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The 24 Hours of Le Mans moved from June to September for COVID-19

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The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has caused the rescheduling of one the biggest races in the world.

The 88th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans has been postponed from June 13-14 to Sept. 19-20.

Race organizers said they decided to move the sports car endurance classic because of “restrictions in force in France and other countries around the world to curb the spread of coronavirus.”

A NEW FORD V. FERRARI ERA?

The 24 Hours of Le Mans has attracted some of IMSA’s best teams in the past. There was talk of rekindling the era celebrated in the movie “Ford vs. Ferrari” by a January announcement in Daytona Beach, Florida, that Le Mans should become more of a crossover event in the future.

The Sept. 19-20 weekend currently is scheduled to be a busy one for racing. NASCAR planned to conclude the first round of its playoffs Sept. 19 at Bristol Motor Speedway while IndyCar expected to conclude its season Sept. 20 at Laguna Seca Raceway.

As of now, NASCAR and IndyCar are hoping to resume their seasons in May.

Here’s the release about the 2020 postponement of the 24 Hours of Le Mans from the race’s website:

In view of the changing health situation related to the coronavirus and the latest Government guidelines, the 88th 24 Hours of Le Mans, initially scheduled for 13-14 June, has been postponed until 19-20 September 2020.

Restrictions are currently in force in France and other countries around the world to curb the spread of coronavirus. Consequently, race organiser the Automobile Club de l’Ouest has decided, in conjunction with the Féderation Internationale Automobile (FIA) and the World Endurance Championship (FIA WEC), to postpone the 24 Hours of Le Mans originally set for 13-14 June 2020.

The postponement of the 24 Hours of Le Mans will affect the FIA WEC calendars; the revised dates will be communicated shortly. The European Le Mans Series, Michelin Le Mans Cup and Ligier European Series Calendars will also be updated. All this information will be released in due course as will the exact schedule for the 2020 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Automobile Club de l’Ouest takes this opportunity to express its support and recognition of the hard work accomplished by healthcare workers during these trying times.

Pierre Fillon, President of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest: “Postponing the 24 Hours of Le Mans from the original dates in June is now the most appropriate way forward in the current exceptional circumstances.

“First and foremost, I urge everyone to avoid putting themselves, their loved ones and others at risk. The most important thing today is to curtail the spread of this virus. Our thoughts go out to medical staff working relentlessly for the sake of us all.

“The postponement of the 24 Hours of Le Mans means making changes to the WEC and ELMS calendars and we shall announce the new dates shortly. The safety and quality of our events will not be compromised.

“Competitors, sponsors, fans, media, medical services and organisers – it is time to pull together, more than ever before”

Gérard Neveu, CEO of FIA WEC and ELMS: “It is the right decision to delay in light of the current situation.  We are now working on revising our WEC and ELMS calendars for the remainder of this season, and for the WEC’s Season 9 which was due to start in September 2020.  We will come back to you in the coming days with more news for both the FIA World Endurance Championship and the European Le Mans Series.”

April 9 in Motorsports History: Al Unser Jr. gets sixth Long Beach win

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The list of winners in the Grand Prix of Long Beach is a ‘who’s who’ of open-wheel racing.

Mario Andretti won at the famed street course four times. His son Michael won there twice.

Paul Tracy is also a four-time winner at the beach. Alex Zanardi, Juan Pablo Montoya, Sebastien Bourdais, and Alexander Rossi also have won at the famed course multiple times.

But there is only one “King of the Beach”: Al Unser Jr.

The winningest driver in the race’s history, Unser won at Long Beach four consecutive times from 1988-91. He won again in 1994 and entered the 1995 edition as the race’s defending champion and the defending CART champion as well.

Starting fourth, Unser made slight contact with Gil de Ferran when he passed the Brazilian on Lap 3. He then continued to move up to the front, taking the race lead from Teo Fabi on Lap 30.

Once he had the lead, Unser ran away from the field, winning by more than 23 seconds over Scott Pruett.

Unser’s victory was such a familiar scene that after the race, CART news manager John Procida began the winner’s news conference with the following statement: “Well, we have a very familiar face on the top rung of the podium. As we listed on the prerace press release, this seems to be the Al Unser Invitational.”

Indeed it was. Unser’s victory was his sixth at Long Beach, and the 28th of his career. overall. While it would be his last win there, Unser continued to race at Long Beach through 1998 before missing 1999 with a broken leg and moving to the Indy Racing Leauge in 2000.

In 2009, Unser was inducted into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame, which honors significant contributors to the race and California motorsports community.

“It truly is just an honor to be mentioned with the names and the legends that have already been put into the sidewalk,” Unser said during the induction ceremony. “To have Brian (Redman, the inaugural winner of the race) and Parnelli (Jones) is really an honor and just to be in their company is very, very special.”

Also on this date:

1971: Jacques Villeneuve was born in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Canada. The second-generation driver was one of the best in open-wheel racing during the 1990s, winning the Indianapolis 500 and CART championship in ’95 and becoming a Formula One champion two years later.

1989: Rick Mears dominated CART’s Checker Autoworks 200 at Phoenix International Raceway, leading every lap from the pole and lapping the field.

2011: Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas won the Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park, their sixth consecutive victory in Grand Am competition. Their lengthy win streak, which started on Aug. 7, 2010 at Watkins Glen, prompted Grand Am to offer a $25,000 bounty for any Daytona Prototype team that could beat the dominant duo. The Action Express trio of Joao Barbosa, J.C. France, and Terry Borcheller finally unseated Pruett and Rojas in the series’ next round at Virginia International Raceway.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994