Spa 24 Hours will go ahead with or without spectators
The rescheduled Spa 24 Hours blue riband round of the GT World Challenge Europe in October will go ahead with or without spectators, series boss Stephane Ratel has vowed.
Ratel made the claim after confirming that the two Italian rounds due to kick off the revised GTWCE (formerly Blancpain GT Series) schedule announced last week will take place behind closed doors as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We have a responsibility to our competitors for Spa to take place, even though it would be a disaster if there is no public," he told Motorsport.com. "It would be a disaster financially to have no spectators and it is not the point of the event.
"Spa is a festival and a well attended event; we have done very well in growing the number of public since the days when Proximus [the former event sponsor] gave out free tickets.
"No fans at Spa will be terrible, but I am not considering that the 24 Hours won't happen."
The ban on mass gatherings in Belgium is scheduled to end on August 31, well before the October 24/25 date to which the classic enduro was moved late last month.
Ratel said that if lockdown requirements are extended in Belgium he is hopeful that "limited public" would be allowed to attend the Spa event, which is also a round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge.
"There might be an intermediate situation with a limited amount of people allowed: 5,000 people would not be good, but at least there would be some fans," he explained.
"It would allow teams and sponsors to bring guests; the whole ecosystem of our series relies on that. Spa is a big venue, so social distancing would be possible."
Ratel clarified that the Imola GTWCE enduro set for July 19 and the Sprint Cup round at Misano on August 8/9 are "certain" to go ahead without spectators.
The twin legs of the GTWCE will continue with a six-hour race at the Nurburgring on September 6 and then a sprint event at Magny-Cours on September 12/13.
Ratel remains optimistic that these races will be open to the public because the ban on mass gatherings in Germany and France is also due to end on August 31.
"We hope to open it up as soon as possible, but we will have to wait for the exact guidelines from the government and the sporting federation in each country," he said.
Suzuka 10h decision imminent
The future of next scheduled round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge at Suzuka set for August should become clear this week.
Ratel said he is expecting an answer from the circuit imminently on whether the 10-hour due to take place on August 23 can go ahead as planned.
"We want to wait until the last possible moment because the situation is changing all the time, but we should know on Friday," he said.
The state of emergency in Japan remains applicable in only five prefectures, including Tokyo and Hokkaido but not including Mie where Suzuka is located.
Professional sport in the country could resume in June, with SUPER GT currently aiming for a July start to its 2020 season. However, arrivals from 100 countries - including most of Europe - are currently barred from entering Japan except under exceptional circumstances.
Ratel also revealed he is confident that the Indianapolis 8 Hours, which will now share the bill with the new Harvest Grand Prix IndyCar round, will go ahead on October 4 as planned, along with the Kyalami 9 Hours season finale due to take place on November 22.
Next year's IGTC-opening Bathurst 12 Hours on February 7 will share the bill with the new final round of the 2020 Australia Supercars Championship.
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