Whether you’re a car racing enthusiast or not – the 24 Heures du Mans is something worth experiencing at least once in your life. Along the same lines of pretty much every event that takes place in Europe, The Le Mans 24 Hour car race is one intense week of camping, partying, and drinking, with a little bit of car racing thrown in for good measure.
Although the race only runs for 24 hours (not that that’s any mean feat), festivities run for the entire week leading up to the actual race, with the citizens of Le Mans being good sports and putting up with the hundreds of thousands of people from all around the world crashing in their backyard.
Le Mans is a two hour train ride south of Paris, and until 1923 was pretty much unknown outside of France – but that all changed when a race was proposed around the public roads of the city. Now Le Mans is probably the most famous car racing city in the world – well at least if you live outside of the US and don’t just follow racing where all the corners turn in the same direction ; )
I was lucky enough to pay this race a visit, and when I say lucky I really mean it. A friend from many years back just happens to run a Porsche racing team, Flying Lizard Motorsports, and invited me to join the team for the week at Le Mans – what an epic week it turned out to be.
After taking the Eurostar from London to Paris, I then had to navigate my way across the city (I speak no French) to catch another train to Le Mans – my suggestion to anyone arriving in Europe, ensue that you have Euro’s on you….especially if you’re in any type of rush.
Arriving at the race track was an experience in itself, it took two hours to drive about a mile as crowds were stopping every car and getting them to do a burn out, while we tried valiantly our van was just not up to the task. Being with the team definitely had it’s benefits, we actual had rooms at a makeshift hotel (95% of people camp) and we also had access to a 24hr a day private food pavilion. So that meant that I could focus on being useful to the team and enjoying the all the events of the week.
I spent the week rolling tires and taking care of family and friends of the team: driving around Le Mans with a van full of Americans was definitely an experience, I think I clipped at least 10 people while trying to navigate the crowds. The track was pretty amazing as well – 13km or 8 miles – and cars can get around the track in under 4 mins, and with people camping on every available inch of ground around the entire course you can just imagine how crazy everything gets.
The actual race day was a blur….lots of excitement, tension in the pits, people falling asleep where they stood, and the enormous sound of engines tearing about. I managed to stay awake for most of the race and I think I managed to be more of a help than a hindrance to the team. But now that I have experienced the race from an insiders view point, I need to go back and do it with the masses – tent, sleeping bag and change of underwear.
Top 5 things to do at Le Mans:
1) Drivers Parade – Usually held on the Friday, the parade offers a great way to get a closer look at your favorite drivers.
2) Race Start – Probably the only time that you will see the entire field of cars all together.
3) Ferris Wheel – Located just before the home straight it gives an amazing view of the event.
4) Corners Not To Miss – Dunlop Chicane, Forest Esses, Karting Esses, Mulsanne Corner, Arnage Corner, & Tertre Rouge Corner.
5) Pit Lane – A behind the scenes look at what it takes to get a car on the track. If you’re not able to get a ticket into pit lane, sneak in.
Thanks to whole team from Flying Lizard Motorsports for putting up with me for the week – it’s an adventure that I will never forget.