LE MANS, France (Reuters) – The 24 Hours of Le Mans began behind closed doorways on Saturday, a tragic first for a race approaching its centenary however with organisers grateful no less than to have some motion.
Final 12 months noticed 250,000 spectators, lots of them British motor racing followers, flock to the Sarthe circuit in north-west France however the COVID-19 pandemic has meant the 88th version is crowd-free.
“My feeling at present is that it’s successful and I’m very pleased for all of the groups and all of the people who find themselves working to organise this race,” Vehicle Membership de l’Ouest (ACO) president Pierre Fillon informed reporters in a Zoom information convention.
“After all, we have been very afraid not to have the ability to have the race.
“It was no query to cancel the race as a result of with the financial mannequin for the opponents it could be so troublesome for them. So at present I’m very proud that we achieved the race.”
Le Mans is the world’s oldest sportscar race, and the jewel within the crown of the World Endurance Championship (WEC), having been first held in 1923.
Reigning champions Toyota, chasing a hat-trick of victories, have been one-two after the primary 4 hours and buying and selling the lead.
New Zealander Brendon Hartley was main on the wheel of the quantity seven automobile whereas Japan’s Kamui Kobayashi, who began on pole place, was driving the quantity eight automobile some 16 seconds behind.
Toyota are the one main producer within the high LMP1 class, with the primary problem supplied by Swiss-based Rebel Racing.
Their primary automobile pushed by American Gustavo Menezes was in third place however a lap down.
This 12 months’s race is the final for the Toyota TS050 hybrid, with the World Endurance Championship (WEC) beginning a brand new Hypercar period in 2021.
The race was formally began by Peugeot boss Carlos Tavares, with the French model — winners at Le Mans in 1992, 1993 and 2008 — set to return in 2022 as challengers for outright victory.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, enhancing by Ian Chadband