United Autosport, Oreca 07-Gibson, LMP2, #22, Philip Hanson, Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta, 2019 World Endurance Championship (WEC) 8h Bahrain 2019, Sakhir, Bahrain. Photo © John D Stevens.

The FIA WEC has, not unexpectedly, cancelled the Fuji round due to take place 26th September due to Covid-19 travel restrictions and replaced it with a second round at Bahrain.

The new six hour race in Bahrain will form part of a double-header for the final two rounds of WEC Season 9, with the first event to take place on 30 October and the second eight hour race – the WEC season-finale – scheduled for the following weekend (6 November).

Due to continued difficulties related to COVID-19, it was decided that two consecutive race weekends in Bahrain would be the most viable solution for all concerned. However, Bahrain remains a RED LIST country for both the United Kingdom (which requires travellers to quarantine in a government approved hotel for 10 days on return) and France, where returnees are required to self-isolate for 10 days on return, although not in a hotel; thus one has to question the viability of the decision not just to host Round 6 at Bahrain (brought forwards by two weeks) but add a second race, a week earlier to replace the cancelled Japanese Round 5. 

Pierre Fillon, President of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest: “The current instability calls for adaptability. Having consulted widely, given the health situation, we will not be going to Fuji. A replacement round will be held in Bahrain. My heartfelt thanks to the Japanese organisation team who did all they could to host the event. We are already looking forward to next year’s fixture.”

Richard Mille, FIA Endurance Commission President: “The ongoing pandemic made us all prepared for the event of a cancellation. Yet, it’s always disappointing when it happens. Nevertheless, every setback creates an opportunity and the first ever double-header in the history of FIA WEC gives us all something to look forward to. I’m sure we’ll witness an epic season finale in Bahrain.”

Frédéric Lequien, FIA WEC CEO: “Regrettably we have been left with no choice but to cancel our Japanese leg of the World Championship due to continuing difficulties with the pandemic including travel restrictions and logistical issues. We have instead decided to replace Fuji with another race in Bahrain, which we firmly believe is the safest option for everyone. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Fuji International Speedway’s President, Mr Eijiro Haraguchi, and his entire team for their excellent cooperation and we look forward to returning in the future. At the same time, I’d like to express our gratitude to Sheikh Salman and his team for hosting us twice this season – they always provide such a warm welcome, and I’m confident that a double-header in Bahrain is an ideal solution in the current climate.”

Sheikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa, Chief Executive of the Bahrain International Circuit: “It is a great pleasure for us to be able to host two rounds of the FIA World Endurance Championship. Over the last few months, we have demonstrated our ability to host several major international events in a safe manner and we thank WEC for showing their faith in us yet again.”