As global pandemics go, COVID-19 has been a history-making pain in the butt for motorsports sanctioning bodies: Every major racing organization has suffered from schedule changes and cancellations, including the group that presents the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
So, the March 8 decision by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), the World Endurance Championship (WEC), and the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) to postpone the 88th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, originally scheduled for June 13-14, until Sept. 19-20 was a wise call. The decision came far earlier than expected, and it was one that helped to shape the schedule revisions for the U.S.-based IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. IMSA in January managed to run its season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona, but every other race on the 2020 IMSA scheduled was affected.
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Gregg Elkin, former director of communications for IMSA, said then that he salutes the ACO and FIA for making the tough decision to move Le Mans. “Paramount for all of us is the health and safety of our fans, teams and officials. That has to trump everything.”
Pierre Fillon, the ACO president, said, “Postponing the 24 Hours of Le Mans … is the appropriate solution in face of the exceptional health circumstances that we are all going through today. It goes without saying that we will make every effort to ensure the safety and quality of our events.
“We are more than ever working as one team together with our competitors, partners, fans, media, medical services, organization teams, and marshals.”
“It is the right decision to delay in light of the current situation,” said Gérard Neveu, CEO of FIA WEC, back in March. “We are now working on revising our WEC, [European Le Mans Series], Michelin Le Mans Cup, and Ligier European Series calendars for the remainder of this season, and for the WEC’s season nine which was due to start in September of 2020.”
The 24 Hours of Nürburgring 24, scheduled originally for May opposite the Indianapolis 500, is now scheduled for Sept. 26-27. The Indy 500, of course, ended up running on Aug. 23.
Perhaps the most critical adjustment to be made to the European schedule resulting from the move of the 2020 24 Hours of Le Mans is that the start of the WEC season, scheduled for Sept. 4-5, will be pushed back, as now the last race of the 2020 season isn’t scheduled to run until November: the Eight Hours of Bahrain on is on Nov. 14.
Bottom line: The 24 Hours of Le Mans may be late this year, but it’s here. And given the drama that already exists before the green flag even falls, it is bound to be a downright spellbinding event. Be sure to tune into the livestream on the MotorTrend app.