Three months later than is traditional, the 2020 24 Hours of Le Mans is finally set to take place this weekend at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
As with many sporting events this year, the race will be held behind closed doors, meaning the usual crowd of a quarter of a million fans will have to watch on from home rather than making their way to north-west France.
There will still be plenty of reasons to follow along with the action, however. Here are the five things you can
Toyota to disappear into the distance
While there are a lot of fun battles and categories to keep an eye on at Le Mans this year, LMP1 will likely not be one of them.
The thinnest category of the four with just five cars entered after Team LNT's late withdrawal from the race, Toyota is the quickest team by an absolute country mile.
The Japanese works team lapped the partial street track more than four and a half seconds faster than the lead Rebellion Racing car in qualifying, but hopes of a fight were revived in hyperpole when Gustavo Menezes was able to split the Toyotas to score a front row starting position.
Still, it will likely take a pair of mechanical failures or a race-ending accidents for Toyota to be prevented from taking a third consecutive Le Mans victory.
The jam-packed LMP2 field
Not only are there 24 entries in the LMP2 category, the slower of the two prototype classes, but 19 of the 24 cars are running identical chassis.
This is because from the five chassis eligible for use the Oreca is widely regarded to be the best.
Chassis from Alpine and Aurus are both rebadged Oreca packages while Ligier and Dallara both have limited representation on the grid.
With near identical machinery, the focus will shift largely onto the drivers, and the all-Dutch Racing Team Nederland with drivers including reigning Formula 2 champion Nyck de Vries and former F1 driver Giedo van der Garde already catching the eye.
The seven full-season WEC participants, including Jackie Chan Racing and JOTA Sport, will have high expectations for the 24 hours, and the likes of Alex Brundle, son of former F1 driver and Le Mans winner Martin Brundle, as well as Jean-Eric Vergne and Paul di Resta should be at the top-end as well.
The fact Juan Pablo Montoya is only a midfield contestant in his Dragonspeed really enough about how competitive the field really is this year!
Battle of the GTE factory teams
With Corvette pulling out of the race due to the coronavirus pandemic, Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin are the only factory teams remaining in the GTE categories.
While it is a small grid, GTE Pro will be a closely fought battle between the Astons, Porsches and Ferraris and the factory teams should be nose to tail for much of the race, leaving no margin for error.
At 22 entries, GTE Am should also be a close battle. All three factory teams have hopes on winning the category and are so determined to win that they have given each car a factory driver to increase their chances.
In the 'Am' category, each car must feature a 'gentleman driver' or an FIA 'bronze' ranked driver. These are drivers for whom racing is not their main profession and so are usually considerably slower than their team-mates.
As a result of their slower pace, it is usually the ability of the gentleman drivers that dictates the result of the category.
A way longer night shift than usual!
The biggest consequence of holding the endurance race three months later than normal is the loss of sunlight.
Traditionally held on the second weekend of June, very close to the summer solstice, drivers would only drive through the dark between 21:00 and 05:00 - about eight hours.
With the delay to the 2020 event, drivers can expect an extra three-and-a-half hours of darkness, with sunset around 20:00 and sunrise not until 07:30. This means there will almost be as much running in the dark as in daylight!
The race being later in the year also means lower track temperatures, with the Circuit de la Sarthe usually getting north of 40 degrees under normal circumstances in June, meaning keeping tyres warm and grip levels high will be a far greater challenge than ever before.
Potential thunderstorms to mix it up
Looking at the weather forecast, temperatures will be unusually high at Le Mans at this time of year at around 28 degrees Celsius at its peak on Saturday.
However, scattered thunderstorms are expected to loom over the track in north west France, and this should make for a much more interesting race.
Rain and fatigue has historically been a dangerous cocktail at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but it can also mean the field will be much more bunched up than normal.
While we very much hope all drivers stay safe, we are also very excited at the prospect of seeing the very close LMP2 and GTE classes battle it out under wet conditions. All in all, it should be a thrilling endurance race this weekend!
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