Ought to WEC get ‘artistic’ like F1 or keep true to its format?

After a couple of seasons with Toyota hoovering up industrial quantities of silverware within the prime class, successfully a whale in a pond of mackerel, the World Endurance Championship is now itself hoovering up top-tier automotive manufacturers to hitch Toyota in competitors.

Such has been the uptake underneath the brand new Hypercar and LMDh ruleset that Audi’s determination to axe an already-announced challenge has registered as a mere blip.

Peugeot’s already right here with its putting 9X8, Ferrari and the Penske-affiliated Porsche are becoming a member of the get together this upcoming season, as is Cadillac alongside its Formulation 1 overture. And BMW, Lamborghini and Alpine shall be there the next 12 months.

No matter occurs from right here, this is a gigantic, phenomenal success. It’s the sort of listing of members that any motorsport championship at any level in historical past would kill for. It ensures you relevance and a window into the mainstream.

However it doesn’t change the chilly, laborious reality – that the principle product is dense and complicated and, axiomatically, a critical time dedication.

“What we bear in mind is to attempt to adapt our product for tv, an increasing number of,” mentioned WEC CEO Frederic Lequien in dialog with choose media members together with The Race, in the course of the launch occasion for the brand new Qatar spherical of the collection.

“We don’t wish to change the DNA of endurance racing, however we have now to consider good concepts that may make this sport extra accessible to- let’s say not [diehard] followers however regular viewers.

“As a result of now we have now every thing: we have now the vehicles, the manufacturers. For instance, in Spa it was crowded, we had lots of people, Le Mans [2022] was offered out in two days.

“So, one thing is occurring however we have to proceed to work, particularly for the tv.”

Motor Racing Fia World Endurance Championship Wec Round 6 Sakhir, Bahrain

There’s a basic inaccessibility baked into the very nature of the WEC – Lequien, who grew to become the collection’ CEO two years in the past, appeared to agree with this when it was put to him by The Race.

It is a crucial actuality to recognise, and for individuals who love the collection – groups, drivers, organisers and followers – to acknowledge.

The calendar for the upcoming WEC season is made up of seven rounds – the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the 1000 Miles of Sebring, the eight-hour season finale in Bahrain and 4 six-hour races.

Le Mans is in fact its personal factor fully, in a position to get away with an ‘old-school’ period resulting from a century of custom and status, established viewing habits and built-in mainstream acceptance. However what of the rank-and-file rounds, from a TV perspective? How do you get an off-the-cuff observer to commit six valuable hours of their Sunday to a daily spherical of the season?

It’s simply not that widespread a requirement relating to mainstream sports activities. Perhaps you’ll be able to nearly cowl the same quantity of runtime in a Premier League Sunday, perhaps there’s an equal in a day of a tennis Grand Slam event. The writer of this column, as an illustration, is a dedicated viewer of NFL Redzone with its ‘seven hours of commercial-free soccer’ tagline. However that’s at all times throughout a number of video games and a number of matches. And you may tag out and in relying on private funding within the end result.

Cricket is probably the exception but it surely’s a sport that’s been reckoning with its personal accessibility, which has led to the creation of lowered codecs like T20 – mentioned to be essentially the most performed model of cricket at this level – and now The Hundred.

And there’s one thing arguably all of these sports activities have as a basic benefit over endurance racing – that you may reliably tune in with an hour to go and shortly get your bearings, usually in a matter of seconds, of what the state of play is and who must do what to win. For the WEC, that’s simply not essentially the case, due to what number of lessons, groups and drivers there are however largely due to unsparingly complicated methods. Which, it’s price emphasising, is not any criticism – it’s a part of the DNA.

The WEC has made some regulatory strikes forward of 2023, however they’re strictly evolutionary.

Motor Racing Fia World Endurance Championship Wec Round 6 Sakhir, Bahrain

The pitlane will now shut throughout full-course yellow durations – the equal to F1’s digital security automotive – which is able to streamline methods and certain shorten the stoppages. As per Lequien, that is “completely” a part of a push for a TV-friendlier product. “We must be truthful for all rivals, but it surely’s clear that typically I’ve the sensation that perhaps typically we forgot a bit of bit [about] the present.”

For pre-race, there’s a brand new qualifying format, with three 15-minute classes (for Hypercars, LMP2 and GTE-Am) changing the 2 10-minute contests that have been beforehand in place.

However that’s nothing dramatic – definitely not in comparison with F1’s experiments with dash races, or MotoGP seeing these experiments and deciding to have a dash each weekend.

WEC had already evaluated Saturday sprints a couple of years prior. And it’s clearly a minimum of come up on the agenda once more.

You may as well level to the truth that its long-ago predecessor, the World Sportscar Championship, did mess around with some semblance of a dash format – and that US counterpart IMSA frequently goes beneath two hours with a few of its occasions. However you gained’t discover the phrase ‘Endurance’ in both of these collection’ names.

“We now have some very fascinating discussions with automotive producers – and also you attempt to think about typically one thing completely different,” mentioned Lequien when requested by The Race concerning the potential for main WEC format modifications in mild of the F1 and MotoGP examples.

“Why not, I believe, let’s say a sort of qualifying race on Saturday? Endurance racing is improbable, however we have now to confess that for tv six, eight or 24 hours, it is vitally tough.

“So we must be artistic and it’s not likely simple.

“Due to course – and I can perceive that completely – if you suggest to automotive producers to do, let’s say, a sort of dash race on Saturday they’ll instantly react and inform you: ‘No, no means, we aren’t going to destroy the automotive the day earlier than the race.’

“However we’ll see. In the meanwhile it’s not a plan, we simply have some dialogue.”

However the concept of a dash, a format divisive if not outright maligned among the many hardcore motorsport fan contingent, is extra about imbuing the race weekend with extra worth Friday-to-Sunday moderately than attracting new eyeballs. Or, a minimum of, it must be.

There’s no magic siren name button to draw a brand new viewers – and positively not one that may accomplish that with out diluting and even betraying the distinctive promoting level. So developing with one thing new is an unenviable activity.

The WEC could ultimately decide on a ‘don’t repair what isn’t damaged’ coverage and let the large names and the standard of racing do the speaking. Success is on the horizon both means, because of the work accomplished to draw the spectacular crop of present and incoming producers.

However there’s clearly an understanding there – one certainly aided by what went on with Audi’s deserted programme – that producers come and go, and that it’s price doing every thing you’ll be able to to ensure that the audiences that arrive with them stick round as soon as they’re gone.

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