Le Mans

Much more than just a race, Le Mans was incredible

Road to Le Mans
Dunlop Sort Maxx

As far as bucket list ticks go, Le Mans could not have been more mind blowing extreme than the past weekend’s centenary 24 Hour. Even the numbers lined up perfectly. Ferrari winning its tenth Le Mans on its return to the 100th birthday race fifty years on. Scripted, right? No, not quite, Far from it, in fact. There is just no way you can guess all of what would happen. The scale of the race, its magnitude and significance are on another level. Altogether.

Starting with the race itself. Ferrari versus Toyota was such a treat. All day, all night. Both those cars are also on another level, so professional in every aspect. On track, the Ferraris and Toyotas just exude such huge energy. But the Cadillacs and most of all, the NASCAR Camaro stole the show. The Camaro was just the business. For pure entertainment, you could not beat it. Made everyone grin every time it clattered on b. The monstrous beast chasing down its carrion.

Le Mans

So, What Stole the Show?

Ha! The Caddys! Those Cadillacs also sound and look incredible. Spectacular to see, spectacular to hear, spectacular to experience. One hundred percent drama all the way from that V8 roar to its explosive downshifts. Somehow Cadillac got it righter than the rest. A lot more right! Their LMDh 1-2 just reward for a spectacular, well run and splendidly spectacular effort.

The Glickenhaus, and the Vanwall, are basically just grown up LMP2s. But thrilling in their David status. Even if they lack that supreme Ferrari and Toyota, or visceral Cadillac excitement and thrill. Glickenhaus has to be so proud of bringing both its cars home ahead of the Peugeots and Porsche’s army in the end. Even if the Glicks crashed their way through the race. Must have used Cameron’s golf cart nose cone on one car and the tyre trolley as a wing on the other to finish!

Le Mans

NASCAR Camaro Humbled Le Mans GTs

Poor Peugeot. The wingless wonders defied our pre-race disappointment in them to grab hold of the race and lead the way into the dark. To the great pride of such a partisan crowd. Was special while that lasted. But they crashed it away through the night. Left the Cadillacs vainly chasing Ferrari and Porsche. Talking of Porsche. What a shame. Ninth was all its supermarket chassis and ten year old engine cars could muster. The privateer car sneaked ahead at a stage. But the brand with the most cars entered came worst of the Hypercars. A miserable Le Mans for its winningest maker.

As meaningless as they have become, the LMP2 ORECAs are cool in a bunch. And we will hear that sweet Gibson engine and its gearchange pop in our minds for days to come. They’re on their way out, anyway. Only Am now, the Le Mans GTEs were humbled by the mad NASCAR Camaro. Yes, a new GT3 era looms, but they’re mute compared to the NASCAR and the show they stole so for all those years. Is there a lesson in that for the ACO and WEC? Make the GTs louder, faster, and more exciting before the change comes next year. That said the lone Corvette delivered the drive of the race to come from two laps adrift to win.

Le Mans

Le Mans was Dramatic to the Extreme

It is difficult to portray exactly how dramatic this race was. The ebb and flow, sporadic rainfall and spectacular accidents made it an emotional rollercoaster to watch, let alone race. Perhaps not the most serious, but the most significant of many crashes was however caused by a safety slow zone gone wrong to eliminate the race leading Toyota.

The Toyota went out just minutes after a Ferrari went off, but quickly bounced back. Only to be delayed in the box for a long spell around midnight. That left one of each, in an epic race up front. Rarely were the leading Ferrari and Toyota out of each other’s sight. Mostly all over each other. As the rain came and went, through slow zones, safety cars and general bedlam. Once the rain cleared however, the safety car mostly stayed in to let them race.

24 Hour

Toyota Versus Ferrari

It came down to poor Hirakawa slipping up on that final hour out lap, to leave the Ferrari to romp off to win. But wait! That wasn’t before a late scare, when the race leader refused to fire up at its final stop. But they got it going. And the rest, is very much history! Toyota was gracious in defeat, Cadillac a most deserved LMDh 1-2 ahead of the other Ferrari and the Fantastic Glickenhaus duo. The first Peugeot was next. Then Porsche’s finest. The Camaro finished and the lone Corvette came from behind to beat Europe’s ‘finest’ on its swansong.

Some may have a point that Le Mans could have done with a bit less time behind the safety car. Especially since the first one stole most of the first hour. Others will argue whether they got the Balance of Performance right. They did. That start on a half-dry half-wet track certainly created quite a few moments. Yes, there were a few dilly racing aspects. While it was running however, it was quite mesmerising. But hey, this is Le Mans!

24 Hour

There is Much, Much More to Le Mans!

There is however so much more to the Le Mans 24 Hour than just racing round the clock. It’s an absolutely astounding experience at every plausible level. The crowd is incredible. It was so already on Thursday afternoon for Hyperpole. Unbelievable to have that many people in a little enclave 2 hours away from anywhere.

The carnival atmosphere is intense. The noise unwavering. And you get close enough to it to get your ears to sing again. Like it did in the days that Ferrari was racing Matra. The crowd also takes one back to those halcyon endurance races of yore. Quite literally, hundreds of thousands (make that 350,000!) happy, informed, and entertained people, all enjoying themselves makes for an incredible vibe.

24 Hour

Join the Crowd Incredible

Happy to queue, crowd together to just get a glimpse the start, and just keep on and on throughout the night, rain, or shine. They camp everywhere, follow the race and groan and cheer in tides of ecstasy and agony. The show just does not stop. Expos, displays, rock concerts. You think it, it was at Le Mans. Despite all that, getting in, generally finding your way around, catering, entertainment and attractions, and getting out of the track after, was all so effective, easy and simple. Sure, you may queue, but the organization of this mammoth, biblical event in general, is quite astounding!

Le Mans will leave an indelible mark on any petrol head who ever visits the 24 Hour.And it’s likely to just keep getting better, with Alpine, BMW, Lamborghini and others heading for La Sarthe next year too. From the furious and astonishing affair that is the race, to the beautiful ear piercing noise, the atmosphere and the throng of people throughout. It is beyond a bucket list tick. The Le Mans 24 Hour is a must do for any true race fan. Watch this space on how to. It’s far more accessible than you’d ever believe. Forza Le Mans. Forza Ferrari!

Images: Giordano & Michele Lupini

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