We sent our man, Tom Senior, to the 24hr Race at Le Mans to report back on what has to be one of the most famous races in the world. Here’s what he had to say…
Having never been to Le Mans I wasn’t sure what to expect. We started off boarding a ferry in Portsmouth for a three-hour journey to Cherbourg and it was clear that fellow British travelers had petrol in their veins given the wide range of cars on display. From a Morris Minor covered with Le Mans 24hr stickers on it to numerous Porsches, Aston Martins, Lamborghinis, Jaguars and other supercars in various states of stickered livery. My own transport was the very sporty supercharged Lotus belonging to my host and attracting well deserved attention.
It was a very smooth crossing to Cherbourg where we began the second leg of our journey – the three-hour drive south-east to Le Mans through beautiful countryside very reminiscent of Britain.
We arrived at our campsite at the famous Arnage Corner, thankfully it had full shower and lavatory facilities, so it wasn’t camping like my days in the cub scouts.
Practice was well underway, and I have to say, having been to a number of racing events over the years, the rumble of the V8 Aston Martins and Corvettes as well as the scream of the Porsche was intoxicating. The pops and bangs from the Le Mans Prototype (LMP) cars were also ever-present.
After a highly competitive go kart race on Friday, we travelled into Le Mans town for the annual drivers parade, where we had a very pleasant dinner right in the heart of the town square. I have to say, the local eateries had by and large been very entrepreneurial in creating Le Mans menu’s, i.e. limited choice and inflated prices, but you can’t blame the obvious supply and demand economics.
The proper racing started on Saturday and we watched the first few laps from the excellent viewing facilities at Arnage where we could see the cars coming down the end of the Mulsanne Straight before flying through the quick and slow turns at Arnage before heading off towards the Porsche Curves.
During the day we used the convenience of the shuttle buses to see other parts of the track including the main section of the Mulsanne Straight, the corner and the cascading curves of Tetra Rouge.
I will never forget the sight of my first “red rings” of Le Mans, the glowing brake discs as the LMP cars scrubbed off speed at corners by night.
Funnily enough, I was the only person to “volunteer” to get up at super early on Sunday morning to take photos for the group as the sun rose. Much to my surprise, the number of spectators also up at the crack of dawn was very impressive, although a number of them had clearly made camp on the banks in their sleeping bag for the night! I have never been so happy to have canvas over my head.
As the race ended we made our way up to the start/finish straight to have lunch and soak up the atmosphere in the grandstands. As is tradition, we then walked onto the track for the trophy presentation. Dinner in the relatively sleepy village of Arnage on Sunday evening was very pleasant and amazing value.
Sunday night was the first night of sleep that wasn’t where I wasn’t nodding off to the sound of race cars, it felt almost strange!
A quick check of my step counter indicated from Friday through to Sunday, I had walked over 25 miles. The track is after all 8 miles in length!
My very first experience to Le Mans was very enjoyable, and given the size of the track it was impossible to see everything even in the 4 days we were there. This is definitely a reason for me to return in the future. If nothing more, 2020 sees the introduction of the Hypercar class where Aston Martin have already confirmed they will be participating. If you ever get the opportunity then I definitely recommend a trip to Le Mans, one for the must do list.
With any luck I will see you there!
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