Inside the cancellation – and replacement – of the EFO Pau GP round

Only one week before cars were supposed to hit the track at the Pau Grand Prix, the Euroformula Open championship cancelled its second round, citing technical reasons. One of the most historic racing events of the year was left without its headline event. With the news of its replacement with a new round at Mugello – scheduled for the 29th September-1st October – Feeder Series goes behind-the-scenes to uncover why the Pau round was cancelled, and how it affected teams and organisers.

By Jan Husmann

GT Sport, the organisers of the Euroformula Open championship, informed the organisers of the Pau Grand Prix that the second round of the championship would be cancelled on 27 April. Teams and drivers were only informed of the news a couple of days later, leaving many in the paddock perplexed.

“The cancellation was extremely short notice”, Timo Rumpfkeil, CEO of Team Motopark, recalled, “we learned about it on the Saturday or Sunday in Portimao.”

The short-notice cancellation of the EFO Pau Grand Prix round was due to the event’s organisers mandating the use of new synthetic fuels | Credit: EuroFormula Open

But what had happened? GT Sport’s official press release cited technical reasons. “Greener fuels” became a new requirement by the organisers of the Grand Prix, which GT Sport claims was not part of the original agreement.

Alfredo Filippone of GT Sport explained: “At some point, very very late, they told us that for a number of reasons … they would have to give the title of Grand Prix de Pau to a decarbonated series.

“And of course, to go to Pau not for the Grand Prix does not make a lot of sense, especially because it was agreed that [the Euroformula Open race] would be the Grand Prix de Pau.”

“It was not feasible in the time frame we had”

“They called us in January, they offered us to come and we said okay, nice, the GP de Pau has its attractive side, so we changed the calendar,” Filippone added.

“At that moment there was no requirement of running on greener fuels. That came later. We checked with engineers, with people from the oil industry and the engines if it was feasible, and it was not feasible in the time frame we had.

“It required changes to the engine and probably testing and there was not enough time for that.”

We said that the fuel should be provided early, so that we can test it… [but] they were not able to provide the fuel for testing

Rumpfkeil on the synthetic fuels mandated by the organisers of the Pau Grand Prix.

Rumpfkeil shared similar views. “Ultimately, the Euroformula Open did nothing wrong,” he said. “[The Grand Prix organisers] came round the corner with their synthetic fuels, which are certainly a good idea, but not with our engines.

“If you go to the Pau GP and half of the grid has engine failures, it would not have been good publicity for the synthetic fuels either. Therefore we said that the fuel should be provided early, so we can test it on a racetrack.

“But even disregarding the costs for that, they were not able to provide the fuel for testing.”

However, the tone of the press release written by the organisers of the Pau Grand Prix was remarkably different.

“There will of course be legal consequences as a result of the fact that the contractual clauses binding the two structures have not been respected,” it read.

“The lack of formal procedures, the silence of GT Sport in the last few days, which still displayed Pau on its calendar and official website on May 5th, the use of a false pretext to justify at best an unprofessional and disrespectful attitude, at worst other lowly material considerations, the simple observation of the low number of cars entered in the first race of their championship, demonstrate in any case the weakness of the promoter.”

“This will simply be a loss for our team”

When talking about the consequences of the cancellation of the Pau GP round, Filippone mainly had travel costs in mind.

“You have booked your hotel rooms, you have made your travel arrangements, so that’s the downside that most probably, even if you can cancel, you have to face expenses. That’s the downside.

“Not going to Pau and losing that money on bookings is sometimes cheaper than going to Pau because on a street circuit you can always do a lot of damage,” he added.

“I don’t see many other [financial] consequences. That is basically it.”

Rumpfkeil also talked about the travel expenses lost as a result of the cancellation.

“It is easier when [a round] is cancelled on short notice than added on short notice. But in the end this is some sort of expense for us too,” he said.

“The hotels have been booked since January and we will lose quite some money due to that because you will not get any refunds for those.”

In an industry where money is always a talking point, this is not a good situation for a small private team.

“This will simply be a loss for our team.”

The cancellation of the EFO Pau Grand Prix round has had financial implications for teams, who still have to pay travel expenses for the event | Credit: EuroFormula Open

However, Rumpfkeil acknowledged that there were silver linings to the situation – particularly from an organisational standpoint.

“The guys in the garage were happy as they have more time until the next round,” he said. “To turn the car around for Pau, they would have had to work the whole weekend. Now they even have a little spare time.”

“We have contracts with our drivers over a whole season with eight race weekends,” he added. “If we can deliver the eight races it will more or less be irrelevant on that side, as it would be just a postponement instead of a race fewer.”

With most racing series and tracks having their calendars set for 2023, finding a suitable replacement round could prove challenging to the GT Sport organisation, but Filippone is confident that the championship will be able to replace the Pau weekend soon.

“The solution is there, to have the eighth round”

“What you have to do when you are in a situation like this, is go into an existing [race] weekend,” he explained.

”We have good relationships with ACI Sport in Italy. They often come to our meetings [with their series] and we also go with Euroformula Open to their meetings. I think that’s the route we will go because at this stage you cannot find anything.

“This cancellation only affects Euroformula Open and not GT Open or our other series. So we would not build an event just for Euroformula because that is not feasible,” Filippone added.

Since Feeder Series spoke to Filippone, EuroFormula Open have confirmed that a new event at Mugello will replace the cancelled Pau Grand Prix round. This rescheduled round will take place on the 29th September-1st October within a race weekend promoted by ACI Sport.

Until we are not decarbonated, I do not see a possibility

Filippone on whether EFO could see a return to Pau in the near future

A return to Pau in the coming years, however, seems unlikely.

“The GP this year [was] called the first decarbonated Grand Prix de Pau,” Filippone said. “It is clear that they are taking that route, which we understand. They have legitimate reasons to do so, politically and commercially. I think they will go that route.

“Probably, until we are not decarbonated, I do not see a possibility.”

With Euroformula Open out of the picture, French F4 took over as the headlining event at last weekend’s Pau Grand Prix. The series has been running its engines on biofuel provided by Repsol since 2022. Enzo Peugeot and Garret Barry were the winning drivers of the weekend.

Euroformula Open will return to racing on 27 May on the historic circuit of Spa-Francorchamps.

Header photo credit: EuroFormula Open


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