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Provisional calendar for 2017 FIA WEC season announced

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The provisional calendar for the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship season has been announced, retaining all nine rounds from the 2016 season.

The 2017 WEC season will once again feature eight six-hour races, starting with the 6 Hours of Silverstone on April 16.

Dates for both the 6 Hours of Spa and the 24 Hours of Le Mans had already been announced, being held on May 6 and June 18-19 respectively.

The 6 Hours of Nürburgring is locked in for July 16, clashing with the provisional date for the Formula E weekend in Montreal despite a number of drivers racing in both series.

Following the 6 Hours of Mexico on September 3, WEC will return to Austin, Texas for the 6 Hours of Circuit of The Americas on September 16 next year, confirming the split with the IMSA Lone Star Le Mans race after its move to a spring date.

The 6 Hours of Fuji is set for October 15 ahead of the 6 Hours of Shanghai on November 5, before the season finale in Bahrain on November 18.

Perhaps the biggest change to the calendar is the move of the traditional pre-season prologue test from Paul Ricard to Monza, which will play host to running on March 24 and 25.

Provisional 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship calendar

1. 6 Hours of Silverstone – April 16
2. 6 Hours of Spa – May 6
3. 24 Hours of Le Mans – June 17/18
4. 6 Hours of Nürburgring – July 16
5. 6 Hours of Mexico – September 3
6. 6 Hours of Circuit of The Americas – September 16
7. 6 Hours of Fuji – October 15
8. 6 Hours of Shanghai – November 5
9. 6 Hours of Bahrain – November 18

“We are very pleased to have maintained this level of stability in the five years of the WEC to date, and our 2017 calendar allows us to continue to build on the tradition of endurance racing around the world,” ACO president Pierre Fillon said.

“Our increasing number of fans year on year is proof that returning to a venue at a similar time of year encourages people to make their plans to attend well in advance…and to bring friends with them to enjoy all the entertainment and access that the WEC offers.

“The Le Mans 24 Hours needs no introduction, but we know that audiences in countries such as Mexico can only increase as their knowledge and interest in the WEC grows. We look forward to an exciting 2017 starting with our first visit to Italy.”

“The opportunity to start our season at Monza is one we are sure will please competitors, fans and media alike,” FIA WEC CEO Gerard Neveu said.

“We hope that our calendar not only meets the expectations and requirements of all our partners and competitors, and makes economic and logistical sense, but also that it fits in with the increasing number of events that each venue hosts.

“The WEC continues to offer fans access to the most technologically relevant, competitive, and open championship possible, as well as offering our manufacturers Aston Martin, Audi, Ferrari, Ford, Porsche and Toyota the perfect showcase for their products on and off track.”

Three in position to capture World Rally Championship title at Rally Australia

Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) Defending champion Sebastien Ogier goes into this weekend’s Rally Australia with a chance to clinch his sixth World Rally Championship in a row. Thierry Neuville, a runner-up four times but never a champion, hopes to change the world order.

Neuville led the series for much of the season but Ogier’s win in Britain and a second place in Spain has given the Frenchman 204 points, three ahead of Neuville, heading into the final rally of the championship.

“We are not the best friends but we are rivals and respect each other for our performances,” Neuville said Wednesday. “I’ve been second many times in the championship now, we are so close to the main goal.”

“If we need to take more risks because we need to pass Sebastien we’re going to try,” the Belgian driver added, “we’ll take the maximum risks.”

Ogier says the feeling is mutual when it comes to his main rival.

“We are different, definitely, but most important we’re in a great fight together and respect each other for that,” Ogier said. “It’s about trying to beat each other and do it with respect.”

Ott Tanak of Estonia sits 23 points behind and with 30 points for a win in Australia, and other results going his way, he could also capture the world title.

Ogier will be hoping for some Friday morning rain to settle the dust and gravel before he sets off first on what will be more than 300 kilometers (180 miles) of timed racing through forests on the New South Wales state’s north coast, about 530 kilometers (325 miles) north of Sydney.

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports