The iconic 24-hour endurance race and its affiliated series are organized by the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO), and have long stood apart from the FIA. But not any more, as the two French racing organizations have come together to form the FIA World Endurance Championship.
The announcement is set to take effect with a new series next season, but poses more questions than its answers. Of particular interest is what effect this will have on the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Europe-based Le Mans Series, the American Le Mans Series and the newly formed Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, as well as the FIA's GT1 World Championship (pictured above) and GT3 European Championship. However, the FIA is said to be working on combining its GT1, GT2 and GT3 regulations into one class of sports cars.
A further announcement set for June 9 will hopefully address such details, but in the meantime, as a symbol of their cooperation, FIA President Jean Todt has been announced to start the 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 11. Follow the jump for the full press release.
2012 FIA World Endurance Championship
The Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) and the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) are proud to announce that a partnership has been defined to launch the FIA World Endurance Championship starting in 2012.
In establishing this new category of motorsport championship, both the FIA and ACO are keenly aware it needs to be a laboratory for innovation and the development of new technologies, allowing motor manufacturers to express, through the rigours of competition, their ability to be inventive and, as this is an endurance championship, to also highlight their capacity to produce high quality and safe machines and components.
The calendar of the first season in 2012 will mirror the existing Intercontinental Le Mans Cup series of which the 24 Le Mans race will be the highlight.
In order to symbolically seal this historic partnership, Jean Todt, President of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile, has been asked to start the 79th edition of the 24 Hours Le Mans race at 15.00 on June 11, 2011.
Further details concerning the new championship will be outlined by Mr Todt and Mr Plassart, ACO President, at a press conference to be held at 10.00 on June 9 at the Musée des 24 Heures du Mans.
Jean Todt said: "I am delighted to welcome the return of the FIA Endurance World Championship, especially with a promoter like ACO. I am also very pleased to have a legendary race like the 24 Hours of Le Mans as part of it."
Jean-Claude Plassart said: "I am very happy we have reached this agreement with the FIA, a partnership which underlines the rightful place that endurance racing has in motorsport, something we have been promoting since we first established the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in 1923. Jean Todt has accepted my invitation to start this year's 24 Hours race on Saturday June 11, a symbolic and visible way to celebrate our partnership."