The final part of the guide to planning Le Mans – where to watch
One of the great things about the 24 Hours of Le Mans is that there is plenty of time to watch the race from lots of different viewpoints. Some areas are restricted, some areas are grandstands and some areas are just grass banking or concrete steps, so it can be quite confusing when you first arrive at the circuit as to where you can and can’t watch from.
There are public viewing areas around the circuit, which cost no more than the general entrance ticket. These are mostly between the Porsche Curves area and the Tertre Rouge corner. The exceptions to this are the viewing areas at the Mulsanne and Arnage corners, which are further afield.
Perhaps the best place to begin is the start. This area is dominated by grandstands, which you will need a ticket for, but in front of the stands opposite the pit lane are concrete steps which anyone can access. Expect this area to be packed for the start and the finish, but during the race you will be able to find a spot to view from. You will be looking through a fence and the garages are usually obscured by the pit boxes, but it is definitely worth spending some time here to get a feel of the atmosphere and the energy from the pit lane once the race is underway. If you want to take photos and enjoy the race build up I would recommend purchasing a grandstand seat, though.
Up the hill from the start-finish straight is the Dunlop Bridge. There are two grandstands here, but there is plenty of public viewing too. This is a good spot for photography and there is a big screen opposite, so you can keep up with the action from elsewhere around the circuit. From here you can walk along the side of the track as the cars go through the curves and on to Tertre Rouge corner. The viewing at the corner was developed in recent years and is now excellent. There is a good grass bank on the inside of the corner (accessed by a foot tunnel under the track) that gives uninterrupted views of the braking zone. It’s well worth the walk.
The Mulsanne Straight is now a red-zone area, so that means restricted access and unless you are a VIP or have a hospitality pass you won’t be able to view here. There are a couple of restaurants on the outside of the track that border the Mulsanne Straight. However, they are difficult to get to and you should expect to pay to get a view. The Mulsanne straight is not the best place to view from anyway, it is difficult to get any perspective with the fencing in place, so unless you really must watch from there I would spend more time elsewhere.
It is not possible to walk from the north end of the circuit to the south, so to get to Mulsanne corner you can drive or use the circuit shuttle bus. Parking is no longer free, but the bus is, so I would opt for that during the race. I had great expectations the first time I went down to Mulsanne corner and I remember being disappointed because inevitably you are a bit further away from the track as there needs to be plenty of run-off. However, if you can stay for a while the chances of a car using that run-off area at some point are quite high, so if you want to see that type of action and the recovery then this is a good place to be.
The Arnage and Indianapolis corners are also accessed easily by the circuit shuttle bus. Just last year this viewing area was redeveloped to give better access to the Indianapolis section, and this has always been a favourite place of mine to view from. While the changes did feel a little strange last year, it is still a place I will be returning to becasue you are close to the action and, particularly at night, the atmosphere is electric.
The Porsche Curves is another good place to watch from. It will take about 25 minutes to walk from the start to this point on the track. Travel Destinations has a private viewing bank here, but there is also a public viewing area opposite. To reach the public viewing area you need to walk through part of the Beausejour campsite, so many people don’t bother, but really it is a rewarding walk. It is a quick part of the circuit and a real challenge for the drivers.
So, with all this public viewing, is a grandstand seat really necessary? The simple answer is no, they aren’t necessary, and in fact there are not enough seats for everyone to have one anyway. However, they can add to your Le Mans experience so they shouldn’t be discounted without due consideration. If you want to see the build-up and the start of the race, the public areas are going to be rammed. Iin the days of camera phones and selfie-sticks your view of the track is going to be obstructed. The only way around this is to reserve yourself a seat in the grandstands. These do sell out way before the race, so it is a decision that needs to be made early.
With the best will in the world, you are not going to sit in the same seat for 24 hours, so it perhaps best to think of your seat as a base, or somewhere to take the weight off your feet while you continue to follow the action. You can then spend time watching from elsewhere and walk around parts of the circuit knowing you can always return to your reserved seat. In reality, you only need to sit in your specified seat for the start and the finish. The rest of the time the stands will only be about a third full, so you can move around at your leisure.
Apart from the start-finish straight, you can also choose to have a grandstand seat on a curve. These would either be by the Dunlop Bridge or on the Ford Chicane before the start line. These will offer unobstructed views of the track with the added benefit of not being on a straight, overtaking and passing action is going to be more prevalent. However, you won’t be able to see the pit lane, garages or start-line from any of the curves. There is no right or wrong choice with regard to grandstand seats, so it is a case of weighing up price with the view and how much you think you will use it.
We are also frequently asked about hospitality at Le Mans. Hospitality is very expensive – think about how much food and drink you can eat in 24 hours! – so the best way of obtaining hospitality is to be invited. Not everyone has someone they know on a race team, so it may be worth investing some time at your local garage or showroom, as often these invites trickle down as an incentive or customer reward. You may have to buy a new car, but I’m presuming that you always want to do that anyway, and Le Mans is just an excuse… Otherwise you will have to pay for hospitality and that will cost in excess of £1,000. Expect this to give you behind-the-scenes tours, private shuttles, helicopter flights and access to restricted areas as well as food and drink with a good view of the track. Clearly this is not for everyone, but those who do take up the opportunity usually come back smiling. Some teams will sell hospitality via its website, but these offers can often be published quite late, after VIPs take up their options, so it is worth speaking with an official Le Mans ticket agent early to discuss their recommendations.
Ultimately, wherever you watch from and whichever option you choose, Le Mans is unique and you will love every minute.
Top tips for watching at Le Mans are:
Move around and try to watch from as many viewpoints as possible
If you want to see the start it is best to purchase a grandstand seat overlooking the pits
To make your Le Mans visit special ask your ticket agent about hospitality options and take your Le Mans experience to the next level.