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F1: Belgian GP approved by local officials to run Aug. 30 without fans

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BRUSSELS — The Belgian Grand Prix can go ahead at its original August date, but with no fans, local authorities in the Walloon region said Friday.

After Belgium last month banned all mass events in the country until Aug. 31 because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Formula One race scheduled for Aug. 30 at the Spa-Francorchamps track was under threat, and organizers suspended ticket sales.

“The Grand-Prix de Belgique can be held behind closed doors, as well as all training sessions,” Elio Di Rupo, the president of the French-speaking region, said on Friday.

The announcement came two days after the Belgian government allowed outdoor training at sporting facilities to resume under a coach’s supervision from next week. Di Rupo said the track will reopen for professional practice on May 18.

“However, both authorizations are only valid on the condition that social distancing, hygiene and sanitary measures are strictly observed,” he said.

Spa organizers now need to finalize a deal with Formula One Group owner Liberty Media for the race to actually take place.

“We are delighted with this decision, it was the only possible option at that time,” Spa GP director general Vanessa Maes told Belgian media RTBF. “But Spa Grand Prix’ priority remains health and safety. We will be particularly attentive to the respect of the health instructions issued by the national safety council.”

Meanwhile, Formula One officials and British Grand Prix organizers have agreed in principle for two races to be staged at Silverstone this summer.

Track managing director Stuart Pringle told the BBC that a deal subject to British government approval has been reached for the races to be held immediately after the season begins in Austria.

Formula One is planning to finally start its 2020 season with a doubleheader over two weekends in the naturally isolated environment around the venue for the Austrian Grand Prix. Despite the first 10 races having been canceled or postponed because of the coronavirus crisis, the targeted start date is July 5 in Austria. F1 still envisions holding 15 to 18 of the 22 scheduled races.

Attention NASCAR teams: IMSA drivers available for Daytona!

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NASCAR will be making its debut on the Daytona International Speedway road course next month, and there’s a big fan who’d like to join the historic weekend.

This fan actually has impressive credentials, too — a few thousand laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile layout that annually plays host to the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

In 2014, the winning GTLM team in the sports car endurance classic included IMSA Porsche driver Nick Tandy, who rabidly has followed NASCAR for more than 30 years since growing up in England.

So why not try racing NASCAR? Especially because Tandy has the weekend of Aug. 14-16 free.

He’s not picky, either — offering up his services on Twitter (as well as those of Porsche teammate Earl Bamber) for an ARCA, Xfinity, trucks or Cup ride.

Tandy’s affinity for American stock-car racing runs deep.

His first trip to the World Center of Racing was as a fan attending the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2008. During Rolex testing in January, Tandy, 35, said he hadn’t missed a Cup race on TV in 15 years.

Among his favorite NASCAR drivers: the Earnhardts, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. When IMSA ran the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014, Tandy stayed a few extra days at the Brickyard and bought Kyle Busch gear for himself and his children.

He briefly took the stage during a NASCAR weekend last October. After IMSA’s season finale at Road Atlanta, Tandy made a few demonstration laps and a burnout in his No. 911 Porsche before the Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He also has some experience in stock cars, having raced Modified-type grass-roots series on England’s quarter-mile short tracks.

Couple that with a Daytona road course record that includes two consecutive podium class finishes (including last Saturday) and a sports car resume with 13 IMSA victories and an overall win in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans … and maybe a NASCAR team should take a look.

And Tandy isn’t the only IMSA driver who likely would be available.

Corvette driver Jordan Taylor, who won the 2017 Rolex 24 overall title with Jeff Gordon as a teammate (and the inspiration for his Rodney Sandstrom persona), also tweeted his availability for the weekend on the high banks.

Sports car veteran Andy Lally, a GTD driver with multiple class wins in the Rolex 24 as well as 38 Cup starts (he was the 2011 rookie of the season in NASCAR’s premier series), also hung out his shingle.

There also is AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth (who just won at Daytona last Saturday), the Englishman who teamed with Kyle Busch at the Rolex 24 in January and made an Xfinity start at Mid-Ohio last year with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Many sports car drivers (such as Taylor) already live in Florida, and many are hunkering down in the Sunshine State with IMSA returning to action at Daytona last week and Sebring International Raceway next week. Because of COVID-19-related travel concerns and restrictions, several IMSA stars who live outside the country are riding out the pandemic within a few hours of Daytona with nothing to do.

Why not a weekend at the World Center of Racing?

Over the years, scads of “road-course ringers” (including some Formula One veterans) have tried their hands in stock cars at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International.

How about considering the many sports car drivers who already have reached victory lane at Daytona by making a few right-hand turns, too?