by: Tom Haapanen, Sports Car Correspondent
- FIA championship builds on the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup
- Seven rounds on three continents in 2012
Jean Todt rebuilds FIA’s relationship with the ACO
Nearly 20 years after the demise of the World Sportscar Championship, the FIA (Federation Internationale d’Automobile) and Le Mans organizers ACO (Automobile Club de l’Ouest) have joined forces to create the new World Endurance Championship.
Jean Todt, who was elected as the president of the FIA in late 2009, has a longtime association with the endurance racing and Le Mans: Todt led the Peugeot 905 team to the championship in the final year of the World Sportscar Championship as well as overall Le Mans victories in 1992 and 1993.
I looked around after my election, and I saw that a World Endurance Championship was missing.
Todt, with his Le Mans history, was a natural for reconciling the FIA’s relationship with the ACO and building a new world championship, and Jean-Claude Plassart, the president of the ACO, was happy to engage the FIA on a joint championship.
“We have tried to harmonize the regulations,” Plassart said. “When Jean Todt and I had a meeting it became very natural that the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup should become a world championship.”
The two parties have signed an agreement for three years of the WEC, where the FIA sanctions the championship and the ACO acts as the commercial promoter, and look after all commercial rights negotiations, including TV broadcasting. The agreement is to be renewed for a 10-year term after the completion of the initial three years.
Seven races, including the Le Mans 24H
What the FIA and ACO have agreed on is a seven-round championship for 2012, run on a class structure similar to that used by the ACO today, with LM P1, LM P2, LM GTE Pro and LM GTE Am. The technical and sporting regulations will be those defined by the ACO for 2011-2013.
A technical working group and a sporting working group, with representation from the FIA, ACO, manufacturers and privateers, will develop future rules proposals and submit them to the FIA Endurance Commission for approval. Final approval will be by the FIA World Motorsports Commission, as for the other FIA championships.
As to the calendar, apart from the Le Mans 24H, all that is known at this point is that there will be two additional races in Europe, two races in the Americas and two races in Asia, each with a minimum duration of six hours.
One has to assume that Sebring, Silverstone and Shanghai will be on the 2012 WEC calendar just like they are on the 2011 ILMC one, but after that the odds get longer. Would Spa or Imola be selected for the final European race? Will Petit Le Mans make it on the calendar, or will the ACO and FIA prefer to have the second event in a different country? Will Suzuka be part of the championship, as it was in 1992, when it was penultimate race in that final year?
Even with the agreement reached by the FIA and ACO, much work remains before the WEC field takes to the track in anger in 2012, and American Le Mans Series’ CEO Scott Atherton stressed that point.
“I don't think it's mutually exclusive to have (WEC and ALMS) as you describe,” Atherton said. “The devil is in the details. It's easy to stand up and make big announcements and then say we'll deal with it later; and we're to the point now where we have to start the details. That is our mission here is this week.”
I'm not going to go home until we get some definition; I don't mean that in a negative content, but we're rolling up our sleeves.
Points will be scored by the top ten cars, using the now-standard FIA scheme first introduced in Formula One: 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1 – but with double points awarded for the Le Mans 24H.
The points will decide a Drivers’ Champion as well as a Manufacturers’ Champion, and also award trophies to the winners of P2, GTE Pro and GTE Am, as well as an FIA Trophy for the top privateer team.