There are prettier race courses in the world. There are even more famous race tracks around the world. Courses with more curves and faster straights and scenic settings like Monaco are hard to beat.
But there is only one Le Mans. The most prestigious automobile race on the planet will take place this year on June 15-16 in Northern France at the legendary ‘Circuit de la Sarthe’ located outside Le Mans.
There is literally nothing else like it. Le Mans is the ultimate test of man and machine in what has become known as an ‘automobile endurance event’. For this race runs for an entire 24 hours, and endurance is the keyword. How many of us could go out to the garage, jump into our car and expect it to run flat out for 24 hours?
The 87th running of this world famous race will begin on June 15 at 3 pm local time and run all day, and all night, until those cars and drivers who remain in competition finally cross the finish line at 3pm on June 16, after going flat out for a full 24 hours, exhausted and exhilarated in the moment.
Each team will have 3 professional drivers, a lightning fast, superbly trained pit crew and be backed up by some of the best and the brightest minds in the automotive racing industry. Most teams will have some sort of factory backing although some of the entries will come from smaller outfits and be built with passion specifically for the annual Le Mans event.
Festivities get underway on May 30 when a process known as ‘scrutineering’ begins, for which they will need ‘scrutineers’. Yes, those are actually real words in the British Isles, according to Dictonary.com! They mean simply to scrutinize or inspect closely the vehicles to be entered in the race down to the most minute measurements so that all cars will be qualified under the current rules specifications.
On Friday May 31st, It’s ‘PitWalk’ day, when spectators are allowed to move about the pit areas to watch the mechanics at work and try to get ‘selfies’ with one of the world famous race drivers in attendance. The drivers must then submit to all the administrative, aka paperwork, qualifications required to actually drive in the Le Mans race. They don’t let just anyone out on the track.
Once everyone has been fully qualified, the competitors can finally take to the track for 10 days of practice beginning on June 2. Ticket holders to the actual race are allowed to view the practice sessions as well. With an eye on safety for both drivers and spectators, drivers who have not previously driven in the 24 hour race are required to complete at least 10 laps on test day as well as undergo simulator training prior to the race.
Throughout the practice sessions a large fun fair is set up outside the track and the best overall view of the Le Mans track can be had from the top of the big Ferris wheel. Actual qualifying will take place on June 12-14 and the big race will finally get underway at 3 pm local when all the drivers will line up on one side of the track with their respective cars on the other side.
In what has come to be known as a ‘Le Mans Start’, when the green flag drops, all drivers will sprint across the track, start their engines and thunder off on what is one of motorsports’ greatest annual spectacles, for the next exciting 24 long hours.