I was invited to the 86th 24 Hours of Le Mans, thanks to Serengeti Eyewear. It was an automobile endurance event that took place on 16 and 17 June 2018, at the Circuit de la Sarthe, Le Mans, France. It is my second time experiencing this extreme loud racing event and this time it occurred to me that Le Mans 24 Hours is not just about endurance for the drivers. It is a lifestyle that I had to also partake, endure and embrace. I had to run my own VIP race and capture every moment and opportunity within the next 24 hours.
The atmosphere can only be described as a force of nature, somewhat like a slow unpredictable lightning storm. One of the exciting parts of Le Mans 24hours is not knowing what is going to come at you, let alone who I would have access too. On this occasion, it was Derek Bell, five times winner of Le Mans 24hours. Alongside Liam Griffin, who was racing on the day and Giancarlo Fisichella racing driver for Ferrari. Meeting the drivers is a wonderful way to understand the pressures they endure before the race.
Derek Bell – 5 times Le Mans 24 Hours Winner
Liam Griffan – British ELMS Racer Grid Walk Parade
Part of my VIP experience was walking on the grid where I could meet the drivers before the race. On the Grid, walk was British ELMS racer, Liam Griffan. Liam wanted to try on my Serengeti eyewear as he was attracted first to the gold frames. I was amazed at how accessible and calm he was before the race.
Liam explains that the reality sinks in, when he is going through The famous, Dunlop Arch. That it is every man’s dream to be able to drive at Le Mans 24hours.
The Gridwalk parade is where all the cars are lined up for me to see, before the race. It is one of my highlights of the 24hours race for me.
Panoramic 24 Lounge – Endurance Race For Food and Drinking Experience
Located on the 4th floor of the ACO building in front of the start and finish line, with a view of the pits, the Panoramic 24 Hospitality Lounge provides an all-inclusive VIP experience for an entire week of events. There is a buffet gourmet food served throughout the 24hours and the food was excellent. I opted to stay the whole 24 hours and rested during the night which was more than comfortable on a leather lounge.
There was nothing more invigorating than waking up to the sound of those roaring engines.
I woke refreshed and ready for the day but I could not help wonder how the drivers, let alone the spectators below me, were feeling, who did not have the comforts I had. This is what is amazing about Le Mans 24hours, for those spectators enduring the race. It’s not only about the race it is the culture and what is happening off track that is just as thrilling as the race itself. Throughout the night alongside the cars racing, there is plenty of entertainment. Texas the music band was one of them. The atmosphere is electric.
Track Viewing Point
Part of the VIP treatment, I had the chance of observing viewing points of the race, which was combined with wine, champagne and fresh oysters. For those that watch movies have a look at Rush, I noticed in this movie that the Hesketh racing team was the first to bring champagne and oysters to the track.
At the chicane corner, it is insane to see how fast the cars come at this corner. I was taken to two major iconic points to see how dangerous this car race really was. There are eating and drinking locations for me to be able to watch and sit whilst the drivers endure those corners, it’s a priceless experience.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans Museum Tour
Part of the VIP experience was that I got access to the Media centres that operate during the race. The 24 Hours of Le Mans Museum Tour was brilliant to see and to have backstage guided tours, to see how many people are involved ( roughly 800 ) for this race to be broadcast all over the world. Two interesting facts are that the president of Le Mans 24 hours actually volunteers to make this race happen. Also, the Doctor who volunteers his expertise sits next to the 24hours president, and his job is sole to watches the race and decide when there is an accident, which medical team needs to be sent out. The reason for this is time is precious and can result in the difference between a life and death situation out here on the track.
Did you know that over 1800 people volunteer here at Le Mans 24hours, to guide and scan the paying fans around Le Mans 24 Hours access zones?
My Footage Of Le Mans 24 Hours
Day Turns Into Night
At 3 am Darren from that camera man, who also endured the night with me, ventured out at different parts of the track and took these amazing shots.
We were exhausted watching the race. It’s so full-on and exhilarating, meeting new people. So I decided early in the morning, to walk around the garages. I noticed this guy just sitting next to his garage after assisting his team.
It’s why Le Mans 24Hours happens only once a year, it is so technical and exhausting for everyone involved on every level, to part-take at such an extreme level.
The Final Hour
The last hour, I could see that this was going to define the boys from the men. Anything can happen in the very last hour, due to exhaustion both on the drivers and the car itself. To win the race each car company must cross over the finishing line, no matter if you have a strong lead.
During my interview with Derek Bell, Toyota who had a whopping four-lap lead got into engine trouble. I asked Derek what the driver would be thinking and having to do out there alone on the track?
Derek explained, it’s every drivers nightmare to be enduring 23hours of racing and then to be confronted with engine problems. No matter what he has to make sure the car does not stop and get it back into that garage as fast as he can.
I also noticed in our VIP area that people were struggling to stay awake and focus on the race. It is at these moments I realised you have to push through.
The Final Lap
The last lap is always so exciting as anything can happen. This year it was a clean finish. On this occasion, everything went to plan. Well done to Toyota who won. Congratulations to Giancarlo Fisichella for his brilliant result P2 and Podium win for Ferrari.
I went home feeling shattered, but it is a race that will stay with me forever!