When is 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2020? New date & start time for the rescheduled endurance race

Mid-June is here, but for the first time in 52 years, the 24 Hours of Le Mans is not. The world’s most prestigious endurance sports car race has been postponed to a new date due to the coronavirus pandemic that halted live sports globally a few months ago.

The delay of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2020, now scheduled to begin Saturday, Sept. 19 at 8:30 a.m. ET and end at 8:30 a.m. ET Sunday, Sept. 20 at the Circuit de la Sarthe in Le Mans, France, meant the FIA World Endurance Championship had to revise its Season 8 schedule. The traditional prelude to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the TOTAL 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, remains on the schedule, but Le mans is no longer the season finale. WEC Season 9, which would have started in early September, will not start before 2021.

This is not the first time the 24 Hours of Le Mans has been postponed from its traditional dates in June, as the race was pushed back to September in 1968 due to civil conflict in France.

The entry list for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2020 was released in February. It included a record low of six LMP1 cars, and with Ford and BMW dropping out of WEC racing, the GTE Pro class is down to just 11 cars. The No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid team, last year’s Le Mans winner, is back in 2020 to defend its title.

Below is all you need to know about the rescheduled 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2020.

When is the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2020?

The new date for this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans was announced back in March as the impact of COVID-19 hit the sports and entertainment industries. Race organizer Automobile Club de l’Ouest announced the 24 Hours of Le Mans, originally scheduled for June 13-14, would instead run Sept. 19-20. 

A couple weeks later, the WEC announced a new start time for the 24 Hours of Le Mans on its new date. Rather than its traditional start time of 9 a.m. ET (3 p.m. local time in France), the race will start at 8:30 a.m. ET. The change was made in concert with the Automobile Club de l’Ouest’s TV partners.

Due to the postponement of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, it is no longer the WEC’s season finale. That’s now the 8 Hours of Bahrain, scheduled for Nov. 21.

“In the context of what we are all going through now, the reprogramming of the WEC’s Season 8 calendar required certain adjustments in concert with our different partners, competitors and host circuits, said ACO president Pierre Fillon. “However, to ensure the quality and fairness of this championship, this year it is necessary to depart from the 24 Hours of Le Mans, scheduled for 19/20th September, being the Super Finale of the 2019-2020 FIA World Endurance Championship. This modification to the current FIA WEC has been established with full transparency and with the understanding of all concerned.”

Below is the new schedule for all 24 Hours of Le Mans sessions, including the race itself on Sept. 19-20.

(Local France times)

Why was the 24 Hours of Le Mans postponed?

Amid the global outbreak of COVID-19, and given the coronavirus-related restrictions in France and other countries around the world, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest and the FIA WEC had little choice but to postpone its most prestigious race. At least the 24 Hours of Le Mans was not canceled like so many other sporting events in 2020.

“Postponing the 24 Hours of Le Mans from the original dates in June is now the most appropriate way forward in the current exceptional circumstances,” Fillon said when the announcement was made.

Added Gérard Neveu, the CEO of FIA WEC: “It is the right decision to delay in light of the current situation.”

When its new 2020 schedule was released in early April, the WEC noted that its calendar is “subject to further change according to the evolution of the current health crisis.”

How to watch virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans

Technically there will be a 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2020 during the traditional mid-June slot — the first ever virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Yes, a 50-car field will race online for 24 hours starting at 9 a.m. ET on Saturday, June 13 as a replacement for what would have been the actual race. It’s not unlike the iRacing series NASCAR implemented during its coronavirus-prompted hiatus in April.

The race will feature driver changes, transitions from day to night to day, multi-class racing and everything else that makes the actual 24 Hours of Le Mans so special. The event at the virtual Circuit de la Sarthe will run on the rFactor 2 platform.

A comprehensive explainer on the virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans, courtesy of the actual race’s site, can be found here.

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