The 104th edition of the Indianapolis 500 was postponed from May 24 to August 23 due to the health emergency caused by the new coronavirus.
It is the first time that the iconic 2.5-mile (4 km) oval race track has been scheduled outside of its traditional May date in more than a century of existence.
Frenchman Simon Pagenaud will now have to postpone defending his crown and Spaniard Fernando Alonso will have more time to prepare for his third attempt to win the event.
“I am disappointed that we have to reschedule the Indianapolis 500,” Roger Penske, owner of the IndyCar series and the Indianapolis track, said in a statement.
“However, the health and safety of our participants and spectators is our highest priority and we believe that postponing the event is the responsible decision in light of the conditions and restrictions we are facing,” he explained.
Like the rest of the sports in the United States, the IndyCar series has also paralyzed its activities in recent weeks so as not to contribute to the current expansion of the pandemic.
In addition to Indianapolis, IndyCar also postponed the next race on its calendar, the GMR Grand Prix, on Thursday from May 9 to July 4. The first four races of the 17 on the competition calendar had already been suspended in previous days.
In an interview with AFP on Friday, IndyCar CEO Mark Miles stressed that his “highest priority” in this emergency context was to be able to celebrate the Indianapolis 500 this year, even if its date had to be changed. initial May.
– More preparation time –
The 500 Miles were historically celebrated on Memorial Day, when the United States remembers its soldiers killed in combat.
With its new August date, “we will have a unique and powerful opportunity to honor the contributions and heroism of the doctors, nurses, first responders and members of the National Guard who serve on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19,” Miles said in Thursday’s statement.
As part of the new schedule, practice sessions in Indianapolis will take place August 12-14 and qualifications will take place August 15-16, with a final practice on August 21.
The organizers indicated that the circuit will have reinforced security measures against the new coronavirus, with more points for hand disinfection and more regular cleaning of the facilities.
“We will continue to focus on ways to improve the customer experience in the coming months and I am confident that as we celebrate the world’s biggest race, we will welcome fans with a transformed facility and a global spectacle,” Penske said Thursday. .
Simon Pagenaud (Acura Team Penske), 35, prevailed in the previous edition of the race, in which Alonso did not achieve a place on the grid in qualifying tests.
The 38-year-old Alonso planned to race in April at the Alabama Barber Circuit to prepare for Indianapolis.
The two-time Formula 1 champion is aiming for this prestigious title to complete the so-called ‘triple crown’: the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500. AFP