WEC planning format changes to GTE in 2018

The 2017 WEC season kicks off at 7 a.m. ET Sunday on FS1. (Photo: LAT Photographic)

The FIA World Endurance Championship is set to undergo a format change to the GTE class next year, aimed to increase the category’s visibility, championship organizers have revealed.

FIA Endurance Commission President Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones said that “creative ideas” are are in the works that would give the factory-backed production-based class, which has received World Championship status this year, more exposure on existing weekends.

“We would expect to see some evolution of the format itself by the beginning of next year,” Owen-Jones said.

“We’re working on the format with some creative ideas to give the GT cars more visibility within the weekends racing to make that very attractive for the fans.”

While Owen-Jones was not drawn on specifics, it’s understood at least one proposal involves a separate qualifying race for GTE-Pro and potentially GTE-Am cars on Saturday, to set the grid for the six-hour races on Sunday.

“It’s just a little bit too early to say what that exactly will be but we should be able to come back with news on that fairly soon,” Owen-Jones said.

The development came Sunday morning at Silverstone, during a pre-race press conference featuring FIA President Jean Todt and ACO President Pierre Fillon, who signed a contract extension for the WEC through the end of the 2020 season.

At least five manufacturers are set to compete in the GTE-Pro class in 2018, with BMW joining Ford, Ferrari, Aston Martin and Porsche, which has returned to full-factory competition this year with its mid-engined 911 RSR.

It’s understood both Lamborghini and McLaren are also actively evaluating GTE programs, for as early as 2019.

“The GT category could have more visibility than it has now,” Todt said. “The first step in the evolution, together with Pierre, Lindsay and their teams, we will see what could be the next step to highlight the main category [in GTE-Pro].”

Owen-Jones ruled out any format change debuting this year, and would have to go to the World Motor Sport Council for approval.