Le Mans to go behind closed doors

The 24 Hours of Le Mans has today (Monday) become the latest major motorsport event to reverse plans to allow fan attendance.

The Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) and the Sarthe Prefecture have said this year’s edition of the French motor-racing showpiece on September 19-20 will be held behind closed doors.

In June, organisers said the rescheduled event would take place with fans present. Ticket sales for the 88th 24 Hours of Le Mans were suspended from June 29, but organisers said all who had so far bought passes would be able to attend.

The iconic motorsport event regularly attracts more than 250,000 spectators. The French government ruled in April that major sporting and cultural events bringing together more than 5,000 participants could not be held before September.

In the wake of June’s announcement, it had been reported that ACO was looking to accommodate ticket buyers in ‘fan villages’. These social bubbles, of which around 10 were planned, would have held around 5,000 spectators apiece.

However, a spike in COVID-19 cases in France has put paid to these plans. ACO said that various solutions had been considered to welcome limited numbers of fans. However, having referred to the public health and safety authorities and given the uncertainty surrounding the development of the situation, the ACO and the Sarthe Prefecture have unanimously decided that the event, originally scheduled for June 13-14, will go ahead without spectators.

ACO added that fans will instead be able to follow the endurance race through a new digital platform that will provide an “exclusive insight” into what goes on behind the scenes at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Pierre Fillon, president of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, said: “The 88th 24 Hours of Le Mans will go down in the annals of history as, sadly, the world’s greatest endurance race will be run this year with no spectators trackside.

“Over the last few weeks, we have looked at many ways in which we could hold our event in September with fans present, albeit in limited numbers. However, given the constraints involved in organising a festival-scale event over several days in the current situation, we have opted with the local government authorities to hold the race behind closed doors.

“There were still too many question marks regarding health and safety. We know that our fans will be as disappointed as we are by this decision but, with public health in the balance, it really wasn’t a difficult call to make. You don’t compromise where safety is concerned.

“Fans will not miss out altogether. They may not be at Le Mans, but our media teams and service providers will bring Le Mans to them.”

It was announced last week that the Indy 500 will be staged behind closed doors for the first time in its history as Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) backtracked on plans to admit fans.

Image: ACO