LE MANS, France (AFP) — Fernando Alonso and 250,000 diehard fans haven’t made it to this weekend’s Le Mans 24 Hour race which Toyota are hot favorites to win for a third consecutive year.
The 2020 edition of the motorsport classic will be played out in the shadow of COVID-19, with the famous La Sarthe circuit’s cavernous grandstands eerily empty.
Organizers ACO had initially hoped to allow in a portion of the quarter of a million petrol heads making the annual sleep-deprived pilgrimage.
But maintaining social distancing protocol around the entire 13-kilometer track was proving too problematic, resulting in the total crowd ban for the event uprooted by the pandemic from its usual June slot for the first time since 1968.
Two-time Formula One world champion Alonso helped Toyota win in 2018 and 2019, but he forgoes a chance to land the treble to focus instead on his F1 return next year with Renault, competing as Alpine in 2021.
Alonso’s seat in the team comprising Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima has been taken by Brendon Hartley.
The New Zealander won the 2017 Le Mans for Porsche.
Sharing the wheel of Toyota’s second car are Michael Conway, Kamui Koyabashi and Jose Maria Lopez.