One of the three crown jewels of the motorsport calendar, the Le Mans 24 Hours needs to be a great spectacle but also a world leader in driver safety. Only a few small changes have been made but the driver’s fear that the thrill of Le Mans could be put in danger if too many more changes are made.
Le Mans is an old school track for proper drivers. If you make one mistake then you will more than likely end up in a concrete wall — or if your name is Mark Webber then you will find new and interesting ways to take off and flip your Mercedes into the tree. Google Webber’s 1999 Le Mans effort for more information.
The point I’m trying to make is that it is the closeness of the walls and the speed that you rush past them that gives the thrill. One of the biggest thrills comes at the Porsche Curves but, much to the displeasure of multiple drivers, this is where the changes have been made with the runoff area being extended. This lessens the penalty of making a mistake but Vincent Beaumesnil, sporting director of the Automobile Clube de l’Oust believes that the change was the best option available.
“The Porsche Curves are one of the most famous sections of track where we have cars going at 250km/h between two walls,” Beaumesnil told Motorsport.com.
“One way to manage that situation would be to install a chicane, but that is a no-go for us. We want to keep the speed because it is part of the character of Le Mans, and this is a good compromise.”
Following Sunday’s official pre-race test, it is safe to say that the drivers and organisers don’t quite see eye to eye on this one. The speeds involved at this particular part of the track mean that, should a driver make a small error, it will go unpunished but a mechanical failure will still result in a heavy shunt.
“It is safer, I guess, but if the trend is continued it will be like driving through a parking lot with nothing around you,” said three-time winner Andre Lotterer.
“The Porsche Curves have always been one of the most iconic places at Le Mans and this is going to make it a little bit less thrilling. I think we have to be careful what we do this track”
Jan Magnussen, former Formula One driver and farther to Haas driver Kevin, added, “I’m not necessary a fan of moving the walls and the barriers further away,” he said. “If you move them miles away, this track becomes like any Formula 1 circuit and anyone can be fast.”