ACO President Pierre Fillon has admitted that this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans was the “most difficult” edition he’s ever organized, amid the return of fans to the event and navigating the ever-changing COVID-19 protocols.
The postponed French endurance classic was held last month under a reduced crowd of 50,000 spectators who were only permitted into the event with either having a negative COVID-19 test result or being fully vaccinated and verified by the nation’s health pass.
Along with the competitor bubble, which also had to adhere to the same protocols, Fillon said it made for some tense moments in both the build up and week-long activities.
“[I’m] relieved to have been able to welcome the public this year, relieved for the 24 Hours of Le Mans teams who were able to participate, but also for all the ACO teams who worked hard for this event to take place,” Fillon told Endurance-Info.
“I must admit now that this is the most difficult edition that I have ever organized. We only knew on July 9 that everything was OK, a month-and-a-half before the event.
“Admittedly, 2020 was complicated but less. At that time, there was not yet the health pass, it was behind closed doors, we had no activities to set up, no public to welcome in the car parks and in the reception areas.
“In any case, I am delighted to have been able to see people around the circuit again. I can breathe a little more now … I can also say, after the fact.”
Fillon said that he expects the 2022 event to go ahead as planned in June, along with the opening round of the FIA World Endurance Championship season at Sebring, which was canceled this year due to travel-related restrictions in the U.S. at the time.
“I’m already more confident than this year compared to Sebring, the first round of the 2022 WEC [season],” Fillon said. “I’m hopeful that this will take place and that the 24 Hours of Le Mans will go well in June this time.
“There are still six months to deal with this pandemic or so, I hope we will be back to almost normal in June.”
GT3 Plan “Moving Forward” for 2024 Launch
Fillon said plans to introduce a GT3-based category at Le Mans and in the WEC are “moving forward” with the ACO boss confirming that he’s been in contact with GT3 architect Stephane Ratel for a possible collaboration.
The ACO announced last month plans for a Pro-Am-enforced GT3 class to replace GTE-spec machinery beginning in 2024.
Further information regarding the exact structure of the category is due to be announced before the end of this year.
“The GT3 [plan] is moving forward,” Fillon said. “We know that this will be done on the current basis of GT3s and that the various tracks are open.
“I am in contact with Stephane Ratel because as I said, the interest is not to be against each other, but to combine our forces.
“The ACO has sufficiently demonstrated in recent years that it is joining forces with other partners rather than going ‘head-on.'”
David Bristol contributed to this report