8H Portimao replaces Sebring as WEC 2021 opening round

The 1000 Miles of Sebring opening race has been replaced by the 8 Hours of Portimao for the 2021 FIA World Endurance Championship.

The 1000 Miles of Sebring opening round to Season 9 has been cancelled due to the travel risks that COVID-19 proses, as well as various changing directives from governments in different countries on travel restrictions.

Pierre Fillon, President of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, said: “Unfortunately the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause issues worldwide and the decision to cancel Sebring and replace it with a race in Portimão was made following consultation with the FIA, IMSA and management at Sebring.”

The Sebring season-opener was scheduled for March 19 but its Portimao replacement will host the pre-season tests on March 30-31, and the eight-hour race on April 4.

The COVID circumstances of 2020 also cancelled the 1000 Miles of Sebring in Season 8.

The WEC’s feeder series, the European Le Mans Series, has hosted a four-hour season finale race for the past four years at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve.

“We remain focused on continuing to build our long-term relationship with both IMSA and the Sebring International Raceway and the intention will be to return to Sebring in the future.”

Credit: FIA WEC

The remainder of the calendar intends to be left untouched, so that the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps will host the second round at the beginning of May, followed by Le Mans in June.

Frédéric Lequien, CEO of the FIA WEC added: “Over the past few months we have seen that the pandemic is extremely unpredictable and after several discussions with key parties, the decision was made for the beginning of the season to remain in Europe where most of our teams are based.

“The consequences of a last-minute cancellation would have economic implications for the entire WEC family, so we took a responsible decision.”

He complimented the outgoing success of the ELMS’ close racing at Portimao and their “excellent facilities” that will suit the WEC.