Doubts grow over viability of WEC's Sebring opener

Toyota has expressed doubts that the opening round of the 2021 FIA World Endurance Championship scheduled for Sebring will go ahead in the face of the escalating COVID-19 pandemic.

Doubts grow over viability of WEC's Sebring opener
Listen to this article

Rob Leupen, team director at Toyota's WEC squad, described the Sebring 1000 Miles fixture on March 19 as looking "uncertain or very uncertain for the moment".

"Yes, we are concerned: we are looking every day at what is going on and what is happening," he said on the launch of the new Toyota GR010 Hybrid Le Mans Hypercar on Friday. 

"We need to know as early as possible, but for the moment I cannot confirm what the situation will be. We understand that in the coming days there is a decision from the WEC and the Automobile Club de l'Ouest [the series promoter] on whether we are going or not."

A spokesperson for the WEC stated that the series is pushing on with plans for its round on the undercard of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship's Sebring 12 Hours.

"At the moment we are working on Sebring going ahead," said the spokesperson. "A full decision will be made in the upcoming days."

Portimao tipped as potential Sebring replacement

The final call needs to be made this month because the sea freight is due to leave for the USA from Rotterdam in the Netherlands on February 4. 

Once the freight departs, it would be all but impossible to schedule a new series opener ahead of round two at Spa on May 1. 

Should the WEC race at Sebring fail to go ahead, it would be replaced with an event in Europe. 

Portimao is understood to be have been lined up to host the WEC opener on the last weekend of March, and the WEC spokesperson confirmed that the Portuguese circuit is an option. 

Shifting the opening race of the series to a European venue would likely allow Glickenhaus to compete with its new 007 LMH. 

The niche manufacturer has opted against competing at Sebring with its two-strong entry in order to focus on testing in Europe ahead of the homologation of the car, at which point the specification is fixed for five seasons. 

Its final test is schedule for Vallelunga in the week of Sebring, ahead of the sign-off of the design.

"On March 16 we will be ready to race and if there is a rescheduled opening round in Europe after that we can be there with two cars," said team owner Jim Glickenhaus.

Le Mans date change speculation downplayed

Speculation that the Le Mans 24 Hours round of the WEC could be pushed back from its traditional mid-June weekend for a second year in a row have been played down.

A spokesperson for the ACO said there is "no plan B for the moment", while conceding the necessity of the French enduro being open to spectators after last year's rescheduled event in September ran behind closed doors.

It remains uncertain what kind of crowd would be possible should the race go ahead as scheduled on June 12/13. The ACO had hoped to be able to accommodate approximately 50,000 spectators in 5,000-strong bubbles last year.

A late August date for Le Mans, between the Monza WEC round on July 18 and Fuji on September 26, has been rumoured as one possibility.

shares
comments

Related video

Toyota protege Yamashita won't race in WEC in 2021
Previous article

Toyota protege Yamashita won't race in WEC in 2021

Next article

Toyota "behind target" after snowed-off hypercar test

Toyota "behind target" after snowed-off hypercar test
Load comments
How Toyota’s sole survivor turned the tables at Spa Prime

How Toyota’s sole survivor turned the tables at Spa

After a chastening opening to the season at Sebring that ended in an enormous accident, Toyota's #7 crew got their World Endurance Championship underway with victory at a treacherously slippery Spa to make up for its sister car's Sebring defeat to Alpine, as Glickenhaus's promising qualifying turned to disaster in the race

WEC
May 9, 2022
How Toyota's WEC dominance was curbed at stormy Sebring Prime

How Toyota's WEC dominance was curbed at stormy Sebring

Toyota’s stranglehold on the FIA World Endurance Championship ended at the 2022 opener at Sebring, but all accusing eyes were on the Balance of Performance system as the key to the shake-up. Here's how it unfolded, to see Alpine celebrating under a stormy sky having blown away the defending champions...

WEC
Mar 21, 2022
Why Penske remains ambitious for its WEC learning year Prime

Why Penske remains ambitious for its WEC learning year

Team Penske is gearing up for its role in running Porsche’s LMDh programme from 2023 by entering this year's World Endurance Championship with an LMP2 car. Although the team is considering 2022 as a season to learn, it is no less serious about winning than ever - which should make the already fiercely competitive class even more so

WEC
Mar 17, 2022
Why Peugeot couldn't afford to take a Le Mans gamble in 2022 Prime

Why Peugeot couldn't afford to take a Le Mans gamble in 2022

Ahead of the much-anticipated arrival of its new 9X8 Hypercar, Peugeot revealed that it would not be entering this year's Le Mans 24 Hours with its incoming machinery. Although development restrictions for homologated cars are partially responsible, the French marque can draw on its own lessons from its history in sportscars

WEC
Feb 28, 2022
Why the GTP name undermines convergence between IMSA and WEC Prime

Why the GTP name undermines convergence between IMSA and WEC

OPINION: The adoption by IMSA of the GTP name for its forthcoming LMDh versus Le Mans Hypercar era in 2023 appeals to fans of nostalgia - but it undermines the commonality achieved by bringing its rulebook into line with the WEC. GTP or Hypercar, both sides should settle on a single name

WEC
Feb 15, 2022
Celebrating the weird and wonderful monsters of sportscar racing Prime

Celebrating the weird and wonderful monsters of sportscar racing

Few disciplines of motorsport offer better possibilities to build a colossus of the track than sportscars. For Autosport's recent Monsters of Motorsport special issue, we picked out some of the finest (and not so fine) that have graced sportscar classics including Le Mans, Daytona and Sebring

Le Mans
Feb 4, 2022
Why F1-snubbed Davidson has no regrets in retirement Prime

Why F1-snubbed Davidson has no regrets in retirement

He may not have won the Le Mans 24 Hours - falling agonisingly short in 2016 - and didn't get the opportunities in Formula 1 his talents merited. But after calling time on his professional career last month, Anthony Davidson says his pride in his performances with Peugeot and Toyota in LMP1 mean more than the results he achieved

WEC
Dec 17, 2021
Why Le Mans didn't decide Toyota's WEC title outcome in 2021 Prime

Why Le Mans didn't decide Toyota's WEC title outcome in 2021

Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez scored a second successive FIA World Endurance Championship title in the #7 Toyota, as its new Le Mans Hypercar went unbeaten. Motorsport.com recaps how each of the four classes in the 2021 season were won and picks out the best LMH and GTE drivers

WEC
Nov 28, 2021