The Circuit de la Sarthe will be without its usual legions of fans when the 24 Hours of Le Mans kicks off on Sept. 19. The twice-around-the-clock classic's 88th running, like many other major auto races including the Indianapolis 500, will be held in front of empty grandstands due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The FIA and ACO confirmed the news on Monday, not quite two months after organizers announced plans for a limited crowd.
There's been a sizable spike in French COVID cases over the past month, leading ACO President Pierre Fillon to release the following statement:
"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 organizing 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."
Event officials had already delayed the 24 Hours of Le Mans' start date from June, whereas it'll now run Sept. 19-20.
Previous plans made mention of secluded "fan villages" in which 5,000 or so people would stay within a social bubble. Organizers wouldn't put an explicit number out there regarding how many fans they expected to accept, though Autosport reports that around 10 of these "fan villages" were to be put in place at the 8.48-mile track.
Last year's 24 Hours of Le Mans, for reference, drew more than 252,000 motorsport fans to the historic circuit.
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