Thursday, 9 June 2011

The Facination of Le Mans

Lots of our readers and viewers like a particular event, whether they're spectators, marshals, mechanics or drivers. It's an event that's so famous and so much a part of the British motorsport scene, it's a bit hard to ignore it, and it's this weekend. And it's French. Very French. La 24 Heures Du Mans, Better known as Le Mans.

Every year the Bugatti Circuit in Le Mans gets a radical extension to become circuit de la sarthe, an 8.5mile long circuit mostly on public roads. Roughly a large oval shape, the speeds down the fearsome Mulsanne Straight prompted the addition of two chicanes, not that this diminishes the spectacle.

I personally know at least 10 marshals who will don their orange overalls for everything from a club sprint at Llandow and every year will drive hundreds of miles south to France to swap their orange probans for white ones to marshal the great race, Indeed, my friend Geoff has been doing that for over 20 years and refuses point blank to stop. The manager of my local [orange] supermarket, loves nothing more than to jump in his TVR and head off to La Sarthe every year with humerous stickers all over it (TVR Chimera : 5000 bolts flying in close formation), and my local motor club is planning a trip and this weekend a festival of motorsport is taking place in Le Mans' British twin town of Bolton.

It's not just spectators and Marshals either, British based teams like to get in on the action too. Last year's Britcar 24 hours at Silverstone had an entry of two Aston Martin Vantages from Jota - the same team have entered a GT2 verson into GTE Pro at Le Mans. And speaking of Aston Martin, the Prodrive run works team have got their LMP cars, and further back on the starting sheet is RML - the Chevrolet BTCC team amongst several others - lining up with Mike Newton and Ben Collins (the infamous former "Stig")

Other famous British drivers are right at the sharp end of the grid in Audi and Peugeot's Diesel powered entries where you'll find ex F1 drivers Allan McNish and Anthony Davidson lining up whilst in GTE one of our most successful drivers, Andy Priaulx is driving a BMW. There are more British drivers on the grid for this one off race than there are on the grid for an entire season of F1, or WRC, or WTCC or anything else for that matter (27 to be precise). This is not a modern phenomenon either. Way back in 1924 - the second running of the event, Bentley test driver Frank Clement took the win, and there's been plenty of other British winners since him.

So why has Le Mans become such a favourite with us Britons? Could it be that it's not really that far away from us? Maybe it's all those British success stories? Or could it be that we're just going there for the beer?

Whatever it is, We'd love to know what you think about the event. Get in touch through the comments box, or by Facebook or by Twitter