The FIA World Endurance Championship has issued an updated calendar for the remainder of the 2019/20 campaign and revealed the following season will not begin until at least March 2021.
With the Automobile Club de l'Ouest having already announced that this year's running of Le Mans had been moved back to mid-September as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic, a new date has been revealed the for the likewise postponed Spa race.
That will take place on August 15, while the season will conclude with another eight-hour fixture in Bahrain, which replaces the cancelled Sebring 1000 Miles and thus keeps the 2019/20 schedule at eight races.
With the 2020/21 season now not beginning until March 2021, the Silverstone race planned for September and November's Fuji round have been shelved. Also affected is the revived Kyalami race, which had been pencilled in for February.
WEC boss Gerard Neveu said: "This decision is an indication of the return of a regular season: we will apply a calendar from March to November next year."
He pointed out that idea for a winter series followed on from the 2018/19 WEC superseason incorporating two editions of Le Mans, which was a reaction to Porsche's withdrawal from LMP1. The abandonment of the concept after only one campaign, he said, was a reaction to another crisis.
Neveu stressed that the lockdown and travel restrictions resulting from the coronavirus crisis meant that it was not possible to organise two races before the new Le Mans date.
"It is today impossible to consider organising an international motorsport event before the summer, so we have rearranged the calendar accordingly while keeping the same number of events on the schedule," he said.
"It was supposed to be eight races and we have to maintain eight races — there is a huge amount at stake for the competitors."
Bahrain's date on the original 2020/21 calendar has effectively been brought forward from December to November to become the finale of the current season. It would have been the fourth race of a new season that was due to start at Silverstone on September 5.
Neveu stated that the revised schedule is subject to further changes as the world health situation evolves and calendars of other FIA world championships are published.
“We must be prepared for some big changes for next season because we will have to incorporate many parameters, starting with the inevitable economic difficulties that are to come," explained Neveu, who added that it can be expected that the 2021 season will begin with the Sebring 1000 Miles in March.
The start time for Le Mans has also been shifted from 16.00 to 14.30 local time, ostensibly to allow for more daylight running in the early stages of the race.
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