Le Mans FB's Big, Fat Le Mans Review 2018


Not my cup of cake
Valued Member
Since the early 80's, in the days of the Porsche 956, Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell, I have wanted to go to Le Mans. Finally, in 2018, I found the time and the money to make the trip to what is, probably, the greatest motor race in the world.

Myself and junior fat bloke packed up a tent, a load of food which could be produced by the application of hot water and set off via a large boat provided by the good people of P&O. We arrived on the Thursday evening, erected the tent and set off to watch the qualifying. It was quite a walk from the campsite to the south entrance of the track and then once at the track quite a walk to get to a decent viewing location despite the site being inside the circuit. This did have the advantage of me getting my steps in for the day, little did I know quite how many steps I would have to do over the weekend.

Seeing the cars on the track at night was simply awesome. The different engine notes from the different classes, even within the classes was astonishing. The speed these machines accelerate at and change direction is simply stunning and the speed differential between the classes can be frightening. As me and the boy got our bearings we realised that even after 86 years the ACO still haven't got any idea about how to organise the event but then it's France expectations were low.

So here's a negative. If you like music festivals and the "events" in the campsites then Le Mans is for you. If there is a big crowd of you who have gone there for the craic then camp. If you have gone to watch a motor racing event, don't. We soon realised that Le Mans is not about the cars and the motor racing, it's about being there; some in very expensive cars, often drinking too much and staying up until the wee hours or perhaps not even going to bed at all.

On the Thursday night there were fireworks until about 1 or 2 in the morning and what I can only assume was a mobile disco going until even later. I ended up blocking it out with a white noise app on my phone. The Friday night was worse as the campsite filled up more and one group decided the mobile disco should go on until 6 a.m.. Drink, have a good time but do have some thought for others. Unfortunately some can't make that leap and this was mainly the British contingent.

Anyway, back to the positives. On the Friday the pit lane was open from 10 in the morning until 10 at night. If you had general admission you got to mooch up and down the pit lane. Everyone was happy, made space so that all got to see and it was wonderfully relaxed. The teams got on with their business in the pit garages and you could take as many pictures as you wanted. Much of the bodywork of the car was put out on show, in front of the garage (behind a barrier) so you could see how these things fit together.

From the pit lane you can then walk out on to the track and wander up and down to your hearts content. I didn't realise just how steep the climb is from the start/finish straight up the hill to the Dunlop bridge. There were some cars from the museum on show to keep you interested as as you wandered round the track.

Another negative, more (perhaps) my naivety but symptomatic of the organisation, getting in to the city from the circuit to see the drivers parade was quite a challenge of you didn't want to use your own transport. There is a tram, it's by Tetra Rouge, the campsite I was on was a 3 or 4 mile walk. I suspect there were coaches or buses but I'm damnded if I could work out to find them. We missed the driver parade, actually we watched it in the Fan Zone and it looked a bit crap so I'm not too upset.

Friday night on the camp site, as mentioned, was horrific if you wanted to get any sleep.

Saturday was a lateish start to try and get some sleep but also because the race doesn't get underway until 3 p.m.. My son tried to take a can of drink in with him, he had to throw it away at the gate as you can't take your own beverages in to the circuit. A bottle of coke or a coffee was 4 euros!

As you can imagine, as the race start approaches the circuit fills up. Negative, the organisers seem to struggle with the distinction between a road and footpath, cars drive on the pavement, people walk in the roads, people on scooters, bikes with two stroke engines and ordinary pedal bikes go wherever they like and if you get in the way then more fool you. The one that really did piss me off was when you were in the tunnels going under the tracks some dick would just ride a bike at youand you had to get out of the way.

There were some warm up races in the morning on race day. We got there just as the Aston Martin race was finishing and then walked to the grandstand we had booked. It was packed, as it should be. The toilets were stuffed, especailly the mens, but that's not a problem at Le Mans (or maybe in France) as if you are the male of species you can just wip your old chap out and pee wherever you like. Under our grandstand was like a public toilet, it appears the size of the crowd came as a surprise to the organisers.

The start flag was delivered by the French air army who were recruiting at the circuit. The race was started by some bloke who waves a tennis bat about and who had just won an event in Paris (I was told). The French version of the Red Arrows flew over, their one stunt is to create the colours of the French flag and then fly off. The safety car led the teams round and then just after 3pm the race was under way. Spine tingling.

Almost Immediately after the race had started the crowd thinned out. I've now idea where they went but I think quite a lot went home as the crowd never achieved the same level throughout the rest of the race, even at the finish. Here's an interesting thing, if you take a baby to a motor racing circuit it gets quite upset at the noise the cars make. Who would have thought? The family a few seats down from us certainly didn't as there one year old screamed and screamed. Oh, and some people had bought their dogs with them. Yes, dogs at a race track.

Me and junior spent the first 11 hours wandering to different places to watch the race. We went all the way up to Tetra Rouge and as far the other way as we could go at Arnage. There is lots of space and few problems getting vey close to the track. We went to the musuem at about 11pm, entry to which was included in the ticket price, and is a great place to kill an hour as the cars beat round.

