Race organiser the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, also the promoter of the FIA World Endurance Championship of which Le Mans is the blue riband round, has stated that there are no plans to push back this year’s from August 21/22 to ensure that spectators can be accommodated.
ACO president Pierre Fillon said: “Whatever happens Le Mans will not change [dates], even if it is without spectators. We have no choice: we have Fuji [round five of the 2021 WEC] in September.”
Fillon stressed that he is convinced the 24 Hours, which was originally scheduled on its traditional mid-June weekend, will take be able to welcome spectators this year, though not the quarter of a million people who typically attend in a normal year.
“We are confident to organise Le Mans with public,” he explained. “I don’t know how many people, not 250,000 for sure — it will depend on the pandemic.”
This year’s Le Mans was postponed from June 13/14 back in March in the hope that a crowd can be accommodated. Fillon described a second running of the event behind closed doors as “unthinkable” at that time.
The plan for the 2020 event, which took place in September after a wholesale realignment of the second half of the 2019/20 WEC calendar as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, had been to allow approximately 50,000 spectators in 5000-strong bubbles around the circuit.
This had to be abandoned by the ACO in the run-up to the race in August after discussions with the government and local authorities.
Fillon pointed out that French president Emmanuel Macron announced a road map for his country’s withdrawal from its current lockdown on Thursday of this week. The stages include allowing tourism, subject to arrivals producing a negative PCR test result or a certificate of vaccination, from June 9.
Most restrictions are set to be lifted on June 30, though COVID-19 prevention protocols will remain in place in public spaces.
Marcon has made it clear that the timetable remains provisional and could be delayed in areas where intensive care units are close to capacity or where COVID-19 incidence exceeds 400 cases per 100,000 people.
Fillon revealed that the ACO is planning for spectators to be required to present a negative COVID test result before being allowed into the circuit. He explained that the test would need to be taken no more than 72 hours before entry.
That suggests that fans arriving from outside France would be allowed to attend the event on the same PCR certificate they will require for travel.
Fillon also revealed that the ACO would be setting up testing stations in the vicinity of the track.
The WEC Spa 6 Hours starts on Saturday May 1 at 1.30pm CET and will be streamed live on Motorsport.tv.