Le Mans is one of those events where you know of it –it has a certain mystique about it, perhaps aided by simplified folklore and a certain Steve McQueen movie in 1971 –but few know exactly how it works.
The French Grand Prix has been described as a celebration of motor sports. For 24 hours drivers in a team will swap position, driving for an average of 3 ½ hours each. It is a massive undertaking to have a car going for an entire day. It is a slog for fans, it is a slog for managers and the coverage must be unrelenting and in depth.
It is the endurance angle that is most commonly presented to the layman. In 2011 Audi released this advertisement with Scottish driver Allan Nish to explain the intricacies, if in a somewhat exaggerated manner.
One cannot deny it is a huge ask for any driver.
So at this year’s event many went out to try and finish the race, a spectacular achievement in itself. Some, like McNish went out for the win. Others just took part.
McNish actually challenged for the lead, only to be ‘devastated’ in finishing second. Audi’s sister team ended up triumphing with German Andre Lotterer winning for a second successive year and on this 42-year-old McNish had to concede that the event is one fraught with uncertainty.
“You should never rejoice too early at Le Mans, which was obvious again especially on Sunday noon,” he said. “The whole world was already talking about a one-two-three-four victory and all of a sudden two of our cars had accidents almost simultaneously.”
Accidents do happen, and when tired drivers are added to powerful machines you cannot help but hope that luck is with each of them. Just look at this…
That is former Formula One driver Anthony Davidson, who spectacularly climbed out of his vehicle and doddled off to hospital. The 33-year-old found out he had two broken vertebrae, but said he felt “a bit sore”, but was just happy not to have died.
Le Mans is mental, in more ways than one.