Le Mans 24H 2013 has come and gone and Virtual Motorpix was there for race week capturing the action and the stories behind the scenes. Check out our website for the latest photos. We will continue to put up more over the coming days. This year the event was unfortunately marred by the death of Aston Martin driver Allan Simonsen; many are still in shock following this incident.
The Le Mans 24H 2013 race was not short of drama, scrapes and incidents due in part to the very unpredictable weather, the unforeseen intervention of the French legal system and an endurance feat of a different kind.
The news broke on Wednesday that the two Lotus T128 cars (#31 & #32) had some of their components attached by the bailiffs, amongst the bits removed by the legal boys were such items as gearboxes, engines, suspension bits and steering wheels. The drama unfolded when two trucks entered the paddock and parked behind the two Lotus cars preventing them from being driven away. The story allegedly involved some internal financial wranglings between directors, but the unhappy state of affairs was reversed later in the day when the parts were returned and the cars participated in the qualifying session. Their sponsor’s wording of ‘No Balls No Game’ could have been rewritten to read ‘No Engine & Gearbox No Game’.
We caught the lovely #1 Audi R18 Lead Engineer Leena Gade elegantly vaulting the pit wall at Le Mans in an attempt to join her technician colleagues in the pit wall cubicle. This athletic incident was captured moments before the cars lined up for the first laps of Wednesday’s free practice session, also pictured here in what is a rather expensive traffic jam.
The Wednesday evening qualifying practice saw two further casualties in the #41 LMP2 Greaves Zytek Z11SN-Nissan, and the #66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari 458 Italia GTE Pro driven by Abdulaziz Al-Faisal. The Ferrari driver hopped out of the car and over the barrier and then waited for half an hour for the rescue truck to fetch him and the car. Al-Faisal admitted with a smile that he had just lost it in the corner, driver error, in the slightly damp conditions.
Not long after the first free practice session had got underway on the Wednesday (19 June), the #57 Krohn Ferrari left the track with owner/driver Tracy Krohn at the wheel. The car went straight at the first left corner of the Esses just after the Dunlop Bridge and travelling at 120 mph, the car slew sideways at first and eventually hit the barrier rear first at 80 mph causing massive damage to the car but fortunately Tracy Krohn got out unaided and the crew gave a sigh of relief when he gave the car a hefty kick, which actually meant that he was okay. To cut a 90 man-hour story short, team manager David Brown sourced a donor car from Italy, which was transported 1100 miles overnight to the circuit whereupon it was stripped and rebuilt with the surviving bits from the original car. In a marathon rebuild, the team managed to get the race car ready for the mandatory five laps at the end of qualifying practice on Thursday night. The car was qualified at the back of the field and during the race it clawed its way up the field but an accident just before midnight put an end to a very brave effort. A hearty well done to the team on getting the car to the race against all the odds.
The weather played a significant role on each day of practice, qualifying and in the race itself. The spins and off-course excursions were too many to mention them all here, but we have posted just a few here to illustrate the point. During one practice session, no less than three LMP cars took a wide arc through the sand at turn 1 cutting out turn 2 altogether and re-entering the circuit just ahead of the Dunlop Bridge. The #92 Porsche even had a turn in the sand when a braking point was missed, no damage was done fortunately.
Friday at Le Mans is traditionally a no-action day as the cars are garaged and worked on by the mechanics in preparation for the big race the next day. This means that there is plenty of PR activity and press conferences, and we caught this bevy of beauties being transported to a press conference in the cargo bay of a quad bike. To be frank, it is a quick and practical way of getting your promo people about efficiently in tight spaces, but getting out of the load bay in a pair of tight hot pants can be somewhat inelegant, but we feel you’ll agree this group made an excellent job of disembarking.
Then there are the Dutch. They come to Le Mans en masse every year and there is no mistaking them in their distinctive orange get-up, and even if you cannot see them, you can certainly hear them because they do not leave a pit garage until the person they want to see comes out to greet them, and they achieve this by collectively shouting out a name at the tops of their voices. In this case they homed in on the Strakka Racing girls, but they didn’t seem to mind the extra attention and managed a smile. I can’t imagine this happening in F1, the teams and drivers at Le Mans are so much more accessible than in other forms of racing, the whole spectacle really is for the family.
This year more than 1400 journalists from 42 countries were accredited representing 652 publishing outlets (excluding TV). There were 5.7 million connections made to the web TV channel, and the Le Mans website received 2.3 million visits during the race weekend alone while 370,000 tweets were made on the race. Officially 245,000 spectators attended events at the circuit during the week.
But Le Mans is about so much more than just racing, it’s about the colourful characters, the motorsport enthusiasts who travel from far and wide (like the couple I bumped into near Rouen en route to Le Mans, they were taking a nap in their car which had been suitably plastered up with stickers leaving you in no doubt as to where they were heading). The Le Mans 24H race is certainly my most favourite race as our regular readers will have noticed by now…