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It is late in the evening on Le Mans. And that’s where you begin to understand the epicness of this 24 Hours. Because after a hundred laps you are not even a third of the way through the race. And getting to the bottom is something for a few. Concentration, patience and the inevitable handle are needed which, after all, is one of the few access tickets to the Olympus of endurance. Concentration because a little distraction is enough to screw everything up. Patience, on the other hand, because you don’t have to get caught up in the heat of the moment and risk an overtaking that could be your last: (involuntary) contacts are common here. And getting off the track and then never coming back is a matter of a moment in an infinite 24 Hours. That over a thousand professionals – including pilots, mechanics and track technicians – also counts 250 thousand other heroes: those of the tireless public that does not fear neither the darkness nor the night cold of the Loire.

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24 hours flat out. When darkness falls, the stands gradually empty and the party begins “inside” the ring of la Sarthe. The interminable party that for some continues all night and for others, the most shot, lasts until you go to sleep in the meadows of the most beautiful curves of the track, lulled by the sound of the cylinders of the various Toyota, Alpine Porsche, Ferrari and LMP2 prototypes. Who scream, tireless, all night long and who have a few moments of rest during the short stops in the pits, or in brake changes. Because the Circuit de La Sarthe is damn fast and in its 13 kilometers you travel flat out for a very long time, always in the red zone. In the Hypercar category, for example, the two Toyota GR010 Hybrid that have dominated (for the fifth consecutive time) the French endurance, they kept their 3.5 V6 twin-turbocharged almost always between seven and eight thousand laps. For 24 consecutive hours. After almost a week of free practice and qualifying. Chapeau to all engineers.

Le Mans 24 Hours

Manic organization. As you can imagine, winning a 24 Hours of Le Mans, however, is not just a matter of technical refinement and power. In addition to a healthy dose of luck, careful planning is also needed for details that may seem insignificant. The hundreds of people on the Toyota team move weeks in advance for each WEC event, build huge tensile structures and set up small workshops that would make any mechanics enthusiast’s eyes shine. Behind the scenes of the boxes you will find all kinds of tools, from simple screwdrivers to specific tools for each operation, countless spare parts, two extra motors (the number is limited by the regulation) and industrial quantities of coffee, food and cleaning products. Yes, because by turning continuously for 24 hours the cars get very dirty and at each pit stop there is an attendant who thoroughly cleans parts such as the windshield, so as to guarantee maximum visibility to the driver in the next stint. And if Vetril is not enough, then transparent films applied to the glass come to the rescue, which are removed just like the Formula 1 drivers do on the tear offs of their visors. Only, in XXL version.

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All (always) available. Here, speaking of Formula 1, the similarities are many, but the differences are even more. I’ll just give you an example to make you understand: if in the circus talking to any rider, even from the rear, it is practically impossible if you don’t have an appointment made with his press office, here you just have to walk in the paddock to exchange a few words (even during the race ) with who in the end climbed to the top step of the podium. Like Sébastien Buemi, ready and available even shortly before his stint. Or José María López, who to answer a few questions when I met him in a corridor behind the podium, said “no” to his press officer who pressed him to take him to the Gazoo Racing team’s hospitality to celebrate the victory. No arrogance, therefore. As it should be in motorsport. The true one.

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Les folies de Le Mans. It really feels like you’ve stepped back in time, or to be in a “minor” category. Because everything is as it should be, with the passion that drives an entire movement made up of stables but also of enthusiasts. True enthusiasts, who spend thousands of euros to be able to enjoy a week of Wec. In Le Mans in the days of the 24 Hours everything has crazy prices, from medium beers at 10 euros (with 2 bail for glasses) to sandwiches at 15, up to the unacceptable hotel rooms, which with this event probably survive all year round. (I saw three stars with singles at 450 euros, to say). In order to save money, many sleep in tents or arrive at the Bugatti Circuit with campers with food (and beer) supplies that are the envy of an army. And it is these people who make this race so special, because they bring all their load of passion to Le Mans and are not afraid to go on the dirt roads that lead to the various curves of the circuit, dusting themselves or their cars. And what a car… Ferraris of every era, modern sports cars, hot hatches from the Eighties, but also collectible jewels such as the Mercedes-Benz 190SL: in Le Mans you will find everything. And it is also for this reason that the 24 Hours is an unmissable event in the calendar of any true car enthusiast.

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