Activities Available Off The Race Track At The 24h of Le Mans

Visiting a race is always a special event: you get to see and hear the cars in person, live in the hope to stumble upon your most favourite driver, meet other fans and enjoy the atmosphere. However, when it comes to a race event that spans over a whole week and the race itself lasts 24 hours, sooner of later, you are going to be itching to do anything off track as well.

Luckily, the ACO recognized this issue before it even became one, and thus a bigger "off-track" schedule has evolved to keep your spirits high. Aside from booze and croissants, the 24h of Le Mans has a neat programme built around the race track to keep you entertained:

The Ferris Wheel

... at Le Mans has become an iconic sight for fans. It is part of a fun fair that is open during the whole race week. In exchange of 8€, it takes you on a few good rounds in which you are able to watch the race track and area from above.

While you can do this during most of the day, personally I think that the best sight to behold is around dawn and during the night time. Furthermore, this is a very well known attraction, so you need the luck of the dumb to not stand in a long queue. Barb and I timed it just right by going on Thursday, instead of the weekend.

In case you think that a Ferris Wheel is a bit boring, there is also a metal ball in which you can sit while it flings you up in the air. Screams can be heard almost all the way across the track ...

Additional costs? 8€
Opening Times? During the whole week
Best time to do it? nighttime - during the qualifying to avoid long queues.

Musée des 24 Heures du Mans

The 24 Hours of Le Mans Museum is another great way to pass the time and get a bit of distance between the hustle on the track and you. It is situated right next to the main entrance of the track, and the cost of the museum is included in your general access ticket. Thus, there are no additional costs.

Inside you will be met by beautiful old cars, information about the development of the track itself, and the history surrounding the race. It is a great place to pick up on information and learn more about the race itself. A more detailed article about this museum is available here.

However, when I walked past during the weekend, the queues had grown from none to A Lot. Thus, I suggest going during the weekdays, to avoid any mayor crowd that could make you uncomfortable, walk into your photos or shove you along before you are finished ogling at an old Porsche.

Additional cost? None.
Opening times? 10 AM - 7 PM, all week
Best time to go there? During the weekdays

Pit + Track walk 

Since Friday is rest day in Le Mans, the ACO decided to open the paddock and track to the general public. While in any other motorsport series such a feature would cost you extra cash, in Le Mans, you can access it as long as you can access the main event itself. Meaning, General Access is your way to go.

The queues are quite lengthy, even if you come in early. In order to avoid an over-crowded pit and track, the first few hours people are let into the area in bigger groups. Later the gates remain open and you can walk in as you please. You are not allowed to walk into the garages, the gravel pit of shame, past Dunlop Bridge, and the start/finish straight.

Instead you get to ogle inside the garages and watch the crews going after their work. The trophy is also standing on the steps, so be ready to take a few shots. And yes, you are allowed to take as many photos as you like.

After walking down the pit straight, you are entering the track. The track is open until Dunlop Bridge, since it is almost impossible to keep 12k of road - some of which are public (!)  roads- open for people to walk around. This is where the people thin out and you are able to take photos of the curbs and selfies in front of Dunlop. Furthermore, there is a  display of future and old Le Mans race cars.

I must admit, that this had been one of my favourite experiences. It provided a great way to soak in the atmosphere and get a feeling of the track itself in a way that sitting in a chair would not allow. After all, you get to walk on the race track! Feel the asphalt, see the skid marks, feel the incline and touch the gravel! 

On top of this, usually such experiences cost money - the ELMS takes 10€ from you, any other racing series is not affordable - while this is free for everyone.

Additional cost? None.
Opening times? Friday from 10 AM until 6:30 PM
Best time to go there? Before midday.

Driver's Parade

This is another Friday experience. Each year the city centre of Le Mans is host to the driver's parade. It starts around 4 PM. During the parade, you are able to see your favourite drivers get chauffeured past you in old luxuary cars while music blares. Furthermore, they often give away goodies, and fans closest to the barriers have a chance to grab an autograph.

While this sounds like an amazing opportunity, it is fraught with a few difficulties. Being part of the parade is free but everyone has to get their by their own devices. As it is in the city centre - and Le Mans is no village - parking is a challenge, and even more of the area is blocked off due to the parade. So public transport it is, and while there is a tram station about 1km from the entrance of the track, the circuit de la Sarthe is at the outer edge of the city.

Of course, it is a highlight and a great event. Furthermore, after your track walk you can squeeze this bit into your schedule and get a look at the cathedral as well.

Additional cost? Public transport tickets.
Opening times? Friday at 4 PM
Best time to go there? an hour earlier

As you can see, the 24 Hours of Le Mans offer much more than a simple race. Instead there is action "on and off track" as they tend to say. 

P.S.: This article was written pre-corona. I am sure that all these things are going to be available once visitors are admitted again. Until then, wear a mask and wash your hands. 

Post a Comment

Copyright © floralcars.