This race is so much more than just the competition on track with the high speeds on the Mulsanne straight, along with the always challenging segments such Indianapolis and the Porsche Curves with their twisting and off-camber corners.
The build up for this event is as much of a challenge as the actual race. Just imagine the prep and logistics to make everything run smooth for several weeks with all your staff, guests etc.
The event really starts Sunday two weeks prior to the race weekend with the Test Day. After this it's all preparation on the cars, get yourself moved in to our "cabins" at the track, this is being used mainly during the Saturday and Sunday for the race so you have a place to go back to take a shower, lay down and rest , work with the physio, and not much sleep.
You can really feel the intensity build when you arrive at Tech, or Scrutineering as it is called, in downtown Le Mans at the City square. The cars get transported on roll-backs for the specific time slot that you been given for tech inspection. This is coordinated with the drivers going through their weigh-in, gear check and sign-in at the same time. The whole square area is roped off with specific fan zones in front of 3-5 stages that's been built up for live interviews with drivers and special guests. This gives the fans and drivers the ability to mingle and sign autographs, along with just have a general chat between drivers and fans with out any specific time restraints.
The actual practice does not start until Wednesday, but there is a drivers meeting and other media related obligations that the drivers need to do. So even if you are there a full week before the actual race, you stay pretty busy between team and official obligations.
We also have an official autograph session in front of our garages on Tuesday at the track that's usually very popular. I'm amazed every year how educated the fans in Europe are when it comes to sport car racing. Another thing that seems to happen every year is that there are always a handful people who seem to have been digging deep in their drawers to find hero cards and or photographs from when I ran either go karts or F3 in the late 1980's or early 90's! (I know it really tells you how old I am!) But it is fun and pretty amusing to my teammates!!
One of the most spectacular events surrounding a motorsport event anywhere in the world is the downtown parade on Friday during the late afternoon and early evening. All the drivers get loaded up into vintage cars and get driven up to a stage for a driver presentation. Then we head on out on a 3-mile tour through downtown with the streets lined with fans 8-10 rows deep, people hanging signs off balconies, on top of cars, buildings, etc. This is an unbelievable spectacle! We get to throw out hero cards into the crowds, sign shirts, and even body parts!!! Some pretty interesting times!!! This makes this event stand out apart from anything else in the world! The only other race that has this type of build up would be the INDY 500 every Memorial Day weekend in the U.S.
So when this is done, you are really looking forward to go back to the chateau and get a good night's rest before the race starts the next afternoon. You will be awake and up for pretty much 32 hours and hoping to take the checkered flag first!!
I hope you get the picture and will be able to make it there one day. I promise it's worth it! Talk to you after the race. Be careful and take care of each other.