Gérard Neveu leaving a great legacy for the WEC
After 101 race events and 10 years at the helm of Le Mans Endurance Management, which is responsible for the organisation of the FIA WEC, the ELMS, Michelin LMC and Ligier European Series, the chequered flag is now in sight for CEO Gérard Neveu.
After 101 race events and 10 years at the helm of Le Mans Endurance Management, the company which is responsible for the organisation of the FIA World Endurance Championship, the European Le Mans Series, Michelin Le Mans Cup and Ligier European Series, the chequered flag is now in sight for CEO Gérard Neveu.
As previously announced Gérard will leave the WEC at the end of 2020 but, before he leaves, we wanted to reflect on some of the great innovations and advancements he has introduced during his tenure.
Having nurtured the WEC through its birth in 2012, overseen its growth and development during the peak of the hybrid era, and indeed its survival through the turbulence of a fast-changing automobile industry and a global pandemic, a great legacy is now in place which will take the championship towards the future.
A few of the many key moments over the years include, but are not limited to…
LMEM Organisation Team
From just a small handful of people back in 2012, Gérard has assembled a world class, international organisation team who are responsible for all aspects of the WEC and ELMS events. Their professionalism, efficiency, creativity and skills have set the bar high in terms of quality – as befits a world championship. They have also established solid and productive daily working relationships with both the ACO and FIA.
Stability has always been the most important element – so that fans know when and where to expect the WEC each season – but the changes that have occurred over the years have been market-led, with the competitors’ best interests, visibility and budgets at heart. Not an easy task for a world championship which takes place over multiple continents but one which Gérard has navigated with finesse due to his great relationships with the circuits and local promoters.
A new style of prize giving (2014 onwards)
Breaking away from the formal, black tie, traditional prize giving ceremonies which are largely restricted to the higher echelons in the paddock, a new and much more informal, all-inclusive format was introduced which truly displayed the human side of the championship and the family atmosphere in the paddock.
A key part of these evenings is the montage of film clips and the movie-style season review/preview films which have broken away from traditional formats and which are filled with a combination of emotion, passion, incredible narratives and action…all master-minded by Gérard together with the WEC TV department.
No more grid girls (2015)
In a move which was widely imitated by other championships, the practice of having girls holding numbers boards in front of a car on the grid was eliminated. Instead, as part of the pre-race ceremonies, a small number of young men and women became flag bearers representing the international scope of the world championship.
Grid procedures and fan entertainment (2015 onwards)
The presentation of the cars on the grid was changed in 2015 to echo the Le Mans-style “ear of corn”. Other innovations include the way in which leading drivers are interviewed on the grid, open paddocks, entertainment for all the family on and off track including DJs, drummers, augmented reality garage tours and driver selfies. Listening to fan feedback has played a vital role in the development of this area, as borne out by the worldwide Fan Survey in 2017.
Super Season (2018-19)
Following the sudden decision of Porsche to halt its LMP1 programme, bold decisions had to be taken to protect the future of the WEC. It was decided that the grand finale of the season should be the biggest and most prestigious race in the calendar, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. A season of 14 months was planned with not one but two visits to Spa-Francorchamps and Le Mans and it was, indeed, a super season!
Le Mans Esport Series (2018)
Shadowing the real-life championship, a successful global esport series was created with all the benefits of endurance racing and none of the disadvantages. Just after the start of season 2, the COVID-19 pandemic hit us and racing people were confined to home for months.
The opportunity to stage the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual could not be ignored. The event was a massive success, bringing new visibility to the ACO and the WEC from a younger demographic of fans in all four corners of the globe and prompting several current F1 drivers to publicly say they wanted to come back “and do the real thing” in the future. It was also honoured with a Leaders in Sport Award for Live Experience.
The ACO – as promoter of the WEC and international regulator of endurance racing – set the stage with the American Le Mans Series, the forerunner to the IMSA championship, and in January 2020 the two sanctioning bodies announced a common future with convergence of the top categories of endurance racing. Representing the paddocks, thanks to strong and long-held relationships with the competitors, Gérard and his IMSA counterparts have been central to the finalisation of the agreement.
On behalf of the whole paddock, thank you Gérard for everything you have done for all of us within the FIA World Endurance Championship. We send you all good wishes for the future… you will be greatly missed.