2013 TrackChaser Report #47--Le Mans, France
On Sunday morning we were up early and headed to one of the top racing events in the world: The 24 hours of Le Mans. The race is held on a large 8.5 mile paved course that is a combination of a permanent road circuit and public streets. This "Circuit de la Sarthe" is only used a couple times per year, for the 24 hour race and also for a historic car meet. Also on the grounds is the "Curcuit Bugatti", a much smaller 4.3 km paved road circuit that shares a part of the course with the Circuit de la Sarthe and has been visited in the past by our own Will White.
The 24 hour race, or "Grand Prix of Endurance and Efficiency", dates back to 1923. I believe this was the 81st running. It is the second largest race and sporting event in the world after the Indy 500. When the race began at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, we were not even in the country, as we were still on Jersey after having been to the sand races there earlier in the day. Unfortunately, only ten minutes into the race on Saturday there was a fatal crash at Tertre Rouge, the sweeping turn before the long straight. Driver Allan Simonsen died from injuries after the roll cage partially collapsed.
We arrived Sunday morning. This was one of the many times it was invaluable to us to have Roland as our TrackChasing teammate for the week. This was Roland's 16th trip to the facility, and the fourth for the 24 Hour race. He knew his way around, and despite the fact that there were 300,000 people, he drove right into town and found us a perfect parking spot away from the masses. We had a good walk to the track, but we were able to walk in and out without any hassle and when we returned to the car we could just drive off without any traffic issues.
Thankfully, there is a lower Sunday-only admission price of 41 Euros. But it was a once in a lifetime chance to see a "Bucket List" racing event so that was not an issue. We entered at the main entrance, just to the left of the start/finish line. We had general admission tickets, and thus were not entitled to sit in any of the grandstands. But with Roland's knowledge of the course, we got to see the track from many good locations. The first thing I bought was the program for 5 Euros. Actually, it was the only thing I bought as crowds were large everywhere. I do plan on going on the track website to order an event shirt.
I was surprised at just how many good viewing places there were for general admission. A much younger Roland once attended the event and stayed awake to watch the entire 24 hours of racing, hopped a train home and went right to work. He definitely knows his way around the circuit. Staying completely on the outside of the course, we stopped to watch and take pictures at the Dunlop Curve, Dunlop Chicane, the point where the Bugatti Circuit splits from Circuit de la Sarthe, the Esses, and at Tetre Rouge, the sweeping curve that leads to the long Mulsanne Straight. In addition to the race there is a carnival going on all around, with many rides and food stands to choose from.
We did encounter some light showers and even a heavy douse of rain, but it was a hot day in France and it felt pretty good. The race was round three of the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship. The race is always limited to 56 entries and there are four different classes that all race together. The classes are Prototype 1, Prototype 2, GT Endurance Pro, and GT Endurance Amateur.
The race was won by the Audi team of Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen, and Loic Duval. They completed 348 laps, one more than the second place Toyota. The American drivers did not fare that well, with the highest finisher being Mark Patterson in 13th. An all-American team of Patrick Dempsey, Patrick Long, and Joe Foster did finish fourth in their class, 29th overall. For winner Tom Kristensen, it was his record ninth career win in the race.
Pam and I were very excited and thankful for the opportunity to see the Le Mans 24 hour race. We had previously been to the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring. The three events make up the so-called "Triple Crown of Endurance Racing" and we have been lucky enough to be able to attend each the top three events in that very interesting form of racing.
After the race we drove back to Paris, then on Monday morning flew to Reykjavik, Iceland then to JFK in NYC before retrieving the Focus and driving back to our home in the beautiful Pocono Mountains.
We had four main objectives for this trip: Race in Hungary, race in Czech Republic, tour the sites of Paris, visit the Normandy beaches, race on Jersey, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The plan worked perfectly, and our fourth annual European trip was in the books. Trip number five for 2014 is already in the planning stages. Our next travels with Roland are less than two weeks away, when we plan to meet up with him in Canada. Looking forward to that.
Guy & Pam Smith 2013 Summary
2013 New Tracks--Guy 32 / Pam 20
2013 Events-- Guy 45 / Pam 24
2013 Total Tracks-- Guy 46 / Pam 25
2013 Additional new Non TC Tracks--Guy 3 / Pam NA
Lifetime Total Tracks--Guy 1,509 / Pam 857
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