France’s third wave could be its deadliest.
When the Endurance World Championship (EWC) released its 2021 schedule, the five-race calendar seemed like a feasible feat in the face of a global pandemic. The abbreviated 2019-2020 season consisted of only four races and three canceled events, so one extra race in 2021 didn’t seem too ambitious given the circumstances. Unfortunately, race directors couldn’t foresee France’s latest wave of COVID-19 sending the country into its third lockdown on March 31, 2021.
As a result, EWC organizers canceled the Le Mans 24 Hour Motos opening round with just two weeks until the April 17-18, 2021, race dates. The cancellation comes as no surprise to the French public, however, who are under new lockdown mandates banning inside and outside gatherings and limiting citizens’ travels to a 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) radius.
"Everywhere the virus is spreading faster and faster and everywhere, hospitalizations are rising,” admitted French President Emmanuel Macron.
At the time of Macron’s announcement, France’s figures were on pace to surpass the initial deadly wave of spring 2020. Current hospitalizations already eclipsed the second wave in fall 2020 and intensive care units are packed with more than 5,000 COVID-19 patients. In response to the dire situation, race organizer Automobile Club de l’Ouest, FIM, FFM, and EWC promoter Eurosport Events agreed to cancel the Le Mans round of the 2021 race series.
“Deciding to cancel the 24 Hours Motos was extremely difficult,” said Automobile Club de L’Ouest President Pierre Fillon Unfortunately, the ongoing pandemic means we cannot uphold our usual organizational standards. My thoughts are with medical workers, who have had a very tough time over the past year or so.”
With faster-spreading coronavirus variants abound and the vaccine does in short supply, French hospitals are under considerable strain and can’t afford to help sporting events such as the EWC opening race.
“Rider safety is a non-negotiable factor and the strain on hospitals both currently and in the coming weeks rules out the holding of the 24H Motos,” noted the Head of Eurosport Events François Ribeiro. “As of today, we are working with the ACO to find a new date to ensure the organization of the FIM Endurance World Championship at Le Mans.”
If the organizers are able to reschedule the race weekend, they will announce the dates by April 12, 2021. Regardless of the result, we hope France can stave off the latest wave of COVID-19 sooner than later.