LYou have arrived in Le Mans and are eagerly anticipating the 16:00 start on Saturday. For many, Le Mans starts way before Saturday afternoon and below we outline some things you might like to do to derive maximum enjoyment from your weekend, all in no particular order.
1. Thursday Night - Qualifying
Thursday night is Qualifying Night in Le Mans - racing goes on until the small hours and the locals come out in force. It has a slightly different feel to the rest of the weekend and a Thursday arrival is recommended for this reason. Additionally, Arnage village has always been known for antic and lively behaviour - well worth a meal and / or beers on Thursday and Friday nights.
2. Friday - There is no action on the circuit but plenty to do such as...
- the Classic British Welcome in St Saturnin, Le Mans north. This event is an annual event and features a different marque each year, famour drivers, classic cars and modern sports cars. It has a great atmosphere - very British - with live bands and plenty of food. Free parking.
- Pit Lane Walk - the pits are open all day and it is free. Friday is a ‘rest day’ for the teams and drivers and the ACO open the pit lane to allow the spectators to get as close as possible to the cars and garages. All viewing is from behind a fence but you will not get any closer to the cars at Le Mans than this! The Pit Lane is open from 10:00 to 20:00.
- Drive round the circuit from Terte Rouge / Antares (10:00 - 20:00) until you are diverted off at the Porsche Curves
- Mulsanne Corner "Virage de Mulsanne" between 09:00 - 16:00. Track party and music on the circuit from M Corner up towards Indianapolis
- Drivers Parade (Parade des Pilots) It takes place on Friday evening between 17:00 and 18:30 in the centre Le Mans town. All the drivers parade historic open top cars as spectators line the streets of Le Mans and enjoy this festival atmosphere. Additionally, there are the usual race team girls and marching bands and this is also a good opportunity to obtain driver autographs. This parade is very popular and very busy. Best not to go by car unless you're very early - instead take the tram and enjoy a beer or two after the parade has finished.
3. Concerts & Fair
With a general entrance ticket in your hand, this also allows you access the concerts on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday nights. Don't underestimate this perk - recent years have seen Earth Wind & Fire and Jamiroquai feature.
4. Viewing with Dinner
If you fancy a silver service lunch or dinner while watching the racing, head to the Panoramic Restaurant; there is also an inviting open air terrace above the circuit with a great view of the pit lane exit. There is a cash bar; champagne, sun and racing create a wonderful mix. Further details at www.onsite-events.com/lemans-hospitality.html
5. Explore the Circuit
Probably the best grandstand seat for the enthusiast is the Durand Grandstand. It has a great view of the start finish but, if you are staying up late, under the grandstand is an area with TVs and refreshments to keep you going through the night.
Even if you have a grandstand seat for the weekend, we do recommend that you view from different areas of the circuit to experience the racing at its best. Below is a guide to some of the best viewing points around the circuit:
Start / Finish Straight: If you don’t have a grandstand seat, it is still possible to view the race from the crowded concrete steps in front of the stands. Once the race has finished, there is access to the circuit for the trophy presentations.
Dunlop: The Dunlop Esses invariably provides really good race action. The most popular areas are either in front of the grandstand on the outside of the track or on the opposite side at the bottom of the hill.
Tertre Rouge: This part of the circuit has been changed a fair bit in recent years and consequently is now more spectator friendly. Grassy banks provide decent circuit views both at the Esses and the corner itself. There is also a large screen.
Mulsanne Straight: Spectating along the Mulsanne Straight is forbidden; however it is possible to get close to the action at the Auberge des Hunaudieres and Shanghai des 24 Heures restaurants or the Hotel Arbor. These areas can really only be accessed by car and parking is invariably charged. Viewing is good but usually through fencing.
Mulsanne Corner: The braking area at the Mulsanne Corner always provides great viewing, particularly at night. You can also view the difference in acceleration in the various categories of car. The section between Mulsanne and Indianapolis is the fastest on the circuit. Expect to pay for parking here or hop on the free bus from the main entrance or from the Porsche Curves roundabout.
Arnage Corner: This corner is a must see - the sharp right hand turn invites action! There is a short walk to a viewing bank at Indianapolis. Much like the Mulsanne corner, there is now a charge for parking so it is worth using the free bus transfer from the main entrance or from the Porsche Curves roundabout.
Porsche Curves: Commonly referred to as the drivers’ favourite part of the circuit due to the speed and accuracy required. The public viewing area inside the Curves is accessed through the Beausejour campsite and it provides superb views of the sweeping curves.
Ford Chicane: Close up views are possible from this section as the cars accelerate towards the Start / Finish Straight. If you don’t have a grandstand ticket, then the best views can be found either in front of the stand or from the grass banking near the Maison Blanche campsite.