Just over three and a half miles of public road. A flat-out blast lasting not much more than a minute. A place where the fastest cars reached 200mph and beyond. Legends were born here, and brave men died here. It is, of course, the Mulsanne Straight, a stretch of track that remains at the heart of the mystique of Le Mans 30 years on from its adulteration with a pair of chicanes.
The Ligne droite des Hunaudières as it is correctly known – it’s only called the Mulsanne in the English-speaking world – has been a constant at the Le Mans 24 Hours since the inauguration of the great race in 1923. It might have been cut into three in 1990, but the straight still plays a major part in distinguishing the eight and a half miles of the Circuit de la Sarthe from every other race circuit in the world.
This stretch of road between the cities of Le Mans and Tours – formerly the RN138 but now the D338 after the completion of the nearby A28 motorway – once dominated the thinking of everyone going to the race. “Le Mans meant the long straight in the 1970s,” says former Porsche engineer Norbert Singer, who led the design of a line of Le Mans winners from the 935 to the 911 GT1-98. “When you heard the words ‘Le Mans’ or ‘24 Hours’, you immediately thought ‘Mulsanne’.”