Last weekend AJB had the opportunity of a lifetime. Since I was little I’ve wanted to go to Le Mans, the most famous race in the world. This is a race that lasts for 24 whole hours come rain or shine. It boasts a field of professional teams and racers through to first time teams and drivers. It has an atmosphere like no other race on the calendar.

Le Mans 2012

Yes Formula 1 is glamourous but Le Mans is a full blown party and celebration of speed & engineering. Fans turn up in their droves to various parts of the 13.6km circuit to drink beer, deprive themselves of sleep and watch a little racing.

Le Mans has seen many changes over the years with teams like Porsche dominating certain eras but theses days it’s almost certain that you’ll see Audi claiming the prestigious victory. Of the races they’ve entered since 1999, they’ve won 11 (including Le Mans 2012). It’s an impressive achievement. Does their dominance detract from the spectacle? No, not at all. As a fan and spectator you go along to soak up the atmosphere and be part of the history. Le Mans is so much more than just a race…

The cars are split between four categories and a single entry in the experimental class in the form of the bonkers Deltawing. LMP1 and LMP2 cover the prototype classes and GTE Pro and GTE Am cover the GT classes. The LMP cars are extreme ‘just for racing’ machines that are governed by strict rules. Audi and Toyota fielded the top cars this year and it seemed like we might have a good race on our hands for the top spot before an unfortunate accident forced the first Toyota (piloted by ex F1 driver Anthony Davidson) out of the running and caused the driver to go to hospital for two broken vertebrae. The second Toyota suffered another collision when Kasuki Nakajima hit the experimental Deltawing (See image below). Ultimately this would end both of their races.

The Audi’s went on unopposed to take their 11th victory and had cars in 4 of the top 5 spots. The GTE Pro class was won by one of the many Ferrari’s ahead of another Ferrari and the V8 Vantage GTE from Aston Martin Racing. Despite the long length of the race, the drivers fought hard and were always pushing each other to go quicker. As a guest of Aston Martin there were only two cars I cheered for. The AMR team had the coolest looking car and it sounded fantastic but not as noisy as the Corvette’s which made a sound that was a cross between a V8 and God farting. It was a glorious noise that went on all night long.

My first Le Mans has been quite an experience and unlike any other race I have ever been to. It’s odd being able to go to sleep with the cars still pounding round the track and wake up to find them still going. Roll on next year!

A huge thank you to Hackett London and Aston Martin Racing for making this trip possible.

Images Copyright David Tillyer 2012

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