Racing24-7.net had the pleasure to spend half an hour with the head of LMEM, Frederic Lequien, who is running the FIA World Endurance Championship, European Le Mans Series and the Asian Le Mans Series.
We chose to split the interview into several parts, which contain different subjects.
The first part is about the race schedules. The 2023 schedules haven’t been well received by all teams, fans and especially drivers, since there is a total of four date clashes with the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, cross the FIA WEC and ELMS. Is that something that IMSA and LMEM are going to try to solve?
“I prefer to be totally transparent. I don’t see how it would be possible to manage at the moment. We are currently suffering from a very strange situation, that with the expansion of the Formula 1 calendar, many tracks we would like to go to or use – they had to modify their timetable, and then we need to adapt to ourselves. Saying that, I totally understand that we must try to avoid clashes with especially our IMSA friends, but we also have to manage, to avoid clashes with Formula E, and with SRO. In the end, I’m sorry to say that – because, don’t believe that we are not making an effort – we did! We talk together, but in the end, we are in a situation, where everybody has to do small efforts, to manage that.”
“But I would say that, if you give me the opportunity to explain to you, how we build the calendar, I think that everybody needs to understand, that we can not do that in one or two weeks. It’s a long walk, and then when you think that everything is ready, you have to restart from zero. You do it a second time, and then again, have to restart from zero. And that is what happened this season. So I think, in the end, it’s not so bad – it’s not perfect, I agree. But once again, we did our best effort.”
How has the relationship been with the FIA in making those calendars – not only for the FIA WEC but also ELMS?
“I think that we must be realistic. Formula 1 is Formula 1, and we want to continue our discussion with them, and that is what we have done. And I want to thank them for avoiding the big clash – for the centenary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. But for all the rest of the season, it’s almost impossible. But the relationship is very good, and everybody understood the effort that we have done – one or two months ago. Especially, I just want to mention, that we had a discussion meeting with Formula E, and they really pushed at that. But in the end, maybe let’s say, that we do the effort, to be nice – and hopefully payback next time. But the relationship is good. And once again, I like to thank the FIA, and Formula 1 Management, for their effort to avoid the clash for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which for me seems very important, especially for the centenary.”
“The plan for the FIA WEC, is to have 8 races in 2024. I think we have to pay attention to the size of the championship – the format, and the budget, which includes the number of events.”
What is the intention of bringing back a night race for the European Le Mans Series at Aragon? We had it in the past at Barcelona and Paul Ricard, but it will be returning next year in Spain – and why Motorland Aragon?
“I don’t want to seem arrogant – but why not? *laughing*”
But there is already a race in Spain…
“We did Italy two times this year… but the race at Monza was linked to the fact, that we had some problems with the Hungaroring. It would be nice to go to six different countries, but it’s a fragile balance. When you build the calendars, that first we do it for the teams and drivers, ensure that they would enjoy it. Then, of course, I would be a liar, if we don’t have to pay attention to the budget – the budget of the organization. A track like the Red Bull Ring – it’s not easy to drive, it’s far, and it’s very expensive. But believe me, sometimes you have to take some decisions, that makes everybody a bit more relaxed. But to get back to Motorland. We think that the track is a high-profile track, it’s nice. Maybe it’s a little bit in the middle of nowhere, and it was also the opportunity to try and do something a little bit different. So that is why we say – Ok, we go to Motorland, to be the second time in Spain, so let’s do something a bit different, let’s be a little bit creative, let’s race at night. The temperature could be very high, so it makes sense also.”
“We had some discussions with many many tracks in Europe, and it doesn’t mean, that we will not go in the future, but we are still under discussion with some tracks in Great Britain, in Germany. But for 2023, it was, from my point of view, the best format. Just to give an example, because I think it’s good if you have more and more details. Imola – we planned to do the ELMS race in Imola on 15 May, finally, it’s 7 May. Why? Because Formula 1 change, and they will do the San Marino Grand Prix on 22 May. And then we got a call from the track management, that we had to change the date. ”
Where do things currently stay with a race in the UK for the FIA WEC and the ELMS?
“We are discussing with Silverstone. We will grow – the WEC will have 8 races in 2024. I’m not sure that 9 is a good idea, so maybe in the future, we need to imagine something a bit different, like one season this track – one season another. But once again, we have no troubles with them (Silverstone, editor), and the last discussion was in July, and we plan to visit the track very early – we will see. We have some good contact. We have to take into consideration, that with some tracks, we have a long-term agreement. It’s not so easy. We had the COVID situation, the Brexit… But it’s time to discuss now. We can go everywhere, and it’s clear that especially with all the car manufacturers, that will join the Championship – a lot of countries are interested to join the WEC. It’s a little different now. I mean, the value of the WEC is going up every day – it’s growing so far. So of course some countries have some interest.”
Thanks a lot to Frederic Lequien for taking the time to answer the questions.
We will bring the second part tomorrow, which is about the future of GT3 racing within the ACO categories.