Le Mans. just the mention of the name is enough to send a little shiver of excitement down the back of motorsport fans around the world. So what is it about this race that excites its legions of fans so much.
A 24 hour race is like nothing else on earth – day fades into night, forcing drivers to adapt to changing conditions. The cars have to be treated with a different form of respect just to make it around.
An LMP1 car and and F1 car are very comparable in terms of technology, but whilst an F1 is inexorably associated with it’s pilot, a front running Le Mans car has three drivers, all of whom have to work in perfect harmony to ensure the car survives a grueling test of both man and machine.
This year, the duel between Toyota and Audi resumes, on a far more equal footing than it did last year. In 2012, Toyota worked their backsides off to ensure they could get two cars to the race, only vaguely ready for the race. They performed admirably given the circumstances, bu were unable to complete the race distant – although I won’t forgive Kazuki Nakajima for punting off the unique DeltaWing while trying to pass it through the Porsche curves.
This year, Toyota’s TSO30 Hybrid is well up to speed, and ready to take on Audi’s catchily named R-18 E-tron Quattro Hybrid around the 8-mile Circuit De La Sarthe.
Whilst the LMP1 class may be two-horse-race, the LMP2 class is incredibly competitive – although the engine field isn’t! Nissan is very much the engine of choice, but the range of Chassis and drivers on display ensures a combative race in this class
Even further back, the GT cars will be fighting hard, with Aston Martin, Porsche, Ferrari and Corvette all represented. This year the acting community is also represented, with Grey’s Anatomy star Patrick Dempsey racing a Porsche 997. This isn’t just a publicity stunt though – Dempsey has come up through the ranks, and has publicly said that if he could afford it he’d stop acting and race full time. Don’t worry, Grey’s fans – he’s running his own time, so he won’t be hanging up the stethoscope any time soon.
Le Mans is one of those truly special races that you should make an effort to watch at least once – as the cars come through the Ford Chicane at night, under the bright lights of the ferris wheel opposite the main grandstand, you’ll realise just why this is unlike any other race on earth.
In the UK, the entirety of the Le Mans 24 hours is being shown on Eurosport.