Safety first

Le Mans circuit to modify its famous Porsche curves

The Porsche Curves stand up there with the Esses and Tertre Rouge, the Mulsanne Straight, and the right and the left-hander at Indianapolis as an iconic sequence around the 8.47-mile Circuit de la Sarthe at Le Mans. Some are arguing that the completion of a round of safety upgrades at the four-corner section of permanent track created back in 1972 has robbed them of some of their challenge and much of their character. 

The hemmed-in nature of the track, with unyielding walls on either side, helped give the Porsche Curves a flavour of their own. They were traditionally corners in which the best – and perhaps bravest – drivers excelled.

Critics of the changes argue that a bit of what makes Le Mans unique has been eroded. The track was opened up on the outside of the final right-hander for last year’s 24 Hours and the process has now been completed with the addition of new asphalt run-off on the inside for this year.

The character of the final right will inevitably change, but the powers that be at the Automobile Club de l’Ouest argue that improving the safety features around the existing layout was preferable to the alternative. That might have involved a wholesale rejig of the Porsche Curves or, perish the thought, the addition of a chicane.

They point out that the Porsche Curves have survived the latest safety improvements with their route intact. The corners themselves haven’t changed. We should be thankful for that.