At 1 a.m. the concessions started to close so if you wanted to eat or drink anything through the night you would have to have what you took in with you, apart from the fact that they had taken it off you at the entrance. Oh, food, like the drinks, is horribly expensive with a burger and chips setting you back between 15 and 20 euros. At 2pm we decided we couldn't keep our eyes open and headed back to our tent. We had walked 18 miles in the day. We slept like babies with the sound of racing cars all around us.

We woke about 9 a.m., had breakfast, showered and were back at the circuit by 11. The showers and toilets on the camp site are acceptable but there aren't enough for the number of people staying there. But there was a plentiful supply of loo roll in the toilets and hot water in the showers. Many on the campsite were packing up ang going home, quite why they had come I don't know, it certainly wasn't to watch the motor racing.

The crowd was even thinner but it did make it easier to move about. Again, we watched from the grandstand we had booked but also at various places around the circuit. We did 12 miles on the Sunday, not quite as much as the Saturday but enough to make my trotters sore. As soon as the race was over the crowd gathered at the various gates to get on the track. I ended up about 20 meters from the podium with a fantastic view. I also made the effort the stay on for all 4 podiums, something many of the other fans couldn't be bothered with.

Me and the boy left the circuit at about 5, went to bar to watch some football and then crashed out for the night. My sunburnt forehead and nose is testimony to how good the weather was and the fact that I forgot to take any sunscreen.

A few final thoughts.

The race was, as expected, a walk over for Toyota but then they had to make the cars last 24 hours which they have struggled with in the past. Even with all the colour coding it's quite difficult to tell the difference between the normally aspirated P1 cars and the P2 machines. The hybrids, of course, are easy to spot. The GTE cars are louder than the P1 and P2 cars. The Corvettes make a noise like they are from the stone age, the Fords sound like light aircraft. Rumour has it that Toyota only planned to race at Spa, Le Mans and Fuji until Fernando offered to drive for them. Regardless of the nay sayers Alonso deserved the win but we shouldn't forget two other drivers were in the car as well so many congratulations to Sebastian Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima and well done Toyota. What a shame there wasn't some better competition.

Would I go again? Yes. Would I camp? No.

If you are with a big bunch of mates or for some strange reason like being kept awake until all night then camp otherwise (if you can afford it) stay in a hotel and drive in each day. Be prepared to walk for miles or take a bike and be as ignorant as the rest of the cyclists. Take lots of money or be prepared to go hungry as nothing is cheap once you are inside the circuit.

I'll post some pictures once I've downloaded them.
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Well that answers the question:

"Would I go to Le mans?"


Erm, No.

Think I'll stick to Eurosport, a glass or two of wine and CTA chat.

Wouldn't mind giving the Silverstone 6 hours a go instead.
Good write up FB. Do the Corvettes still shake the ground as they pass? The commentators were raving about the sound of the Porsches this year too.

Sorry to hear about the campsite. Nothing worse than having to put up with idiots. Last time I camped over by the airport on the outside of the track, and it was better - but inevitably more expensive, and it's pot luck to some extent.
The Corvettes are hellishly noisy, the Fords too but with a very different engine note. The Porsches are raspy and the Astons growl. The BMW 8 series makes the motor racing loving baby Jebbers cry as it doesn't make any noise at all and the most exciting thing from the Ferrari GTE cars was the whistle of the turbot.

Toyota had a concept for the next type of WEC car which is thought to be a "ghost" series which look like road cars but are anything but underneath. I can't help but think that it is going to turn endurance racing in to long distance DTM. I hope I'm wrong.
The other rumour is that the FIA will impose a single chassis rule though, limiting innovation just to the power train. And there would be limited aero on the external body work, it would all have to come from the underside of the car. Would this then be standardised?
Sounds very similar to my camping experience at Magney Course many years ago FB. It stays with me though not as a negative but as a life experience I look back on fondly. That said I've not camped in France since.

Anyway I'm too old and grumpy for camping now, it's a young persons game.
There's a lot of detail still to be worked out with the new regs. There seems to be a desire to harmonise with IMSA in the US - which has been successful in getting manufacturers - but is just LMP2 chassis with manufacturer-styled bodywork and their own engine (but heavily regulated). That sort of model would enable Aston to be competitive in P1, but the likes of Ferrari and VW-Audi are much less likely to be interested IMO.

Ultimately something has to be done to avoid a repeat of the current season. The Nissan R390 and Porsche 911 GT1-98 were road legal and plenty spectacular enough. As a fan I don't want a spec chassis or engines, though a spec hybrid system doesn't offend me quite so much.
....Anyway I'm too old and grumpy for camping now, it's a young persons game.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for calling me young; we had a three nighter last month at Dawlish Warren.

However, I still feel too old for Le Mans as I could no longer walk those distances. My last proper walk was on the first day of the Tour de France when I walked from the wtong side of Hawes to the top of the Buttertubs and back; coming back down was a painful process.

I have camped 3 times at Spa where the Dutch make the noise, normal nights that and the porno films on the side of a lorry gon on nearly all night; the exception is Saturday night when they close down at a reasonable hour.
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