‘Just a er midnight at Tertre Rouge, my heart was broken’
I HAVE NO IDEA how it took me 39 years to get to Le Mans, although in truth I spent the first hours of this year’s race wondering why I’d bothered. Dazed by the dust and the din of racing engines, I hadn’t a clue what was going on. Look, the Toyota that started on pole! Look, a Ford GT with its farty V6! Oh look, a Toyota again…
Together with the heat, the attrition rate and the helicopters, my confusion contrived to make a racetrack in France feel a little like a warzone, albeit a safe warzone with hot chips on tap. And, like a warzone, I figured good communications might help. So I found a man selling ear defenders with built-in radios and handed him a lot of money – game changer.
Like a sprawling kingdom hidden at the back of a wardrobe, in that moment Le Mans opened itself up to me in all its giddying grandeur. The history! The humanity! The energy, resource and effort! How, I asked myself, had I managed to ignore such an almighty spectacle as this for four decades?
Thereafter I was plugged into the ebb and flow of the race. I was high on the banks just after the Dunlop chicane with a bag of churros when the No2 Porsche, the car that would go on to win, pitted for an eternity for a new front motor/generator unit. I was up in the grandstands with a beer when a clumsy pass saw an LMP2 car smash the Risi 488 Ferrari into the wall at dusk. I was lying there on the bank at Tertre Rouge just after midnight, mesmerised, when I had my heart broken by the radio feed of Kamui Kobayashi trying to nurse his lifeless Toyota back to the pits. And the following morning I was down at Porsche Curves with a bacon sandwich to see the race’s wild climax, when Porsche did what Porsche does and the wickedly diffuser’d Aston Vantage clinched the GTE Pro win in the last laps. I came home a changed man, and not just because I put on a lot of weight. Ben Miller Editor