24H du Mans: how the mythical race reinvented itself against Covid-19
SPORT AUTO – The 2020 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which takes place Saturday and Sunday, will be held without an audience, but not without a show. Focus on what makes it unique, in this period of pandemic.
18 Sept. 14:27 – Hamza Hizzir with Maxence Gevin
Until now, only May 68 had justified that the mythical 24 Hours of Le Mans should be postponed from June to September. History will therefore remember that the second postponement was caused by a pandemic, that of Covid-19 in this case.
The main thing is elsewhere: contrary to the fears of the organizers, the teams and the very many fans that the race has had in recent months, the event has not been cancelled. But it had to be adapted to the singularity of the context.
"Creating our own atmosphere"
The main change, and it is a big one: there will not be 250,000 spectators in the stands. And if one could think that this has little influence on the pilots, anyway alone in their cockpit, one would be wrong. On the contrary, all of them claim that the shouts serve as fuel for them. Like the parades in the city center and barbecues in the campgrounds, which were the salt of the pre-race … ". "For sure, the public will miss them a lot. We're going to have to put ourselves in a positive bubble and create our own atmosphere", confides Nicolas Minassian, IDEC Sport Racing's sporting director. The briefing, which usually brings together all the drivers, now takes place, for example, via a screen, while everyone has to wear the mask and get tested.
"I think that, this year more than ever, a presence on social networks is important. Without fans, there can be no motor racing," said Paul-Loup Chatin, a driver at IDEC Sport Racing. The organizers think like him, they have created a dedicated digital platform for the occasion, called "24 Hours of Le Mans differently". The health crisis "constitutes, in certain aspects, a real opportunity", summarizes Stephane Daracq, general manager of the competition. The platform will allow everyone to follow the race from new angles, to be chosen by the Internet user himself. It will even offer a never-before-seen behind-the-scenes look at the battle. To get an idea, click here or go to the official accounts. "Internet users will discover different types of content in real time (on the track, in the paddocks, in the stables) or historical" continues Stéphane Daracq, adding that there will also be numerous interviews.
It should also be noted that, even without an audience, the race will still bring together 8,500 accredited people, with an average of forty people per team. A gauge overtaking authorized by the prefecture of Sarthe thanks to a system of "watertight bubbles" between drivers, officials or journalists, as indicated in the video above, Pierre Fillon, president of the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO), organizer of the event.
The importance of temperature
What about the race itself? Well it should favor big performances, because of its date. Indeed, if the Le Mans 24 Hours are usually held around the summer solstice (June 20), it is because it is at this period that the days are the longest. However, this Saturday, September 19, the sun will set at 8:01 pm and will rise at 7:44 am on Sunday. This means that the drivers will drive about four hours longer in the dark than usual.
A detail that is important: with a longer night, the air and track temperature will be cooler. And it's important to know that the cool air, which is more saturated with oxygen, promotes fuel combustion (for 5°C less, the engine gains 1% more power), while the tires last longer in the cooler conditions. It is therefore in this year 2020 that the record is most likely to be broken… Unless the September rain, announced by Météo France for almost the whole weekend, gets in the way.
In addition to getting closer to its public, the race is also promoting hydrogen-powered cars. "We have developed a hydrogen racing car that will be demonstrated just before the race," says Stephane Daracq, who is hoping for a change in the regulations so that cars of this type can be entered in the Le Mans 24-hour race in 2024. But then, with all these changes are we witnessing the end of a myth, that of the Le Mans 24 Hours? Quite the contrary for the organizer, according to whom "change is at the heart of the Le Mans 24 hours, as is the promotion of innovation". "The 24 hours of Le Mans are in perpetual change, the myth in perpetual construction," he adds with conviction.