MARK’S LE MANS TOP 5
It’s one of the hardest motorsport events in the world and a huge test for man and machine. Here’s what makes Le Mans special for Mark:
Racing at night
It’s hard to describe the feeling of driving the car at Le Mans at night. It’s such a long lap, you’ve got so many things going on off-track – the Ferris wheel, the grandstands all lit up, the small campsites – you get a great sense of all the other things that are happening and the intensity is impressive. At night your senses are much more alive. Your visibility is less and you’re trying to lock on to different things for queuing. It’s very quiet in the car at night, it’s just you with the engine, the headlights and the instruments panel glowing in the cockpit. Of course there are plenty of other things of course there are plenty of other things we experience during the daylight hours when the majority of the racing is done but the sensation of driving a car at that speed (340kph) is incredibly special and unique.
It’s one of the hardest motorsport events in the world and for the team to execute a clean weekend is not easy. The sleep deprivation is massive. There are so many scenarios that get thrown at all the individuals like crazy meal times, adverse weather, challenges with the car and it’s special to see the spirit of the whole team trying to pull together to get the cars over the finish. The way people lift themselves for this event and the spirit is amazing. Over the course of the race a lot of things change and come on the radar unexpected so you need to be very good on the communication side. It’s a big test on the team. We are all tired and when you’re tired and knackered you are not working at your optimum so we have to be with each other as one.
When you look back at the history you think about the beautiful classic liveries and gorgeous racing cars. But, there are some really iconic locations at the track: Dunlop – obviously the first chicane that’s been there for so many decades, the Mulsanne straight, the Porsche curves.. these are all key signature areas of the track where you’ll have seen famous photos and footage of legendary drivers and manufacturers racing. You can completely still see the fabric of the history on that track and nothing has changed a huge amount which is a credit to the event. It’s kept its originality as best as it can in modern times and it’s one of the most famous car races in the world which has kept its legacy intact.
Of course also synonymous with Le Mans is the Steve McQueen movie of the same name which brought glamour and Hollywood to the sport. He was a handy driver and the film showed just what this event is all about.
There have been plenty of other beautiful and historic moments like the movie, a lot of very famous victories with Porsche and of course Audi have dominated a lot in the modern era.
Fans and Drivers parade
It’s a week-long party, you can see there is a huge influx of Europeans and fans from all over the world turning up for the event. It’s awesome that a lot of people drive there and use it as a big road trip. Le Mans is not a race where you turn up to just watch the race. People come there for camping, socialising with friends, having a drink over a barbeque and making a good spectacle of it. The atmosphere before the start is electrifying and a real special moment, there are close to 200,000 people around the track all watching the start. It’s a bit more relaxed during the night when they maybe grab some sleep and then they’re there again at the end. You see so many beautiful images of the Le Mans finishes and the fans are a huge component of that.
There’s obviously also the drivers parade in the city on Friday afternoon. I couldn’t believe the huge turnout last year. It’s a sea of fans kilometre after kilometre and the history and the passion for the race is completely obvious. They treat all the drivers and categories in the same way, the fans are proud we’ve come to race in their place. You’ve got all walks of life coming to spectate at the race, it’s so down to earth and that’s what I like about it.
Porsche and Le Mans
You only have to go through the history archives to see how much it means to them there. The famous Porsche badge which you see on cars and flags fits Le Mans like a glove – it’s almost their second home. They’ve had so much success there over the years. Porsche is such a global company and it’s great I’m now part of that. I’ve always loved the brand and to now race their racing cars is clearly a big highlight, particularly at Le Mans.
This year we will be flying the colours of the first Le Mans-winning car, the 917. When I first heard the idea that there were going to be some different colours for Le Mans, I was very excited. Timo gave me more detail about the Salzburg red and what it meant inside the company and its famous 1970 victory with the 917. It is a really nice link back to our brotherhood and our fellow drivers. I have a massive respect for the guys and what they achieved in that race and now we are sending them a message that we love what they did and we want to try and reinact that.
To date the 917 is still my favourite Porsche Le Mans-winning car – I still really do love it, it was beautiful.
Ed Millingtonon June 9, 2015 Reply
917 and Merc’s aerobatic models. Still can’t get my head around Peter Dumbreck’s flight.