Spirit Of Le Mans

2010 Le Mans 24 Hours
Peugeots run 1-2-3 and away from the field during the opening hours of the race. Photograph taken from a helicopter shows the famous Dunlop Bridge at bottom of frame and the road winds up to the Terte Rouge corner and the beginning of the Mulsanne straight.
Photo: Rick Dole
©2010 Rick Dole/All Rights Reserved.

Every person has a burning ambition inside them, born from a desire to test their resolve to the ultimate limit. Being able to reach those limits, to go beyond the boundaries, to come face to face with fear like nothing ever experienced before.

Not knowing whether the current lap will be the final chapter in the story. Holding on to every single piece of emotion so much, that the body tenses with every turn. Searching for ‘that’ zone, where the car becomes an extension of the mind through the curves and chicanes.

As the car begins to feel at ease gliding effortlessly through historic parts of the course another, more powerful, force enters the fray as Mother Nature calls upon all of her strength to cast sun, cloud, wind and rain into the dramatic opera. Responding. Reacting. Realising that this is all part of the test. Can the driver adapt and overcome to these powerful elements as the car speeds through treacherous rain on one side of the course to be met by dry conditions in another part?

Day becomes dusk. Dusk gently dissolves into night wrapping it’s cold arms around the circuit as the cars take on a new existence of life. The headlights flash at every turn, brake discs glowing hot in the cold night praying for morning to arrive, a step closer to that final chapter.

The field of gladiators dwindles, some temporarily but for others it is the end of the emotional journey.

On the horizon the first signs of daylight begin to appear as the sun rises to bring the start of a new day to this epic battle of endurance and speed. Drivers on the limit for every second of every minute of every hour.

There are no losers, not in this story, just the chosen men and women taking a journey into a world that few will ever experience. The crowd are roaring with delight, gasping at horrific crashes and applauding every driver that passes their vantage point. It is a distant respect of honour.

The excitement building to a crescendo of tears, laughter and sadness. To be victorious in unfavourable circumstances, humble in the disappointment of defeat and sombre at the loss of those who never returned from the journey.

Fireworks exploding along the grid as the hero crosses the line with the cast of equal heroes parading behind, every single one playing their part to perfection in this epic tale.

It is remembering why they do this, the reason that every single driver gambles with their life on every stretch of tarmac around this historic circuit and never forgetting that within a second everything can change.

That is the spirit of Le Mans.

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

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