The LeMans 24 Hours Part 2
A “bucket list” item achieved
Below you’ll be able to continue sharing Steve’s experience at the 2022 LeMans 24 Hours. I did the same in 2010. We were both blown away by the experience. I also crossed it off my list. You can read Part 1 of this story here.–ed.
by Steve Erlichman
Bucket List: noun, a list of things to do or places to go before you kick the bucket.
Kick the bucket is an old term reinvented within the last 20 years. The term goes back many years. I remember my parents and grandparents using the term when I was a kid in the 60s. It’s A Mad Mad Mad World (the funniest movie ever) begins with a car careening through the mountains passing traffic and honking its horn. The car then leaves the road “sailing right out there” (to quote Milton Berle’s character) and destroying itself down the side of the mountain.
Its driver (Jimmy Durante) lies splayed across the rocks, having been ejected from the tumbling mess. A crowd stops to help and scampers down to his assistance. With his last breath, which lasted a good 10 minutes, he regales them about the “300G’s” that’s buried under the “Big Dubbya”. And that they have to go find it and dig it up. He then kicks a bucket, which happens to be nearby, down the mountain.
A visual metaphor for dying.
This is not a review of It’s a Mad Mad Mad World. It’s the story of my personal bucket list. Everyone probably has one whether they realize it or not. The last item on my bucket list I took care of in 2022.
Back to the race
The Toyotas quickly took control and ran like freight trains throughout the day and night. The JotaSport P2 team quickly rose to the top with lots of competition behind them including the Penske Team. Penske was running a P2 car for the last time in preparation for their LeMans effort next year with the Porsche LMDH.
In GTE Pro, the Corvettes and Porsches battled with the AF Corse Ferraris. The race would not go Corvette’s way. First there were suspension troubles for the 63 car. Then the 64 car was forced off the road into the barriers and out of the race later on. Neither Corvette would finish in the last LeMans outing for the GTE Pro class C8-R.
GTE Am was a battle amongst various Porsche 911s, including the U.S.-based WeatherTech team. A couple of Aston-Martins included one driven by iron man/nice guy/Texas car dealer Ben Keating. He was trying to revenge his 2019 win in a Ford GT taken away via a technical disqualification. This year went much better for him….
After a lovely French meal, we discussed who was going to brave it out and stay all night. Three from our group did plus the Canadians. Some of us are much too old for such folly, so we headed for the bus to the hotel at 10:30PM. It doesn’t get fully dark in this part of Europe till 10:45PM so we did not see any night racing. Which was too bad, although we did sleep well. 19,000 steps on Saturday!
We were not successful at finding the track’s Village before the race on Saturday (or any of the rumored model car sellers). So upon arrival to the circuit on Sunday we left our cameras behind and headed directly to the Museum de la Sarthe located just outside the circuit.
It’s a history museum, not just of the race but also of the Sarthe region and the car makers that were based there. Like Amedee-Bollee and Rondeau. The most overwhelming display was the room filled with display cases packed with 1/43rd scale model cars. There was a model for every car entered in every race since the race began in 1923! And I thought my collection took up too much space! Each year had a replica podium with the top 3 cars placed in the appropriate spot. It was very hard to get a good look at each case, let alone get a photo. This exhibit was super-impressive and very popular.
The museum has some terrific classic cars. Like a pair of Hispano-Suizas, a Panhard Dynamique and the SOCECMA Gregoire turbine powered concept, which I’d only seen pictures. I lingered awhile with the classics, including more Amedee-Bollees than I thought were ever built. My buddy high-tailed it right over to the quite impressive race cars. Past winners included the aforementioned ’72 and ’74 Matras, plus lots of non-winners of interest. There was a nice tribute to local hero/1980 LM winner Jean Rondeau that started with his Inaltera from 1977. Also present were cars from Courage, Alpine-Renault, Corvette, Cadillac, Mazda and Panoz. Also seen was the bizarre and ultimately failed front engine Nissan LMP1H car.
Porsche was well represented by a 919 LMP1 Hybrid ca, the iconic 917LH, a 907 and a 904.
A special Peugeot display showed a pre-war D’Arl Mat, the 1992 winning 905 and a very cool be-finned Peugeot-powered CD from 1966.
To the Village! (with credit card at the ready)
After a few minutes outside the museum observing the climb to the Dunlop bridge we headed into the Village. Vendors for food, memorabilia, and of course model cars were to be found. There was a manufacturer display from Corvette. Peugeot showed the new 9×8 HyperCar, along with a Spark 1/43rd model for purchase. Alpine had a display which you couldn’t get near. Jaguar was there too with a gorgeous Silk Cut XJR9. In the center there was a small glass Porsche enclosure with “VIP entry only”. But inside and visible was the camouflaged testing prototype of the new 963 LMDH car. When we finally found the Spark France store, many Euros were spent.
Afterwards we headed back past the main grandstands to our seats for the finish. All along the way there were more vendors, including another Spark France store where more Euros were easily spent.
Again there were people everywhere. I’ve been to lots of big races including the Indy 500, Daytona 24 Hour, even some NASCAR races. But LeMans puts them all to shame for the shear number of people around. Walking, standing by the fence, sitting in the grandstands, standing on earth banks, passed out in their cars, eating, drinking, lined up for the bathrooms.
Just tons of people. And everyone friendly. Even the drunks weren’t abusive. Everyone was there for the same reason to have a good time.
The waning hours
We got back to our seats for the final 2 hours of the 2022 LeMans 24 Hours. The race was pretty much settled by this time. The Toyotas were far out in front with a Glickenhaus in 3rd and the P2 Jota Sport car #38 in 4th. Porsche 911 number 91 was leading in GTE Pro with the AF Course Ferrari #51 in 2nd. The #33 TF Sport Aston `Martin was leading in GTE-Am, with the WeatherTech Porsche in 2nd.
The stands filled up again as 4PM approached. The crowd awaited the final lap with excitement. The Toyotas did not form up for a photo finish, but the 2 JotaSport P2 cars did (they finished 1st and 4th in class). The crowd again politely applauded the winners as they passed our grandstand headed towards the finish. Very refreshing.
Unfortunately our tour bus had a departure time of 4:30, which was the only disappointment of the weekend. We couldn’t stay around for the slow parade of the winners past the flag waving marshals. We had a 20 minute walk to the bus and didn’t want to hold everyone up.
I not sure why we had to be on the road so quickly. We sat in traffic and crept trying to leave the area anyway.
Back to reality at the hotel
We took a final walk around the town of Tours and then enjoyed dinner while reflecting on our adventure. The apprehension of a U.S. return and having to be Covid tested had disappeared over the weekend when the restrictions were lifted. A good thing too! Within 24 hours of returning home I came down with Covid!
The 2022 LeMans 24 Hours was an amazing experience, even for two jaded old race-going pros. As avid (obsessive?) model car collectors, LeMans has always been at the center of our interest in racing. Sports Car/Endurance Racing is the most important form of the sport for us. We went to the place where it all started and continues to grow. It was a life moment we will never forget.
Will we ever go back? Maybe. It’s not exactly an annual thing from where I live in the USA. It’s one extremely exhausting event.
We might be tempted again given the new HyperCar/LMDH/GT3 era that’s about to dawn. Until then I have a great memory and over 1500 photos to look back at.
Not to mention a toe blister and the remnants of Covid.
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