with an eight-hour race at the Portuguese circuit near Portimao on April 4 rather than beginning on March 19 with the Sebring 1000 Miles on the bill of the 12-hour round of the North American IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. 

The decision to shift the series opener, at which the new breed of Le Mans Hypercars will come on stream, was announced on Friday morning after mounting speculation over the viability of going to the USA while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to escalate. 

"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," read a statement from the series organiser. 

"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."

The statement explained that the decision has been made in consultation with IMSA, the Sebring International Raceway and the FIA. 

The official pre-season test will take place one week ahead of the race at the Algarve circuit on March 30/31.

The WEC has stressed its intention for the remainder of the WEC to run as scheduled, with the series continuing at Spa at the beginning of May and then the Le Mans 24 Hours in its traditional mid-June slot. 

Pierre Fillon, president of WEC promoter the Automobile Club de l'Ouest, said: "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 SuperSebring. 

"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.” 

New WEC boss Frederic Lequien, who was announced as Gerard Neveu's successor earlier this month, added: “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. 

"The consequences of a last-minute cancellation would have economic implications for the entire WEC family, so we took a responsible decision."

Read Also:

The decision means that the new Glickenhaus LMH contender could be on the grid for the first round of the championship. 

The US niche manufacturer had decided not to travel to the USA and skip Sebring in order to focus on testing the new Glickenhaus-Pipo 007LMH in Europe. 

But team owner Jim Glickenhaus stated earlier this month that his squad will be able to join the grid from the get-go should the series opener be shifted to Europe. 

Another consequence of the revised calendar is that Toyota drivers Kamui Kobayashi and Kazuki Nakajima will miss the opening Super Formula round in Japan scheduled for Fuji on the same weekend as the Algarve WEC race.

Kobayashi and Nakajima are respectively driving for the KCMG and TOM'S squads in Super Formula.

It is the second time that the Sebring 1000 Miles, which took place for the first time in 2019, has dropped off the WEC calendar. 

Last year, the WEC round was cancelled just over a week ahead of the race as the pandemic took hold.

It will be the first time that the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve has hosted a WEC round, although it has previously held European Le Mans Series and the FIA GT1 World Championship races.

The track also stepped in to run a round of the Formula 1 world championship last October.

shares
comments

Related video

ByKolles Le Mans Hypercar unlikely to race this year

Previous article

ByKolles Le Mans Hypercar unlikely to race this year

Next article

Toyota Hypercar will be "really different" to race with

Toyota Hypercar will be "really different" to race with
Load comments

About this article

Series WEC
Author Gary Watkins
How 'Brilliant' Bob Wollek lived up to his nickname Prime

How 'Brilliant' Bob Wollek lived up to his nickname

Sportscar racing lost one of it's greatest talents 20 years ago today when Bob Wollek was knocked from his bicycle prior to the Sebring 12 Hours. The enigmatic Frenchman never won the Le Mans 24 Hours, but many still remember today why 'Brilliant Bob' became a legend

WEC
Mar 16, 2021
How Ferrari's Hypercar project could bolster Leclerc's legacy Prime

How Ferrari's Hypercar project could bolster Leclerc's legacy

Ferrari's planned return to the top category at the Le Mans 24 Hours has further heightened anticipation for the 2023 race. Few concrete details are currently known, but already it has a high-profile superstar angling for involvement, which would make a refreshing change

WEC
Mar 5, 2021
Why Ferrari is ending its 50-year top-flight sportscar racing exile Prime

Why Ferrari is ending its 50-year top-flight sportscar racing exile

Making a return to top-flight sportscar racing after 50 years away, Ferrari will enter the Le Mans Hypercar ranks in 2023. The Italian marque denies the link with Formula 1's new cost cap that frees up resources, but it's certainly no coincidence...

WEC
Feb 25, 2021
The GTE dilemma that IMSA has created for the WEC Prime

The GTE dilemma that IMSA has created for the WEC

The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s decision to scrap its GT Le Mans class for 2022 raises the question of whether the FIA World Endurance Championship should phase out GTE cars. But it's a much harder decision than it appears on the surface.

WEC
Feb 3, 2021
The ground-up refresh behind Toyota's new Le Mans challenger Prime

The ground-up refresh behind Toyota's new Le Mans challenger

Toyota's new GR010 contender for the World Endurance Championship's Hypercar era has little in common with the LMP1 TS050 that preceded it. But within the confines of the scaled back new rules, its latest challenger will be no less formidable a prospect

WEC
Jan 22, 2021
The tiny increments that decided the final LMP1-era WEC Prime

The tiny increments that decided the final LMP1-era WEC

The system of success handicaps devised by the FIA World Endurance Championship to level the LMP1 playing field in the category's swansong season ended up having a counterproductive effect, as COVID cancellations also played in the champions' favour.

WEC
Dec 5, 2020
Why Audi’s shock return promises a new age for sportscars Prime

Why Audi’s shock return promises a new age for sportscars

OPINION: The news that Audi will return to Le Mans means we'll at last get to see the fight promised in 2012 against Peugeot and Toyota. It also gives LMDh a tangible form, which could open the floodgates for more like-minded marques to follow suit…

WEC
Dec 1, 2020
The eternal debate revived after the 2019/20 WEC season Prime

The eternal debate revived after the 2019/20 WEC season

It may have been missed amid the clamour over Lewis Hamilton's seventh F1 title, but Britain had another world champion crowned last weekend. Mike Conway's WEC crown raises an old conundrum - does title glory make up for the pain of Le Mans defeat?

WEC
Nov 19, 2020