The 24 hours of Le Mans, a race that definitely needs no introduction, an action packed week of Motorsport heaven, full of GT cars and prototypes. It is a must to visit such an event at least once in your lifetime if you are a petrolhead. Here is our experience at last year’s 24 hours of Le Mans.
It all starts from a week before the race, with scrutineering , unfortunately, I was not able to be there so early on. My journey started on Wednesday, when the actual track action starts with the first Practice and Qualifying sessions. When I arrived it was already dark, and the first practice session was already running, but still, starting to hear those engines roar from the moment I stepped out of the rental car, the hair on my neck was already standing on end. As soon as I reached the track, adrenaline started to pump through my body, seeing and hearing those prototype LMP cars and the GT Cars whizzing past.
I will never forget the shattering noise of the Chevrolet Corvette C7.R’s V8, it was one of the loudest cars in the field which immediately left an impression, followed by the new Ford GT and Aston Martin V8 Vantage. The prototype LMP cars also made great noise, but since they have energy recovery systems in place, engine noise is reduced, although this does give them some other peculiar and interesting noises.
It was now eight o’clock in the evening, which meant the first practice session has come to an end, and with 30 minutes till the next practice session, we had a little bit of time to explore the track, which is much easier said than done, but we managed to view some of the booths and find our grandstand. The practice and qualifying sessions went on as planned till midnight, which signaled the end of the track action for Wednesday, with one of the Porsche 919’s Hybrid taking provisional pole position.
The second day of track action was with us, with another four hours of practice and qualifying planned for the day. Unfortunately, rain hit the track, and while the cars were still going round the track, no one was able to improve on the times set on Wednesday.
After a bit more time, rain now started to pour down and after a while cars started to aquaplane off the track. The track was soon red flagged as it was deemed unsafe to continue. Conditions were so bad at some points, that even the safety car had trouble going around, and had quite an interesting track moments when it spun round and some amazing car control with big powerslides due to the lack of grip.
With less than an hour left, the qualifying session continued, the track was still wet which made things interesting. Soon though the session was over, due to the conditions the Porsche was able to keep pole position with the time it had set on Wednesday.
It’s now Friday, and while on Friday there is no track action, its still full of Le Mans goodness. There is the pitlane and track discovery open to ticket holders, one gets to see the teams working on the cars up close, hear some engines fire up and see some pit stop practice runs. Also one can walk on the first part of the track up until the Dunlop chicane.
In the afternoon, the driver’s parade is held in the city center, one gets to see all the drivers passing by, usually in some nice classic cars, and also retrieve goodies that drivers decide to throw at the public, from porsche themed sweets to team caps and t-shirts.
Saturday, Race day, tension starts building as there is a huge traffic jam to get to the parking area and the clock is ticking. As soon as we park, the rain starts to fall and we make a run for it to get to the track. Fortunately we managed to make it in time for the start.
Unfortunately, due to the rainfall the race started behind the safety car, which persisted for quite some time. But then finally, the moment which everyone was eagerly waiting for, the safety car came into the pits and the actual racing started. Watching and hearing 60 race cars going past at full throttle, everyone fighting for the lead of their class, at one of the most prestigious and famous races has almost a magical feeling.
As time went past, we moved around the track watching the race from different points and corners. It is astonishing to see just how fast the LMP1 cars are able to corner at, and also seeing the speed differences both on the straights and in the corners between the prototype and GT cars.
The night was soon upon us, and we settled in to keep watching the race from our seats in the grand stand as we were starting to get tired. Definitely one tip, is to take warm clothes to spend the night, although it was mid June, the night was cold and harsh, unsupportable with just a t-shirt and shorts.
The night soon passed and racing continued till the climatic ending of the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans, a heartbreaking climax for the Toyota Team, which leading most of the race without major issues, they hit issues on the final lap of the race and what seemed was going to be the first win at Le Mans for the Toyota team, ended up being another win for Porsche!
All in all, a pretty unforgettable experience, which is quite difficult to put all into words. If you love racing, its a trip that you have to make at least once in your life. Now enjoy some photos we took at the event. Unfortunately they are not of the best quality as most are either mobile photos, or taken with a 10 year old digital camera. Enjoy!