The coronavirus outbreak continues to have an adverse effect on the motorsport calendar in 2020. Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) has now confirmed that the 88th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is the latest event on the shelf, as efforts to curb the spread of the disease continue to ramp up.
Originally set for June 13-14, the race will now take place on September 19-20 at the earliest. This comes hot off the back of the Nurburgring announcing the delay of its own 24 hour endurance race just yesterday. Formula One is in much of the same boat, following the postponement of the season opener in Australia last weekend.
Of course this casts some doubt over the World Endurance Championship. Le Mans is supposed to be the last race on the calendar, with the Silverstone race — scheduled for September 5 — the first race of the new season. This could mean that teams race their new hypercar-class vehicles at Silverstone before returning to the old LMP1-H cars two weeks later.
Pierre Fillon, president of the ACO, had this to say about postponing the event:
“Postponing the 24 Hours of Le Mans from the original dates in June is now the most appropriate way forward in the current exceptional circumstances.
“First and foremost, I urge everyone to avoid putting themselves, their loved ones and others at risk. The most important thing today is to curtail the spread of this virus. Our thoughts go out to medical staff working relentlessly for the sake of us all.
“The postponement of the 24 Hours of Le Mans means making changes to the WEC and ELMS calendars and we shall announce the new dates shortly. The safety and quality of our events will not be compromised. Competitors, sponsors, fans, media, medical services and organisers – it is time to pull together, more than ever before.”
This year’s race will introduce the all-new hyperpole qualifying format. Using the new dates, on September 19, all entries will take to the track for a 45-minute night qualifying session. At the end of the session, the top six entries in each class will advance to the new session. On September 20, the remaining 24 cars will take to the track in a 30-minute session to determine grid order.
Unfortunately, we don’t expect this to be the last postponement or cancellation of a motorsport event.