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2015 Le Mans preview: Petrolhead's pilgrimage

2015-06-12 08:49

2015 LE MANS 24 HOURS: A motorsport-enthursiasts dream come true - 56 cars are set to compete in the 2015 Le Mans 24-hour race. Image: AFP/ Jean-Francois Monier

ALAN BALDWIN

LE MANS, France - Nobody could accuse Le Mans' organisers of over-selling the event.

The official website for the 24 hours sports car race  describes it, in advice aimed at British visitors, as "like a motor-racing Glastonbury (music) festival - noisy, dirty and smelly but fantastic fun."

If the sort of celebrities who frequent the Monaco Formula 1 grid would wrinkle their noses at the basic toilet facilities and crowded campsites, then no matter.

PACKED SARTHE CIRCUIT

In June 2015, the cathedral city in western France can claim legitimately to be hosting the biggest sporting event in the world.

The Sarthe circuit has been a pilgrimage for petrolheads since the 1920s - when the wealthy British 'Bentley Boys' won four years in a row - and this year a quarter-million people are expected.

Many of them, in what regulars only half-jokingly refer to as the biggest British invasion of France since the D-Day landings, will make the journey from the other side of the English Channel / La Manche.

Retired triple winner Allan McNish told Reuters: "When you get to Calais or Le Havre there's just a queue of British cars going to Le Mans, it's just a huge week out.

"It's a festival atmosphere. It's like a pilgrimage to go back every year. It's all the social side, like a rock festival, and the race just happens to be going on."

TOP AUTOMAKERS ON TRACK

With Porsche mounting a determined factory challenge to champion Audi, along with Toyota and Nissan, 2015 promises to be a classic.

The cars are the stars but many of the drivers will be familiar to F1 fans. Former Red Bull driver Mark Webber and current Force India racer Nico Hulkenberg are in the Porsche ranks while Alex Wurz and Britain's endurance world champion Anthony Davidson are with Toyota.

Tom Kristensen has retired but the Audi trio of Marcel Fassler, Andre Lotterer and Benoit Treluyer are chasing their fourth victory after winning in 2014.

McNish, a winner with Audi and Porsche, said: "I do think Le Mans is doing something right because it's not only attracting the manufacturers, which also attracts the drivers, but it's also attracting the fans.

"It has got something and it's building something. It doesn't want to challenge F1, and I don't think it should or can, but certainly it is the evolving market place.

"All of the things they have been building for quite a long period of time are actually starting to bear fruit and people are sitting up and taking notice."


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Read more on:    toyota  |  audi  |  porsche  |  france  |  motorsport  |  racing  |  le mans

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