MO­TOR CUL­TURE: ONE FOR THE AGES

Tor­rid tem­per­a­tures, raw emo­tions and un­be­liev­able drama made this writer’s first trip to the 24 Hours of Le Mans even more mem­o­rable than he ex­pected.

Torque (Singapore) - - CONTENTS -

Tor­rid tem­per­a­tures, raw emo­tions and un­be­liev­able drama made this writer’s first trip to the 24 Hours of Le Mans even more mem­o­rable than he ex­pected.

LLONG be­fore I learnt about the fear­some Nur­bur­gring in Ger­many, I had al­ready heard about the leg­endary 24 Hours of Le Mans.

This race, which is part of the FIA’s World En­durance Cham­pi­onship (WEC), takes place ev­ery June at the Cir­cuit de la Sarthe in France.

To some folks, rac­ing for 24 hours straight is sheer in­san­ity. To fans, it is a bril­liant demon­stra­tion of what en­gi­neer­ing, team­work, tenac­ity and per­se­ver­ance can achieve.

Yes, the Nur­bur­gring cir­cuit is at least 100 times more chal­leng­ing, and to race there for 24 hours is in­fin­itely more dif­fi­cult.

But there is some­thing so myth­i­cal about Le Mans that it seems like win­ning this race is more im­por­tant than win­ning any other event on the WEC cal­en­dar. Many man­u­fac­tur­ers are strongly as­so­ci­ated with the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Audi, Bentley, Fer­rari, Ford, Jaguar, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Nis­san and Toy­ota have all taken part in this event. But one can­not talk about Le Mans with­out men­tion­ing Porsche. Porsche and Le Mans are so en­twined be­cause the Ger­man car­maker has notched up the most over­all wins at this 24-hour race.

I came across my first Porsche race­car when I was eight years old. It was a white Mar­tiniliv­er­ied re­mote con­trol car. I was too young then to re­alise what the toy sym­bol­ised. When I ar­rived at Le Mans air­port on the Fri­day morn­ing of the race week­end, I was gripped by a feel­ing that I was in a very spe­cial place, and that this year’s race would be even more ex­cit­ing than last year’s.

From a dis­tance, I could see the grand­stands, which flanked the cir­cuit’s main straight. There was a pal­pa­ble ten­sion and an in­ex­pli­ca­ble sense of ex­cite­ment in the air. In 2016, Toy­ota came ag­o­nis­ingly close to their first over­all vic­tory be­fore dis­as­ter struck. Three min­utes be­fore the race ended, their lead car came to a sput­ter­ing halt with just one lap to go. Porsche, which had been run­ning in sec­ond po­si­tion, took home their 18th win.

The pain of los­ing with vic­tory in sight must have been unimag­in­able. Even Porsche ad­mit­ted that Toy­ota had de­served that win. But such

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