The Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) has confirmed that the 24 Hours of Le Mans will be postponed to mid-September, thanks to on-going concerns regarding the coronavirus pandemic.
Most, if not all, motor racing programs worldwide have been put on temporary hiatus – as indeed has most automotive production – as safety concerns regarding COVID-19 continue to escalate. Clearly the most famous endurance race on the planet is no exception. Originally scheduled for 13-14 June, this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans will now take place on 19-20 September.
Were shifting the traditional summer date of its halo race wasn’t enough of a headache, Le Mans’ postponement will also have run-on affects on the 2019/2020 World Endurance Championship, of which Le Mans is the season finale. The revised 19-20 September date overlaps next season’s opening six-hour race at Silverstone, meaning the latter’s provisionally scheduled 5 September start date is also set to be delayed.
Despite the logistical headaches, the ACO confirms that re-scheduling Le Mans for later in the year is the correct course of action at this time:
“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” explains Pierre Fillon, President of the ACO. “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 safety and quality of our events will not be compromised.”
Surprisingly, there is precedence when it comes to postponing the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In 1968, on-going civil unrest as part of the infamous ‘May 68’ in France led to that year’s Le Mans being postponed from its original 15-16 June date to 28-29 September. As well as being the latest date Le Mans has been held in the event’s 88-year history, the winning duo – the late Pedro Rodríguez and Luciano ‘great uncle of future F1 prodigy Jules’ Bianchi – made history twice on that September weekend by securing the first of two consecutive wins for both John Wyer Autmotive Engineering and chassis #P-1075, but also the third of four for the legendary Ford GT40. Fun fact, that weekend also marked the first fastest lap and pole position for Porsche at Le Mans, while Rodriguez became the first, and thus far only, winning driver from Mexico.