WTCR unveils revised Europe-only six-event calendar

WTCR unveils revised Europe-only six-event calendar

Norbert Michelisz
Photo: Clement Marin / DPPI

FIA World Touring Car Cup promoter Eurosport Events has revealed a restructured calendar for 2020, featuring 16 races over six events to be held only in Europe between September and November.

The revised calendar reflects the challenges posed by the global COVID-19 pandemic, which shut down all major sporting events from March onwards.

The new plan, which has the cooperation and understanding of the FIA, will see the season begin on 12 – 13 September at the Salzburgring in Austria, before moving on to races at the Nürburgring Nordschleife, Slovakiaring, Hungaroring, MotorLand Aragón and concluding at Adria International Raceway on 14 – 15 November.

The announcement of the revised calendar means the Hungaroring, which originally cancelled its event in March, is back on for 2020, as is the round on the Nordschleife in support of the ADAC 24 Hours race.

Gone is the Asian leg of the season, meaning that World Touring Cars won’t visit Asia for the first time since the resurrection of the WTCC in 2005.

Events at Ningbo in China, Inje Speedium in South Korea, Macau and Sepang in Malaysia are thus off the agenda for this season due to the coronavirus crisis.

To fit in 16 races over six events, a mixture of two and three-race weekend will be utilised. The first two events at the Salzburgring and Nürburgring will be double-headers, whilst all the remaining four events will host three races.

The proposals were approved at a meeting of the FIA Touring Car Commission on 26 May and received full FIA ratification.

WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup revised calendar 2020 (proposed)

It is hoped the schedule below can be achieved in accordance with all government restrictions:

WTCR Race of Austria (Salzburgring, 12-13 September), 2 races
WTCR Race of Germany (Nürburgring Nordschleife, 24-26 September), 2 races
WTCR Race of Slovakia (Slovakia Ring,10-11 October), 3 races
WTCR Race of Hungary (Hungaroring, 17-18 October), 3 races
WTCR Race of Spain (MotorLand Aragón, 31 October-1 November), 3 races
WTCR Race of Italy (Adria International Raceway, 14-15 November), 3 races

“The priority has always been to run as many races as possible to protect the WTCR, protect jobs and protect the sport at a time when there is no clear visibility in terms of how the pandemic will evolve and what decisions governments will take,” explained Eurosports Events’ François Ribeiro.

“To commit to races outside Europe required certainties that were very uncertain to obtain.

“The events in Asia made up 40 per cent of the original calendar. For the Asia leg to go ahead, the freight must be shipped from Europe at the end of July.

“Right now, it is simply not possible to predict what restrictions will still be in place by then with a very real chance of a second wave of COVID-19 a fundamental consideration.

“The pandemic has caused significant disruption to international cargo movement, flight schedules have been decimated and there is no clarity on when these services will function properly, what restrictions there will be and we must respect the fact that quarantine measures will remain in place in some countries for months.

“We also have to consider if racing so far from home and the expense that brings is the right and responsible thing to do from an economic and social point of view.

“Then there is the safety and wellbeing of our participants and the wider communities in those countries in Asia we were due to visit.

“We will follow all official guidelines in conjunction with the FIA, local promoters and governments before each event is given the green light as we will never compromise safety.

“While it will not be straightforward, holding races in Europe will negate the need to fly to events and measures will be taken to maximise vehicle-sharing and train travel, while respecting any social distancing requirements that might still be in place.

“Remaining in Europe, where all teams and suppliers are based, offers significant flexibility should any further calendar changes be required at short notice.

“The events in Asia have been pivotal to the success of WTCR and we thank the events in China, Macau, Malaysia and South Korea, plus Honda, Hyundai and Lynk & Co for their support and understanding.

“Of course, we would like nothing more than for life to return to normal, but we have to be sensible. If we further delay the decision to cancel the Asia leg into June, I can guarantee there will not be any spare slots at European tracks later in the year due to the huge amount of rescheduling that’s required, not just by WTCR but the many other events, series and championships.

“We must also be realistic: the economic impact caused by COVID-19 is massive and will hurt motorsport for a long period, so the running cost reduction is not only an obligation for 2020, but it will also be a priority for 2021.”

Ribeiro also explained the thinking behind running events as two and three-race weekends in order to bring the total number of races up to that required by global broadcasters and to maintain the credibility of the series.

“The intention is to run two free practice sessions, one three-phase qualifying session and three races at each event, apart from WTCR Race of Austria at Salzburgring and WTCR Race of Germany at the Nürburgring Nordschleife where there will be two races.

“Going from ten to six events makes it possible to restore the three-races-per-weekend format at most events, which we are doing to preserve the sporting creditability of the series and meet the requirements of our global broadcast partners.

“Unlike other series, WTCR is in a fortunate position that its sprint-style race format makes it possible to schedule up to three races per weekend. Furthermore, it has been agreed that there will not be a collective pre-season test.”

Adria will feature on the World Touring Car calendar for the first time in 2020, also bringing FIA touring cars back to Italy for the first time since the WTCC race in 2017.

“Touring car racing has a rich heritage in Italy. It’s where the FIA World Touring Car Championship began in 1987, it’s where it was revived in 2005 and it’s where the inaugural WTCR winner Gabriele Tarquini comes from.

“And while it’s exciting to be bringing the WTCR to the passionate Italian fans, we are also very excited at the prospect of being able to race on the extended Adria track layout, as well as being able to benefit from the excellent facilities, including a high-quality lighting system, and convenient location.”