The track and my seats.Posted: April 11, 2011
The 24 Hours of Le Mans is held at the Circuit de la Sarthe just outside Le Mans, France – about 120 miles southwest of Paris. First held in 1923, it is the oldest sports car endurance race and the first race to carry the name “Grand Prix”.
The track is made up of both a private track and public roadways. The private track starts at the Porsche Curves and ends at Tetre Rouge. The rest of the track is completely public roads. The Mulsanne Straight is a 2-lane highway that links Le Mans to the town of Mulsanne.
The dotted line shows the permanent Bugatti Circuit used for Moto GP and touring car events throughout the year.
This is the 14th version of the track with the majority of changes implemented for greater spectator safety as well as an attempt to slow down the ever increasing speed of the competitors.
The track has 38 corners and is 8 1/2 miles long. The LMP1 cars will lap the circuit around 3 1/2 minutes while the slower GT cars will run around 4 minutes. Around the 4th or 5th lap, the faster LMP1 cars will catch up to the slower GT cars and the remainder of the race is a constant flow of cars streaming by.
Here’s an excellent on-board video with Darren Turner in last year’s Aston Martin LMP1:
Again, the Mulsanne Straight is a public, 2-lane highway that’s about at wide as north or southbound Preston road! Can you imagine driving 200 MPH from Preston Center to 635?
With an 8 1/2 mile track, where do I sit? To begin, I’ll be sitting in the Dunlop Tribune, just after the start/finish line. For an idea, click here and follow these instructions:
At the top, there’s a drop-down box that says “Selection de la visite“, click it and select “Les Tribunes“.
Now, in the upper right hand corner of the rotating picture, there’s a clear, somewhat hard to see drop-down box. Click it and select “Tribune Dunlop“.
To my right is the start/finish line with the pit complex and race control. To my left is the famous Dunlop Bridge. From here I should have a good vantage point as the cars pass the start/finish line, accelerate towards me, climb the hill to the Dunlop Chicane and finally disappear underneath the Dunlop Bridge and rocket off towards Tertre Rouge.
When I spoke with Jacques Grelley, he highly recommended I check out Tetre Rouge. I don’t know what the spectator areas are like, but I’m hoping I can leave the Dunlop Grandstand and just walk down the track to get a good view as the cars head out onto the Mulsanne Straight.
Through Grand Prix Tours, I’ve added an excursion out to the Indianapolis and Arnage Corners. Indianapolis is a two part corner that begins as a right-hand kink off the straight from the Mulsanne Corner and into a hard left-hand turn. It’s a banked corner that allows the cars to take it a little faster than your standard 90 degree corner.
Arnage is the slowest corner on the track, and according to most competitors, the hardest. You’ve just blasted down the Mulsanne around 200 MPH, you’ve taken Indianapolis around 90 and here comes Arnage: a flat right-hand corner that you take around 50 or 60. There’s no run-off area here. Miss your braking marker and you’re into the tire wall. Every year, this corner claims multiple victims.
Depending on where we stand at Indianapolis/Arnage, the cars will literally burst out of the forest into an outstanding viewing area. This should provide an excellent opportunities to capture the cars with the D3100.
When all is said and done, I’m hoping to get several locations around the track and see as much as I can see. 60 days and counting.