“The 24 hours of Le Mans… the most famous race in the world!”
Familiar words for visitors to what is… the most famous race in the world!
If you ever visit this race make sure to tune in to radio Le Mans and you will understand what i’m talking about! But what makes this race so famous?
That’s something I’ve been trying to figure out before I even got to the holy grail of endurance racing.
I must warn you though. If you’re looking for a full race this report might not be to your liking!
If your looking for an article written by someone who tries to find out more about the legend that is Le Mans I suggest you stick around!
Besides the race itself there’s plenty to do and see in Le Mans as well. We visited the classic car rally that is held every year a day before the race. It certainly isn’t all about classic cars as you can see from this home build Ford limousine! It’s on UK plates but that isn’t that surprising if you know that around 80000!!! Brits make the journey across the channel every year!
I must admit this was my first encounter with a real Renault 5 Turbo! And I secretly fell in love!
Before qualifying kicked of on Thursday the group C cars from yesteryear where allowed to show their tricks once more. There’s not a single modern race car that can produce such a sweet sound as these beauties!
Qualifing meant a first real view on the cars participating in the race. Seeing those famous LMP1 machines in action for the first time made me giggle like a little schoolgirl! But I must admit that the “normal” GT machines didn’t disappoint either!
One of the cars I was anxious to see in the flesh was the Deltawing! It was a crowd favorite even before the race had started! Unfortunately we all know how it ended since the footage of Satoshi Motoyama trying desperately to repair the Deltawing went viral within days after the race!
With Audi scoring the top spot in 7 out of 8 previous races it didn’t surprise me they had a huge presence in the paddock. But like all greats Audi doesn’t forget it’s history…
… and shows us the future of racing!
And they had a familiar face on display as well! This is the R8 that won the 24 hours of the Nürburgring a couple of weeks before! Speaking of the Nürburgring, I ow you an apology… I still need to finish #2 off my shenanigans at the ring! I promise you it will be online in the next few days!
On Friday we visited the traditional pit walk! Despite the bad weather fans still made their way to the pits.
And the guys from Toyota looked like they could use some cheering up by the fans. It’s not just the 24 hours of the race itself but the mechanics don’t get much sleep in the days before the race as well!
Now this is a “normal” front bumper in the LMP1/LMP2 class…
… and this is the front “bumper” of the Deltawing! Quite the difference don’t you think?
It looks a little like the face of an alien or bug!
You have probably seen the huge crash from Anthony Davidson with the #8 Toyota after contact with the AF-Corse-Waltrip Ferrari 458! Little did I know that when I took this shot this car would be responsible for the biggest crash during the 2012 race!
But that would be a few hours into the race and here the #8 is still running strong on raceday!
It’s a shame that this car didn’t get the change to show it’s full potential as it was running strong until that one cursed moment!
Another car that was running above expectation was the Deltawing! With it’s 1.6 4 cylinder turbo it was quicker than some of the LMP2 cars. But as the #8 Toyota was knocked out of the race…
… the #7 Toyota would literally knock out the Deltawing! Again a great shame because not only the Deltawing was running great, so did the #7 Toyota! If only Nakajima had shown some patience…
One of the things you start noticing when standing still in one spot for a while is that people are literally taking notes on the race! Checking lap times, who’s out, who’s lapped… you name it! This guy in particular was marking every car, every lap! #1 went past! *check*
We had a perfect view of the Dunlop corner and pit exit from our seats! After a few hours into the race we decided to get some grub and a little sleep…
… so we would be in shape for what I think is the best part of any 24 hour race: nighttime!
The party lasted trough the night with people enjoying themselves with a beer and the sweet soothing sound of roaring engines in the background!
Even at 3:00 am it the main stand on the long straight was pretty crowded…
… and we discovered that our hopes for a Japanese winner where shattered! But it was obvious Toyota had done their homework and we have high hopes that when Toyota returns next year they can finally break Audi’s supremacy!
I swear I’ve seen these guys somewhere before!
We decided to call it a night…
… to get back to catch the last bit of the race and find out that Audi is running a solid lead! So strong that they where going for an all Audi podium!
And that’s exactly what they did! Despite all the trouble, crashes, mechanical failures and so on, Audi grabbed the complete podium! It’s fair to say that the competition isn’t able to compete on the same level of the Audi’s but with Toyota showing a strong presence and Porsche returning in the LMP1 class I hope to see some more battles for the podium next year!
I hear you thinking: “Did he find what makes Le Mans so famous?” I think this last picture describes my experience perfectly! The visitors make this event! Sometimes traveling for days just to be at the race.
That and the complete atmosphere of the circuit itself makes that this race must written in capitals on your bucket list! The place oozes history and although accommodations have improved over the last few years it still reminds you of how it all started 80 years ago! It’s great to see that organization realizes that you can’t have a future if you forget your history! One can only hope that people behind the Nürburgring start realizing that as well!
I’m hooked and I’m pretty sure that you will be to if you ever pay a visit to “the most famous race in the world!”
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Words and Photo’s – Allard van Grafhorst