Le Mans: campingby Richard Webb on 29th December 2016
Part three of the guide to Le Mans, Richard Webb of Travel Destinations looks at the camping options
Camping is a tradition at Le Mans. If you want to experience all that the 24 Hours has to offer then staying at the track is the best way to do it. No question. Often camping is a necessity, as well, as more than 250,000 spectators descend on the town during Le Mans week and there just aren’t enough rooms to go around. Supply and demand means that any rooms that are available are expensive and are often snapped up by corporate bookings and never go on sale to the general public. So camping it is.
Travel Destinations has many customers that would never camp at any other time of the year, but for Le Mans it is just accepted. But then there are different types of camping available, too, so it is very important to make the right choice of campsite at the circuit. The difficulty is that everyone will have a different opinion depending on their experiences during their stay. We speak to thousands of Le Mans customers every year, and some will say their campsite is the best place and book again, while others in the same campsite will choose a different one for the next year. This is one of the reasons why we speak to every customer, we can talk to them to find out their needs and requests and then discuss the best options available.
The majority of the camping areas at the track are run by the circuit (the ACO). Thousands of people camp in each area year after year. We describe it as a motor racing Glastonbury, although there are twice as many people at Le Mans. Although there are lots of different areas, there are some things they all have in common. Each camping plot will give a seven-metre by five-metre area. This will need to accommodate both a vehicle and tents. Each campsite will also provide shower and toilet blocks, but as with any event like this expect them to be very busy at peak times.
Each campsite has a name and they are different prices depending on the size and location. As a rule of thumb the closer the campsite is to the start/finish straight the more expensive it will be. There are always exceptions, but that is the general rule. Perhaps the most popular circuit-run campsites are Maison Blanche, Houx & Tertre Rouge. Maison Blanche borders the track just before the Ford Chicane. It has been much reduced in recent years with the building of the new Porsche Experience Centre but it remains popular. Houx is a larger campsite in the centre of the infield. It is also a short walk to the village and the start line. Perhaps its most notable point is that Houx is the only campsite that offers access to electricity. Tertre Rouge is located adjacent to the track at the northern end of the circuit just beyond the Dunlop Bridge. It is a small campsite that looks down on the track, which makes it very popular. These campsites will often sell out long in advance of the race.
Beyond these three campsites are other areas such as Houx Annexe, Blue Nord and Blue Sud. Although these campsites offer similar facilities to the first three (except electricity) they are a bit further to walk to the village or start line, so therefore they aren’t as expensive. Each of these campsites will give a numbered pitch, so these are popular with campers who may be arriving later in the week as they won’t have to search for a spot. The biggest circuit-run campsite is called Beausejour. This campsite is located on the infield, with the closest part of the track being the Porsche Curves. Pitches aren’t numbered so arriving early is recommended if you want to be near the entrance. Even then a walk from the Beausejour campsite to the start line will take about 30 minutes, so bring your walking shoes with you. The campsite as huge with thousands of pitches, so usually this is the last area to sell out.
There are two other circuit-run campsites that are further away from the start line than Beausejour. Both Arnage and Mulsanne campsites are located on corners and offer great views. However, they are beyond walking distance from the rest of the circuit so new visitors will need to be careful as they can be quite isolated. These areas can be popular with regular visitors that don’t mind being away from the main areas of the circuit.
So far we have only mentioned the circuit run campsites on the track. These are cheap and cheerful, but offer little in the way of facilities and security. However, there are alternatives for those people who wish to stay on circuit but would like a bit more for their money. Private campsites will offer a range of extra facilities usually including 24-hour security, private showers and toilets as well as food and drinks on-site. Even then there are differences between what each company can offer. Some private campsites are located within the ACO public areas, but are fenced off to keep them private. Others are located trackside and have no neighbours at all, so it is important to understand exactly what you are buying.
Travel Destinations was actually the first company to introduce private camping more than 10 years ago. Our private campsite at the Porsche Curves has increased in area and capacity since then but still offers the extra security, serviced showers and toilets as well as our popular marquee where our bar and food outlet can be found. It is also where we have our TV screens and evening entertainment, so it is a real social hub. Our Porsche Curves campsite also has the only private viewing bank at the circuit, so our guests can get a unique view of the race.
For those that don’t enjoy camping, Travel Destinations has added Glamping and Flexotels to the on-circuit choices. Glamping is still under canvas, but the large pre-erected tents come with carpet and beds, so you don’t need to have any equipment. Similarly, the Travel Destinations Flexotel Village provides pop-up hotel rooms in the centre of the circuit so that you can return to your own bedroom and a proper bed each night. The height of luxury at Le Mans.
By their nature all private areas at the circuit are going to be limited in space and more expensive than the large circuit-run campsites, but it is important to note that the private campsites will sell out the quickest. It is always important to book early, as it is unlikely that there is going to be much availability as the race gets closer.
Top tips for Camping at Le Mans are:
- There are lots of options so it is important to do your research or speak to an official agent before you make your booking.
- Consider the distance from the campsite to the track as you will be doing a lot of walking
- Think about what you want from your experience. Is cost the priority or would you prefer security or luxury?
Travel Destinations is the largest UK Tour Operator to Le Mans. Travel Destinations is an officially appointed agency for Le Mans and is a fully bonded ABTA and ATOL tour operator.
Visit www.lemansrace.com for more details or call 0844 873 0203.