The Race and the Resources
Even the most famous of events have suffered during the pandemic. In the case of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, some teams have opted out of competing in this year’s race, among them the factory Porsche team (19 overall victories and 7 straight from 1981 to 1987), BMW, Corvette (everyone was looking forward to seeing the new mid-engine Corvette race but it was not to be). Each of these teams competed in the very tight LM GTE Pro category. In the top category LM P1, the overall winner is expected to come from either Rebellion Racing or Toyota Gazoo–these cars are both hybrids and this will be the last year they race at Le Mans. Next year, the top prototype class will be composed of hyper cars, a new technology that very few are familiar with. In the LM P2 the class winner (and possible overall winner since the LMP2 cars are quite quick and competitive) will no doubt be driving an Oreca–there are 17 entries in the class. The final class, LM GTE AM has 12 different Ferraris and 6 Porsches running in the class that combines talented amateurs with professionals. Click the link to familiarize with the teams and the cars they are running
You’re going to need to get an overview of the track. Please note that Le Mans is composed of both dedicated racing track and public roads. Click this link to see the circuit.
If you’re reading this, you are probably not following the race on television. Here’s a link to the live timing and scoring for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This is the most accurate way to see who’s leading, who’s challenging, and who’s out.
To put this year’s race into perspective, here links to some resources that you might find invaluable.
The Fine Print: Image embed courtesy of our friends at Getty Images, who have the photographic history of the 20th and 21st century on file. The image has not been altered in any way. We thank them for sharing. Text (c) 2017, 201, 2020 Donald Pierce.
Into The Night
“Night, the beloved. Night, when words fade and things come alive. When the destructive analysis of day is done, and all that is truly important becomes whole and sound again. When man reassembles his fragmentary self and grows with the calm of a tree.” ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Antoine de Saint-Exupery was the author of the Novella “The Little Prince”, the book used for my class textbook when I first learned French and a classic of literature. Saint-Exupery was a brilliant writer, an early and expert aviator in the days when flying meant that every journey in an airplane was hazardous to your health because of the lack of instruments (and radios, and GPS, and almost every modern flight assistance aid we take for granted today). St.-Ex learned to fly in the Military, was convinced to abandon that career by his financee and her family, but ultimately, after a tedious year or two at a desk job in Paris, he was back in the air, free and confident and soaring. He became one of the pioneers of international postal flight, working for AEROPOSTALE on the treacherous route between Toulouse and Dakar.
Saint-Exupery was a complicated, multi-dimensional man of accomplishment, unquestioned bravery, and literary elegance. While his best known book in America is “The Little Prince”, his true genius as a writer can be found in his books on aviation. Vol de Nuit (Night Flight), which recounted his adventures in Aeropostale, won the Prix Femina, a prestigious French literary award. Terre Des Hommes (Wind, Sand and Stars) another book on aviation, is considered a classic in aviation literature.
Flying at night and driving at speed, at night, have similar qualities and challenges. The territory, as familiar as it may be in the day, is different at night. Focus is directed by the path in front; there is much less room for error because the ability to see clearly, definitively into the distance is diminished. If there is an error, and the car or airplane goes out of control—even for a second—the situation that aviators call “unusual attitude” is all the more difficult to recover from.
And yet, deep into the night there is a comforting rhythm enjoyed by drivers and pilots. The consistent, reassuring sound of the engine. The timed ritual of the gear change or throttle increase (or decrease); the beauty of the flashes of light that rush by; the peace of speed at night on the Mulsanne straight, when you are the only car on the road and your headlights beam your destiny.
At this time in the race, the Zen of existence makes it appearance. You must not live in the future, you dare not live in the past. You must realize, accept, and be in the present. There is only this moment in the dark, only the next curve, the next braking zone, the next shift up or down to deal with you. If you will ever bond with a racing car, you will do it at night, when it is just the two of you, alone, at speed, at Le Mans, in the middle of the night. And it is all working and the welcome relief of light to some is an interruption of a dream for others.
The dark of night is giving way to the light of day and still the distance yet to go is daunting for the cars running at the 2020 24 Hours of Le Mans.
But the night has refreshed the course, the car, and the team.
And now the run for daylight begins.
The Fine Print: Image embed courtesy of our friends at GettyImages.com, who have the photographic history of the 20th and 21st century on file. This image has not been altered in any way. We thank them for sharing. Nightshift Sports is produced by Perception Engineering and The Media Bunker for The Nightshift, the World News Daily. Text copyright (c)2018, 2020 donald pierce.
The Dangers of Sunrise in Endurance Racing
The 24 Hours of Le Mans is currently in progress. The race started Saturday afternoon and will finish this afternoon(Sunday). The teams who have come through the night unscathed (and many did not) now face the daunting prospect that a third of the race is yet to be run. This piece was originally published as part of Nightshift Sports coverage of the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s just as relevant today because it addresses a specific time in a 24 hour endurance race, and not a specific race. Races are lost and fortunes are changed during the night at Le Mans; of particular note is the jeopardy cars find themselves in during the very early morning hours……
“In a 24 hour endurance race, it’s only 24 hours for the car. For the crew and drivers, it’s a minimum of 32 or 36 or even 48 hours.”–Miles Geauxbye
There is a trick that the night/day cycle plays on participants in around-the-clock, 24 hour endurance races.
It is called Sunrise and although the racers naturally feel that racing into the sunrise means the end of the race is very near, that is not the case.
The legendary 24 Hour races start in early afternoon, at 2:00 or 3:00 or 4:00PM and when a team makes it to sunrise–safely and still in the game–there is still approximately a third of the race to left to go. That’s a significant amount of time to continue racing, after both car and drivers and crew are exhausted.
Sunrise is a signal that, having made it through the night, you are now simultaneously required to do many things: turn up the wick to close strongly and keep it all together on the track and in the pits so nothing derails your run to the finish line.
Go fast, but don’t go recklessly.
Do your very best work on the track and off at the precise time of day at which you are the most compromised in terms of energy, attention, strength, focus, because you have been up all night and working longer than that.
Sunrise is a marker of progress but it’s also a false horizon: you might think you’re almost there, but you’re not.
You made to morning. Congratulations.
But a third of the race is yet to be run, and this is–like all of the race–yet another strategic point.
The next goal is to make it to twelve noon, the point at which –at Le Mans–you have three hours left.
And once you make it to twelve, you get to turn up the wick and race full blast all the way to the end of the race.
Enjoy the sunrise. But it’s not the natural end to the race, just the unnatural beginning of the end.
The Fine Print: Image embed courtesy of our friends at Getty Images, who have the photographic history of the 20th and 21st century on file. The image has not been altered in any way. We thank them for sharing. Text (c) 2017, 2018, 20 20 Donald Pierce.