LE MANS, France — The 24 Hours of Le Mans has been postponed from June to August in the hope that fans can attend by then, organizers said Thursday.
The iconic race was scheduled to take place on June 12-13 but was moved to Aug. 21-22. In a domino effect of the move, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Series will move two races, including its Motul Petit Le Mans season finale.
“Although it was a tough decision to make, it is the right one. Holding the 24 Hours of Le Mans behind closed doors for the second year running would be unthinkable,” said Pierre Fillon, the president of 24 Hours of Le Mans organizer the Automobile Club de l’Ouest. “We are working very hard to put on a safe event, with all the necessary health precautions in place.”
The race was first held in 1923, and in 2019 it drew 252,500 spectators. There were none in 2020 when the 24 Hours of Le Mans was postponed by three months because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The @24hoursoflemans postponed to 𝟮𝟭-𝟮𝟮 𝗔𝘂𝗴𝘂𝘀𝘁 𝟮𝟬𝟮𝟭.
We have made this decision because we are eager for spectators to attend the race this year and are taking all health precautions to ensure a safe event.
— 24 Hours of Le Mans (@24hoursoflemans) March 4, 2021
Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won last year to secure a third straight victory, with Swiss co-driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima also winning for a third straight year.
It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans being postponed already has had an impact on IMSA, which announced that its Michelin GT Challenge at VIRginia International Raceway and the season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta would be moved.
The new Le Mans date conflicts with the originally scheduled VIR race, which was to be shown live on NBC. Because several teams and drivers plan to compete at Le Mans, the WeatherTech Championship race now will be run on Saturday, Oct. 9, airing live on NBC as part of a new VIR event weekend Oct. 8-10.
The 24th Motul Petit Le Mans season finale that was to occur Oct. 9 will move to Saturday, Nov. 13 and also will include a live, three-hour NBC network television window.
The race will include five WeatherTech Championship classes – Daytona Prototype international (DPi), LMP2, LMP3, GTLM and GTD – and close out both the 2021 WeatherTech Championship and IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup seasons. The event weekend will run from Nov. 10-13.
“Given the momentum we are carrying in regard to television viewership, it is important for us to preserve live, NBC network windows,” IMSA president John Doonan said in a release. “Holding our season finale in November proved successful last year in Sebring, and we have every reason to believe we can be successful again this November at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. As always, we are grateful to all of our stakeholders – and particularly our promoter and television partners – for their flexibility and understanding as we maneuver through these changes.”
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship already had adjusted the date of its Detroit Grand Prix, which will be held over two weekends for the first time in order to avoid a conflict with the 24 Hours of Le Mans’ original date.
IMSA is planning to race Detroit as a standalone June 4-5 event, a week ahead of the NTT IndyCar Series races that normally are a companion event to the sports car series.