It is expected that the Automobile Club de l’Ouest will announce this week the postponement of its blue riband 24 Hours of Le Mans event from the current June 12-13 weekend to a new date in August, possibly the weekend of the 21st. As coronavirus vaccinations ramp up around the world, this postponement will allow some extra time for distribution and implementation for the large crowd of international attendees to gather in safety of a hopefully post-COVID society.
In 2020 the event was postponed from June to September in the hopes that the virus would dissipate and people could gather safely, but we now know that was impossible, and the event went off without fans in the stands. Of course, members of some racing teams contracted the virus anyway. The difference between that postponement and this one is that the race organizers are optimistic that vaccine distribution will mean spread among attendees will be kept to a minimum.
Of course that depends largely on attendees actually getting the vaccine, so if you’re going to go, make sure you get your shots at your earliest possible convenience. It would be awesome if we could be out of the woods on this year-long nightmare by this summer, and one of the most exciting races of the year can continue without further financial woes.
Unlike last year, Corvette Racing is expected to participate in the legendary twice-around-the-clock race, which means this transfer of weekends is not without complications. If Le Mans does move to the third weekend in August, the race will be in direct conflict with an IMSA championship race at VIR. With Corvette Racing really only competing against a single non-factory Porsche team in the GTLM class championship, it’s unlikely that the team will need the VIR round to win the championship.
It’s possible IMSA would be willing to move the VIR round to accommodate some of its teams and drivers missing the round in favor of Le Mans. The series has a history of shuffling dates to make sure Le Mans is open to its competitors.
Unlike my issues with the Indy 500 running with fans before vaccine production is ready for prime time, this move by the ACO and Le Mans is prudent and has the best interest of the world at heart. I truly hope that the world is ready to get out of COVID hell well before August, but at least this way there will be some leeway to allow other countries to distribute and inoculate their populations.
Nothing will ever be the same from here on, as over two and a half million people have died in the last 12 months from this hellacious virus, but we can hope that we will take this as an opportunity not only to take better care of our global health, but also to be better prepared for the potential of the next pandemic.