This year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, which was delayed from its traditional mid-June date until September 19/20, will be held without spectators, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The 24-hour race is traditionally one of the biggest motoring events of the year, with more than 250,000 fans attending the event at the 13.62-kilometre Circuit de la Sarthe last year.
Organisers had pushed the date of the event back to September in the hope that French authorities would permit spectators to attend and in June said that anyone who had already bought a ticket would be allowed into the circuit.
But following discussions with health experts and local government officials, event bosses have decided there are “too many uncertainties linked to the evolution of the health situation” to allow fans to attend.
Pierre Fillon, the president of the organising Automobile Club de l’Ouest, said: “There are still too many uncertainties for our race-festival, and we don’t want to compromise on safety. Even though the consequences of this decision are sad for our fans and for us, the decision was not difficult to make, because we don’t want to take any risks.”
The Le Mans 24 Hours first ran in 1923, and this will be the first year that spectators haven’t been allowed. While the first event was held in May, it shifted to June in 1924. Aside from running in July in 1956, the only time it has previously run outside of its traditional mid-summer date was in 1968, due to civil unrest in France.
Le Mans is the latest major motorsport event forced to run without fans due to the pandemic. The five Formula 1 races held so far this year have all been run behind closed doors, although F1 bosses are hoping fans may be able to attend races later, starting with the Italian Grand Prix in September.
The Indianapolis 500, which usually attracts more than 300,000 spectators, and the popular Nürburgring 24 Hours will also be held without fans.