AGONY AND ECSTASY
The new Amazon original, Le Mans: Racing is Everything, effectively captures the emotional rollercoaster drivers experience during what’s arguably the most iconic race in motor sport. And I should know: I was actually driving in the 2015 edition of the 24-hour race that features in the documentary.
The six-part series follows various distinct characters—rookies, veterans, drivers at the top and teams that are having a nightmare run. Filmmaker James Erskine and his team have been able to tell the story of the whole Le Mans week, including everything that happens off the track.
Watching some of the heartache stories was a bit difficult for me, because they involved friends of mine— Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Jann Mardenborough. They were also moments that I can totally relate to. Though racing at Le Mans is truly one of the greatest experiences for a racing driver, it can also be one of the worst. I remember a particular race in 2014 where we were very fast but I ended up in a crash with eight other cars during a rainstorm that ended our chances.
Erskine does especially well in communicating how important teamwork is at an event like this. Unlike Formula 1, at Le Mans you have three drivers sharing the same car and the dynamic between them is key to success. The drivers all have to get along and compromise in the interest of the team. This is a unique and tricky balance when you’re involving highly competitive individuals who are used to being selfish sportsmen.
The other angle that’s captured well is the family perspective. For example, in one of the episodes, the camera crew visits the home of Darren Turner to speak with his wife Katie about her feelings on the risks involved. Le Mans remains one of the most dangerous races in the world where drivers get hurt every year. I often think back to the race in 2013 when Darren’s teammate, Allan Simonsen, was killed. As drivers, we accept the risks involved, but the film reminds us—and shows viewers—how hard it is for the wives and parents to watch from the sidelines, knowing that when the driver leaves the pit lane, he might not come back alive. —Karun Chandhok is a racing driver and the first
and only Indian to compete at Le Mans