The President of 24 Hours of Le Mans race organizer the Automobile Club de l’Ouest is “confident” that this year’s edition of the event will be able to take place with spectators.
Pierre Fillon told reporters at the Total 6 Hours of Spa that the French government’s publication of its ‘four stages of deconfinement’ strategy on Friday has instilled confidence that some degree of fan access will be achieved for the race on August 21-22.
The 2021 edition of the famous French enduro was originally due to take place in mid-June but was postponed to late summer in order to ensure spectators could attend.
The plan for easing France’s social restrictions put in place to manage the country’s COVID-19 epidemic starts with the ending of domestic travel restrictions on May 3.
Non-essential shops and certain leisure facilities such as museums and cinemas are due to reopen on May 19, which is when a current 7 p.m. curfew will be extended to 9 p.m.
June 9 is the planned date for reopening indoor cafes, restaurants and ‘sports halls’ at a revised 11 p.m. curfew, while a full lifting of the curfew is envisaged for June 30.
“We are confident to organize Le Mans with public, we don’t know how many people,” said Fillon.
“Not 250,000 for sure. We are working to test all the spectators, to organize that with a passport.”
The ACO has not announced whether fans will be allowed to attend Le Mans, or if so how their access might be arranged. But Fillon said there is a plan to ensure that everyone produces a negative COVID-19 test within three days before entering the facility.
Last year the ACO put forward an idea to establish controlled’villages’ of limited spectator numbers around different parts of the Le Mans track, but this was scrapped when fan access was called off altogether one month before the race.
Even when the 2020 edition was pushed behind closed doors, teams and the rest of the paddock were required to produce a negative PCR test before entry, observe social distancing and wear a face covering at all times.
“I don’t know the rules in August, but the idea is to have a test with three days maximum, 72 hours, to enter [the spectator areas],” said Fillon.
“We will put in place something to test people on-site.”
Date Set in Stone Even if Behind Closed Doors
Fillon also explained that the date for the 89th edition of Le Mans won’t be changed for a second time, even in the event that spectators are not allowed to attend.
The race falls in an already tight spot on the global motorsport calendar and sits five weeks between its fellow FIA World Endurance Championship races at Monza and Fuji.
The staging of the official Le Mans test day on June 6 further reduces the gap between round three of the campaign at Monza and the week-long 24 Hours event.
“It will for sure depend on the pandemic, but whatever happens Le Mans will not change,” said Fillon.
“Even if it’s without spectators. We have no choice. There is WEC Fuji in September. It is no question to change that. I am confident because the vaccine in France is better.”