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WEC return a "critical piece of the puzzle" for COTA

The World Endurance Championship's return to Circuit of the Americas in 2024 after a three-year hiatus is "a critical piece of the puzzle" for the US Grand Prix host venue.

Start of the Lone Star Le Mans race, #1 Rebellion Racing Rebellion R-13 - Gibson: Bruno Senna, Gustavo Menezes, Norman Nato leads

Vice preside of motorsports Reid Atherton made the comments after it was announced on the Friday ahead of the Le Mans 24 Hours that the Austin track would take over the WEC's US round from Sebring following the conclusion of its three-year contract.

The 1 September event will form part of an expanded eight-round calendar that includes new rounds in Qatar and Imola, with Interlagos returning for the first time since 2014.

COTA last staged the so-called LoneStar Le Mans six-hour race in 2020, having previously been a fixture on the calendar from 2013 to 2017.

Speaking to Autosport/Motorsport.com, Atherton said: "It’s a great addition to our major events schedule with NASCAR, MotoGP and Formula 1, to add the World Endurance Championship to the fold is a critical piece of the puzzle.

"It’s one major event each quarter, so we’ve got a really well-spaced out schedule."

Atherton, previously commercial director for McLaren's IndyCar effort, said staging an IMSA SportsCar Championship round on the same weekend, as happened in 2013-16, was "definitely a topic of conversation".

"Up for discussion, but definitely an opportunity and we would value that addition to the weekend," he said.

"I think it’s a matter of just making it work for both IMSA and the WEC."

Andy Soucek

Andy Soucek

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

Former Bentley factory GT driver Andy Soucek, who has a parallel role to Atherton, added: "The fact the US round is taking place at COTA is just a dream come true for us and the whole company, it’s super-exciting to see them back after three years.

"They came in 2020, difficult times with COVID, so hopefully this time we’re going to have a nice, smooth run."

Soucek explained that the pair "decided to split the positions and we have our own responsibilities but we share the same position".

"We both have a very good understanding of how it works, we’re both very complimentary and we work really well together," the 2017 Blancpain Endurance Series runner-up added.

The 38-year-old contested the recent Nurburgring 24 Hours in a Walkenhorst BMW M4 GT3 and said he currently has no plans to call time on his racing career.

"Of course if I need to hang the helmet just to dedicate 100% of my time to the project I will," he said.

"At the moment I’m still competitive, I’m in a good shape physically, mentally. When I feel that I’m not in that position anymore, I’ll probably leave it.

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"Our CEO Bobby [Epstein] when I was negotiating my terms and conditions was amenable for me to continue racing, because I think he understands that it's important for me to keep in touch with drivers, teams, organisers.

"I think in a way it benefits COTA as well that I’m still active. Probably if I continue racing it will be a couple of races next year again, same as this year, but that’s something still to be discussed."

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