We kinda knew the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race was a big deal, but seriously, nothing could’ve prepared us for the sheer scale of this event.
From the time we arrived at the Le Mans train station (a couple of hours away from Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport), we could already feel the buzz in the air. This is a simple town that only comes to life once a year, and boy, what a way to do it.
The streets have been filled with the rumbling of sports cars, as fans from across the continent make their way to experience the week-long festivities. One fan described it to us as “a pilgrimage for car enthusiasts”.
Next to the Le Mans circuit is a small airfield, where VIP fans have been flying in on private jets.
We were guests of Audi Sport, who have dominated Le Mans over the past decade. Just to give you an idea of how big this thing is, Audi has assembled a fleet of 100 people carriers, 20 new Audi Q7 and 13 Audi A8 to ferry their guests around. We journalists were assigned the people carriers, obviously…
Audi has even set up a temporary hotel in a warehouse, which is kinda spartan, but still really impressive. Plus, we’re spending most of our time at the circuit anyway, where there has been a real party atmosphere.
Speaking of the circuit, top car brands (particularly the big Le Mans teams — Audi, Porsche, Toyota and Nissan) have set up these huge temporary structures around the track for fans to experience the race from. We’ve been hanging out mostly at the Audi Racing Arena, which is for media and VIP guests.
We arrived at Le Mans around 11am the day before the race, and by 2pm, we were at the Audi Racing Arena for the the team’s press conference. That means interviews with the team’s drivers, including current Le Mans champion Andre Lotterer from Belgium.
He compared Le Mans to the FIFA World Cup. “It’s such a historic and mythical race — it’s been around for over 90 years — and it’s kind of like the World Cup because, well it doesn’t happen every four years, but it only happens once a year. So it’s very special.”
Later that day, we also experienced a time-honoured Le Mans tradition — the drivers’ parade. The drivers take turns riding through the city centre on motorcades, mostly in vintage sports cars belonging to their teams, waving to fans and throwing merch into the crowd.
The parade had a real party atmosphere to it. There were marching bands, samba dancers (not very French….), a funk band on top of a vintage car and, my personal favourite, a group of kids driving in tiny sports cars.
We went back to the circuit after the parade just to walk around the race village. There were makeshift pubs, driving simulators, pit stop demos, the latest cars on display… Let’s just say there was a lot going on.
The caravan park was also full by then, and it seemed like a LOT of fun. They had BBQs and stuff going on.
It’s our second day here at Le Mans now, and it’s Race Day. Everything just seems to have picked up a notch. There’s the sound of engines in the air, the crowds have doubled, and the people are all ready to party.
It’s going to be a wild 24 hours, and we plan to take in every minute of it. We’ll let you know how it goes… in around 24 hours.
Tell us what you think!