The 2020 motor racing season will undoubtedly go down in history as the most unusual and disrupted year on record. Only twice has the Le Mans 24 Hour race been rescheduled from its traditional June slot, to a later date in September, the first being in 1968 when the race was run on 28/29 September due to ongoing unrest in Paris. The second occasion was this race just finished, this delay being due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, so it is quite significant that the race was still able to be contested at all in 2020.
Right on cue, just as was forecast, it rained overnight at Le Mans following a week of intense heat, which was so unusual for September. The first race of the day on Saturday was the Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland Round 1 at 09h15. Usually, a number of these cars are eliminated at the first turn into the Dunlop Bridge chicane as they all try to pile into the same little bit of track at the same time. It’s a classic case of trying to win the race at the first corner, but on Saturday this was not the case. It was almost as though the drivers had had a good talking to because, as the pace car came through the Ford Chicane and onto the start/finish straight to release the cars, the driver and passenger in the pace car could be seen to be waving their arms out of the window in an up-and-down fashion, motioning the group to slow down and be careful of overdoing it at the start. Against all expectations, all the cars were well behaved…for the first couple of laps anyway.
But Saturday was of course primarily about the 24-hour race comprising a field of 59 cars that took to the track for the start of the 88th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours. The start was at the slightly earlier time of 14h30, in order to accommodate that other great road race that day, the Tour de France cycling event, which also finished on Sunday afternoon. While this race did not have the buzz of any past Le Mans races due to the race taking place behind closed doors, we did at least have a race and in the years to come, we will look back at this race as perhaps unusual, but also as a rather special race.
The field was made up of a very different set of cars this year. In the LMP1 class, there were just five contenders: two Toyotas, two Rebellions and the ByKolles. After the Hyperpole, it was the #7 Toyota on pole, followed by the #1 Rebellion, #8 Toyota and #3 Rebellion. In a class of 23 LMP2 cars, it was the #22 United Autosports that was on pole. The GTE Pro class was significantly depleted this year with just three manufacturers participating: Porsche, Ferrari and Aston Martin. After the Hyperpole shoot out, it was the #91 Porsche 911 RSR of Bruni, Lietz and Makowiecki who headed the class, followed by #51 Ferrari and the #95 Aston Martin. In the GTE Am class it was the #61 Luzich Racing Ferrari followed by two Porsches, the #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing and #56 Team Project 1 cars.