We’re going to the end of the 2015 season, but we can consider that the next year already started in terms of plans for drivers, teams and organizers in the FIA World Endurance Championship and in the European Le Mans Series, as calendar expansion is the term that defines both schedules.
The ELMS calendar was the first that became common knowledge, and although the series retains the current venues, it welcomes the mythical Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium. With the addition of the Belgian round, the 4 Hours of Le Castellet event will be moved back from September to August, while the other rounds remains at their respective places in the calendar. The only point of question in the 2016 calendar is the Prologue test, which still doesn't have a confirmed circuit, rumored to move from Paul Ricard to Monza.
Changes in the weekend schedule will involve na expansion to a three-day event, as a 90-minute Free Practice session will be added in the Fridays to all events but the 4 Hours of Silverstone, which will retain the two-day event format as it continues to share the Northamptomshire-based circuit with the FIA WEC. To not let the spectator without action during the weekend, the Formula Renault 2.0 and the Renault Sport RS01 Trophy will be share track time with the ELMS.
Here is the 2016 European Le Mans Series calendar (Prologue at unconfirmed facility, on March 29th/30th):
April 16th – 4 Hours of Silverstone
May 15th – 4 Hours of Imola
July 17th – 4 Hours of Red Bull Ring
August 28th – 4 Hours of Le Castellet (Paul Ricard)
September 25th – 4 Hours of Spa
October 23rd – 4 Hours of Estoril
In the world stage, one of the questions that most longed about the FIA WEC was about a possible ninth event, and about which venue would enter to the show.
After possible contenders being between a return to Interlagos or the introduction of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, the renewed Mexican facility won the bet and will host the fifth round of the competition, becoming the first of two North American events, ahead of the 6 Hours of Circuit of the Americas.
The relief for the teams came as a declaration from the FIA WEC CEO Gerard Neveu, who said that the promoter of the 6 Hours of Mexico City will be responsible for all the freight expenses to avoid cost rising.
In response to the wonderful spectator turnout during the 2015 event, the 6 Hours of Nürburgring, practically a home race to all LMP1 manufacturers, will retain its place as the fourth round of the season, right after the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The gap between the two races was shortened after complains about the longer than necessary 10-week interval this year, as both races will be separated by only six weeks.
The remainder of the events didn't have changes in their places in the calendar.
Here is the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship calendar (Prologue at Paul Ricard on March 25th/26th, and Jouneé Test at Le Mans on June 5th):
April 17th – 6 Hours of Silverstone
May 7th – 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps
June 18th/19th – 84th 24 Hours of Le Mans
July 24th – 6 Hours of Nürburgring
September 4th – 6 Hours of (Mexico City – Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez)
September 17th – 6 Hours of Circuit of the Americas
October 16th – 6 Hours of Fuji
November 6th – 6 Hours of Shanghai
November 19th – 6 Hours of Bahrain (Sakhir)
PHOTOS: FIA WEC, ELMS