Le Mans 24-Hour Race
The two basic types of tickets available for public enclosures at the Le Mans 24-Hour classic are Enceintes des Virages (about £12) and Enceintes Generales (about £25), both of which are valid for the whole week.
The former will allow you into Tertre Rouge, Mulsanne and Arnage, but not onto the pit-straight or into the ‘village’, the paddock and pits balcony during practice. The latter allows free access to all public enclosures, including the paddock, pits balcony and grandstands (tribunes) except the Citroen stand, during practice.
Unless you have already taken steps, it is too late to obtain tribune tickets, though there is a chance that one or two seats in the smaller Wimille and Singher-Durand stands at the extreme end of the pit-straight might still be available on a first-come first-served basis. These are only obtainable from ‘Service de Location’, on the ground floor of the Citroen tribune, as are any available reserved parking spaces, stickers and race posters.
Even if you can only afford the most basic admission ticket, all enclosures give excellent viewing opportunities, so tribune tickets are really of little importance. They do, however, guarantee a superb view of what is still one of the most stirring sights in motor racing – the build up to and start of the Le Mans 24 Hours.
With the advent of ‘Radio Le Mans’ in 1987, the information service to the English-speaking spectators took a quantum leap forward. You would be well advised to go armed with an FM portable radio to take advantage of this service.
Even if you speak French, the public address system is largely inaudible at most times, but if you go into the foyer of the Citroen tribune or the ACO office in the ‘village’, there are Minitel (similar to our Prestel service) terminals for public use which give regularly updated information on the race classification and retirements.
In addition, a large number of monitors in the enclosures carry pictures from the French television coverage throughout the race, even when it is not actually on the air.
The following areas are easily accessible on foot from the ‘village’ and the main administrative centres.
Pits and Start/Finish Area
Even without tribune ticket, the banked and terraced enclosures below the stands provide a good view. If you cannot bear the crush, you can watch the start of the race from other points in the immediate vicinity, such as the Dunlop and Ford Chicanes or the Esses.
Dunlop Chicane and Bridge
Formerly known as the Dunlop Curve, the Dunlop Chicane was built to slow the cars as they crest the rise under the bridge. This is also one of the best places to watch at the start.
The Esses and Tetre Rouge/em>
You cannot go wrong anywhere here – fine views from the spectator banking predominate, particularly on the outside of the track. Watching the start from here allows you to see one of the classic spectacles of motor racing, as the field storms over the brow of the hill under the Dunlop Bridge and streams out into the country.
One of the best areas to watch the action during the hours of darkness and during practice sessions is from the bridge all the way down to the start of the Mulsanne Straight at Tertre Rouge.
‘Technical Section’ towards White House
A good place to watch the faster cars jinking past slower traffic is what is known as the ‘technical section’, further back down the course towards White House. Unfortunately most of this section is lined with high fencing. ‘White House’ exists only in name now.
You get a good impression of who is really trying and who is soft-pedalling, as the drivers accelerate out of this corner and down the pit-straight.
The area adjacent to the Ford Chicane offers the best views of the end of the race, but anywhere on the pit-straight is a good place to be as the casualties which have been waiting in the pit-land stagger breathlessly back onto the track at 2.55pm to complete the last lap.
More distant spectator areas require some kind of transport for access from the main roads outside the circuit, usually with a walk at the other end.
About one third of the way down the Straight the Restaurant du 24 Heures, a great favourite of British fans, stands hard by the track. To gain access during any track activity, you have to prove to the police that you have an advance booking for a meal there. Access is from the D142 Le Mans-Ruaudin road, just south of Le Gue des Auges.
Le Ferme de Mulsanne restaurant is less well known but offers a far superior vantage point. Situated on the outside of the kink, it is reached by a narrow track off the D140 Ruaudin-Mulsanne road and is well sign-posted. The viewing area stands on private land, so the restaurant charges FF15 (about £1.50) for access – though you do get a free drink from the bar! During the race, however, you cannot get to the restaurant unless you can prove an advance booking.
Reprofiled last year, the corner remains a real test of a driver’s nerve and his car’s braking system. The spectator embankments opposite give very good views of the whole corner. Access is clearly marked through Mulsanne village following the Virage Mulsanne signs.
Indianapolis and Arnage
Indianapolis is a double bend, a fast right and tight second-gear left, which is quickly followed by the slowest corner at Sarthe – Arnage. Viewing is excellent: to get there simply follow the signs from all directions marked Virage Arnage. Parking (which is free) is near the entrance to the enclosure. IB