Sunday, December 16, 2012


Back in June, I was present at the 80th edition of the 24H of Le Mans. Even if I live relatively close to the track, it was my first time at this. So I packed some leftover MREs, bought a cheap 2-seconds tent, stole my brother Alfa 147 because my MX5 was immobilized by a worn-out clutch, and did the quick travel to the mythic town.

Once you leave the highway, two major things struck you: Brits are everywhere, with TVRs and Aston Martins covered in stickers, mimicking a race car.
Then you find your way to the track, through some towns named Arnage or Mulsanne, heavily accommodated to fit the massive Brits troops.
I got myself a camping lot at Bleu Sud, relatively close to the main entrance of the circuit. The camping was filled with exotics cars, from the now-usual array of TVR to the Skyline contingent. I didn't have to wait too long to see some pretty exclusive cars.

Back in June, the GT86 was still a pretty rare sight. This one was belonging to a CBS journalist, who was doing a road test from Belgium to Le Mans.

Of course, I didn't have any press accreditation, so I was happy to found out that the pitlane was open on Friday afternoon. Each team was working on their cars, while a massive crowd was stuck behind a security cord, grabbing as much shots as possible. If one of the team decided to turn on their engine, everyone rushed to the concerned pit box, video cameras out.

In the inside of the circuit was the Village, a little town complete with restaurants, staff lounge and manufacturers exhibit. These four Matra would be opening the race on Saturday with their screaming V12. Which was actually a good thing, since I fell asleep on the side of the track, just before the start !

Nissan was present everywhere, with a big emphasis on their Nismo brand, which was pretty surprising considering how Nismo never really existed in Europe before. Nismo Europe even brought one of their Juke-R. I still don't understand how a car so massive can be this fast.

Audi was also largely present, with several stands. They displayed the car which won the Nürburgring 24h just a few months before.

On another location (which featured a giant screen that would broadcast the weekend's football matches), some former glory were present, especially this wild 90 IMSA GTO.

Forza Motorsport and SRT  made some sort of joint venture, by displaying the newly uncovered Viper SRT in race-trim, next to a stand were you could test the upcoming Forza Horizon, driving a SRT Viper across Colorado's roads.

The night before the race, the access to the track is still possible, even if nothing happens. Not many people were browsing the track, but I could spot this guy, wearing a full bodysuit. Pretty scary if you aren't warned.

I didn't took many pictures of the race itself, mostly due to the gigantic barriers which have been put everywhere between the race and the spectators, making it almost impossible to get a clear shot. But the spectacle around the track itself was worth it, take this ultra-rare V8 Vantage Le Mans Special Edition for example. Only 9 of these 600hp, 820Nm beasts have been made before the closure of the Newport-Pagnell factory. A quick search make think that it could be the chassis number 002.

Just next to the track is the Museum that host some former participants of the race. Some of them, like this 787B are unfortunately just models. Still, one fantastic car, and a must-see for any Mazda fan.

The 550 Maranello is one of my all-time favorite car. the FIA GT variant score even higher than the original model. Everything is just perfect about this car.

The podium ceremony is done, the track is cleared, and everyone can wander on it, searching for a bit of carbon fiber to bring some relic home, or just to touch one of the vibrator, still warm from the non-stop 24h action.

With that done, I'm pretty sure that I will be attending the 90 years anniversary in 2013.