WEC/FE clash saga continues, but will fate of German GP offer a solution?

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The saga surrounding the July 2017 clash between Formula E and the FIA World Endurance Championship has taken another twist over the 6 Hours of Shanghai race weekend.

Following Sunday’s race at the Shanghai International Circuit, a number of drivers will make the trip to Marrakech in Morocco for the second round of the Formula E season next weekend.

WEC and Formula E complement each other well, combining to give drivers a full season worth of racing, with a gentleman’s agreement existing between the two series to avoid clashes.

However, it became apparent over the Nürburgring race weekend in July that the planned race at the German track in 2017 would clash with the penultimate round of the Formula E season on the July 16 weekend.

New York City will host Formula E that weekend, but now risks being without many of the series’ biggest stars after WEC CEO Gerard Neveu told Autosport that the clash would now remain.

Neveu had previously said that the Nürburgring race could move to the July 23 weekend, so long as he had the assurance that the Formula 1 race in Germany, provisionally set for July 30, would not shift back a week. As he has failed to get this, a decision has been taken to firm up the WEC date.

“We do not have the guarantee that July 23 is available, so we stay on July 16,” Neveu told Autosport.

“We had to take a decision with the Nurburgring and the decision is that the WEC race will happen on July 16.

“We don’t have a choice. The Nurburgring is arranging its schedule and renting its track for the other weekends.”

Should the series clash, a handful of drivers will be forced to make a tough decision about which series to race in. Defending Formula E champion Sebastien Buemi has previously said his commitments in WEC with Toyota take priority, although with New York slated as a double-header, it would surely affect his title hopes.

Strangely with this, we can see a silver lining from  Audi’s decision to quit WEC at the end of the year, as Lucas di Grassi and Loic Duval no longer face a quandary.

However, Stephane Sarrazin, Nick Heidfeld, Adam Carroll and Nico Prost all may join Buemi in having to make a difficult call, potentially leaving Renault e.dams without either of its regular drivers.

From Neveu’s comments, it appears that time has run out for talks to drag on about a possible date move, but it really depends on how flexible the WEC and the Nürburgring can be.

Because the German Grand Prix may not end up being a problem at all in this.

F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone said earlier this week that he was still pushing to get Hockenheim firmed up for 2017, having listed the track on the provisional calendar as being ‘subject to agreement’.

Hockenheim is unable to host the German Grand Prix on an annual basis due to the high costs involved, theoretically making 2017 its ‘off’ year. A few years ago, the Nürburgring would have stepped up and taken its turn; sadly, its own financial struggles have put that to rest.

So while Neveu hasn’t got an assurance the German Grand Prix won’t move to the July 23 weekend, there also isn’t any assurance that the race will happen at all. The chances of it happening look slim to nil.

With Hockenheim out of the picture, relying both the WEC and the Nürburgring can be flexible, then a switch to the July 23 weekend would surely be workable – unless this is the early rumblings of a struggle for supremacy between the two championships.

Failing that, then tough decisions will have to be made. And neither series would be a winner from this saga.

Ryan Hunter-Reay hired as replacement for Conor Daly at Ed Carpenter Racing

Ryan Hunter-Reay Carpenter
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Ryan Hunter-Reay was named to replace Conor Daly in Ed Carpenter Racing’s No. 20 Dallara-Chevrolet, starting in the NTT IndyCar Series event next week at Road America.

Hunter-Reay is the 2012 series champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner. He finished 11th for Dreyer & Reinbold last month in the 107th Indy 500, his first start since the 2021 season finale. He drove full time for Andretti Autosport from 2010-21.

“We need to improve our competitiveness and I wanted to add a fresh perspective from a driver like Ryan who has a massive amount of experience and success as well as a reputation as a team leader. I am excited to welcome Ryan to the team,” team owner Ed Carpenter said in a team release. “We have worked together in the past as teammates and he tested for ECR at Barber Motorsports Park in October 2021, where he made an immediate impact as we were able to qualify one of our cars on the pole following that test. I am confident that his experience and technical abilities will be an asset to ECR as we move forward toward our goals as a team.”

Hunter-Reay has 18 IndyCar victories, most recently in 2018. He also is a winner in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, having been a part of winning entries in the 2020 Twelve Hours of Sebring and 2018 Petit Le Mans. Last year, he was an endurance driver for Cadillac Racing while being on standby for Chip Ganassi Racing.

He replaces Daly, whose departure was announced a day earlier in what the driver and team said was a mutual decision.

“I was surprised when I got the call from Ed,” Hunter-Reay said in a team release. “He described how frustrated he was that his team has not been able to realize its potential despite their efforts, investments, as well as technical and personnel changes over the past few years and asked for my help. Ed and I are very close friends and have been for a long time. I’ve worked with the team in the past and they are a very talented group with high expectations and a committed partner in BITNILE.COM.

“This will certainly be a challenge for me as well. It’s a tough situation jumping in a car in the middle of the season without any testing in what I believe to be the most competitive series in the world. Certainly, part of my motivation in saying ‘yes’ to Ed is the great challenge ahead. The last time I turned right driving an NTT IndyCar Series car was in October of 2021 with this team at Barber. However, I remain very confident in both my driving and technical abilities and believe by working with the talented people at ECR and Team Chevy, while representing BITNILE.COM, we will make progress. I am going to do everything I can do to help the team achieve its long-term objectives.”

Said Milton “Todd” Ault, the chairman of sponsor BitNile.com: “It is great for BitNile.com to be aligned with an Indy 500 Winner and an NTT IndyCar Series champion. I have followed Ryan’s career for years and I am confident he will challenge the entire ECR team to perform at higher levels. I wish everyone luck at Road America.”