Gerard Neveu, FIA World Endurance Championship CEO, has responded to the championship’s decision to cancel next week’s round in Sebring amidst newly imposed travel restrictions for non-US citizens travelling from Europe.
President Donald Trump announced the new measures on Wednesday, essentially banning European travel to the United States for thirty days to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus. In response, WEC decided to cancel the Florida event.
Asked about when WEC made the decision to cancel the race, Neveu stated:
“As you know we had been monitoring the situation closely but, as soon as President Trump made the announcement about the ban on flights from mainland Europe, we knew that we had little choice but to cancel immediately.”
He explained that the main reason for cancellation was the large number of members of the paddock based within Europe, for whom it would have been difficult to make it to the United States.
“So many members of our paddock come from within the Schengen zone that it would be impossible to hold the race without them,” Neveu continued. “We acted quickly as so many team members – our own within the WEC and our competitors – were about to get on planes to come to Florida. We released the news as early as possible in Europe to give people warning to cancel or change plans.”
Before the new restrictions were put in place, the race was widely expected to go ahead with all but one of the teams expected to take to the grid.
The only team that had been confirmed to not be competing was the Italian Cetilar Racing LMP2 squad, run by AF Corse, who also run Ferrari’s GTE Pro program. Cetilar Racing confirmed in correspondence with Motorsport Week that it had pulled out of the race prior to the event cancellation.
Neveu clarified that the decision to cancel was a direct response to the new measures put in place by Trump, insisting the race was scheduled to take place before the Wednesday announcement.
“Working in conjunction with IMSA and Sebring Raceway, and taking into consideration the advice from the World Health Organisation and US federal and state health authorities that we had on each day leading up to 11th March, it wasn’t necessary to take this decision any earlier.
We were going ahead. There were concerns, of course, especially regarding the situation in Italy which we were evaluating but, at 5pm yesterday, it was still possible at that time to race.”
With the 1000 Miles of Sebring off the calendar, the 2019/20 WEC season has just two more rounds remaining: the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps in April and the season finale at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June. When asked if any future races could face cancellation, Neveu said:
“We are very, very aware that this is a rapidly changing situation, and one that none of us have faced before. Honestly, right now, we can’t answer that question because it’s not just our decision to take. We will keep you all informed as soon as possible.
Of course, we will maintain our existing Covid-19 monitoring group and will continue to keep our paddock informed of any developments.”