For the second year in a row the FIA WEC will stay the heck away from Japan, thanks to increased cases of coronavirus. This is, of course, in spite of the fact that the fucking Olympics are heading to Japan basically as I write this. Ongoing travel restrictions mean that the race would be difficult, if not altogether impossible to host. The race was originally scheduled for September 26th.
Instead, the end of the season will be brought forward by two weeks to play in Bahrain’s sandbox twice in successive weekends. The double-header will be scheduled as a 6-hour race on October 30th and an 8-hour race on November 6th. The 8-hour season finale was originally scheduled for November 20th. The Bahrain complex visit will come two months after the Le Mans 24, giving teams plenty of time to recover from that twice-around-the-clock endurance classic.
Olympic opening ceremonies will begin in Tokyo on Tuesday July 20th, with hundreds of thousands of athletes, team members, media, and spectators from all around the world converging on the Coronavirus-wracked country. It is interesting that a much smaller event like that which the FIA WEC would hold has been deemed impossible, while something as complex as the Olympics has been allowed to carry on.
WEC boss Frederic Lequien said: “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.”
Lequien later made sure to impress upon his statements that the FIA WEC intends to return to Fuji as soon as next season.
The cancellation of this event has meant that the schedule clash with the IMSA Long Beach round scheduled for the same weekend is no longer in effect. A number of drivers race in both series, and would have had to choose between a late-season IMSA round and the FIA series. That said, the first Bahrain race is now in direct clash with the Suzuka round of Super Formula, the season finale. Toyota drivers Kamui Kobayashi and Kazuki Nakajima will be forced to miss out on those rounds. Both drivers have been previously forced to miss rounds this year due to Japan’s extremely strict COVID protocols, so it seems likely this won’t be much of an issue.
The Japanese Grand Prix is currently still on the Formula One calendar for October 10th, but in light of this announcement now seems quite unlikely. Given F1's recent cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix, the Japanese GP isn’t far behind, seemingly. MotoGP has already cancelled its Japanese round at Motegi, scheduled for October 3rd.
Japan is in the middle of yet another Coronavirus uptick, with a 7-day average of new cases climbing above 1600. The country has seen spikes well in excess of 6,000 new daily cases, and vaccine rollout has been slow in the island nation. It will be interesting to see what the Olympics does to Japan’s numbers in the coming months. This shit still isn’t over, folks. Get your jab, stay safe.