Category Archives: Circuit de la Sarthe Le Mans

Circuit de la Sarthe, Le Mans, France

2015 Le Mans 24h Spotter Guide by Andy Blackmore available for download

Andy Blackmore has made the 2015 Le Mans 24h spotter guide available for download well ahead of the event for those of you attending, watching remotely or marshaling the event to get familiarized with.

Andy’s spotter guides are my absolutely favorite, and even though I won’t be attending the event, I can’t help but recommend others to check out his work for themselves:

spotterguides.com andy blackmore le mans 24h 2015

The level of detail is outstanding as usual, and here’s the breakdown what all that information means:

andy blackmore spotter guide nissan nismo gt-r le mans 24h 2015

 

Click the images above or visit Andy’s SpotterGuides.com for download directly: http://www.spotterguides.com/portfolio/15lm/

Thank you Andy for a job well done!

 

Le Mans 24h substitute = Lone Star Le Mans (Austin) + Petit Le Mans (Atlanta)

I don’t think one could truly substitute a race of Le Mans 24h magnitude. But one could certainly try.

Last year I wrote about trying to make a decision as to which European Endurance race I should marshal (click here: Which European endurance race do I pick?) I’m proud to say that the 24h of Nurburgring has materialized and 24h of Spa is within reach just over a month away. But Le Mans 24h, the race that Patrick Dempsey in a recent Jalopnik interview called the best endurance race in the world, has gotten away.

But I won’t despair. I’ve picked a few alternative races with the words: “Le Mans” in their titles a little closer to home. Among them are the Lone Star Le Mans at COTA in Texas and Petit Le Mans in Georgia at Road Atlanta. I also signed up for the Sahlen’s Six Hour at the Glen which is obviously at Watkins Glen in Upstate New York.

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WEC at COTA 2014

I have worked all of the races before and unlike the original classic in France where we work in shifts with plenty of downtime, I expect to work the entirety of each of the races for all of these events, cumulatively totaling more than the 24 hours of flat out racing. This is pretty exciting. There will be 6 hours of World Endurance Championship (WEC) at COTA supported by about 3 hours of IMSA Tudor United SportsCar Championship (TUSC), and 10 hours for the season finale IMSA TUSC at Road Atlanta. As well as 6 hours of IMSA TUSC at Watkins Glen International. 6+2:45+10+6=24h 45mins.

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old Daytona Prototype from Grand-Am series at Watkins Glen

What do I expect to see at each of the races?

WEC on US soil is always a great sight. I hope the Nissan Nismo GT-R LMP1 car makes an appearance at COTA after it’s debut at Le Mans France. I also hope that Ford brings the latest Ford GT race car to Texas after it’s debut in France. I’m sure the fields of cars will be far smaller in the US as they will be in France, but whatever shows up will be a welcome sight.

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The grid at Road Atlanta for Petit Le Mans

What will I miss at Le Mans?

The Aston Martin historics race featuring GT1, GT2, GT3 and GT4 race cars of various vintage that have raced before at Le Mans and apparently some of the Nurburgring 24h specials.

McLaren is also celebrating it’s 25th anniversary and there was talk of McLaren race car parade featuring some rare gems from their illustrious racing history. I wish I could have seen that.

But for the price of doing one event I get to do three, and that makes me quite happy. I have now organized the conclusion to my racing season this year, and I’m proud of what events I have added to my resume as a marshal. The planning for 2016 season is well underway and I’m hoping that both Dubai 24h and Bathurst 12h materialize.

Changes coming to Le Mans 24h Signaleurs & Commissaires

Le Mans 24h is like the Stig on Top Gear

Some say… Ah, nevermind.

You don’t choose to work Le Mans… Le Mans chooses you!

OK, enough. It is important to know that changes are coming to the way marshals are assigned to the various posts around the track, primarily the way the marshal posts are set up around the track. Apparently, gone are the days of crossing the track just to get to your station. Starting this year, the posts will be set up in such a way that would allow marshals to take their positions without crossing the hot track during the 24 hour race (an activity that was particularly exciting, especially at poste 106 bis where I was stationed because of the way the track crossings were executed, especially at night). That said, my old post #106 (or 10.6 km from Start line) is no more, it’s now Sector 28 to be controlled by one post chief on Driver’s Left and another on Driver’s Right.

So no more hot track crossing unless there is an incident.

In addition to that, there will be less response to incidents. The marshals will be primarily concerned with flagging an incident while rescue crews in vehicles will respond to them. This is again a bit of a departure from the way things were done, and more closely resembles what happens at the Tudor United SportsCar Series races in the US, and to some degree what has been done at the Nurburgring 24h event for ages. Hot pulls. Rescue truck response, etc. Is this a good thing? I don’t know. It took me by complete surprise for example when I responded to my first big Le Mans crash in 2012 along with my American partner. We pushed one car out back on track, but the second one was too mangled to continue. Both I and my partner were convinced that vehicle intervention would be needed as we were powerless to push the car to safety. But we were wrong. As our colleagues watching the race on TV in the marshal campground during their time off started rushing to our aid, soon there was no place for me to put my hands to help push the car. But push the car they did, for a good 100 meters to a cutout in the fence, where the vehicle remained until the end of the race. That was amazing! But apparently that is no more.

The ACO sent out a detailed description of the changes and the new station assignments that I won’t be sharing in this post. But for whomever is interested in the event I urge you to sign up now! Especially with the front engined and front wheel drive Nissan GT-R LMP1 car making it’s debut, and the 25th anniversary of McLaren taking to the track during the exhibition activities, 2015 would be an excellent year to participate. Sadly I won’t be there, but you have fun!

Some photos from my last two years at Le Mans:

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Le Mans 24, France 2013
Le Mans 24, France 2013

Media from 24h of Le Mans

Huge… absolutely massive thanks to my good buddy Julio, the Spanish marshal at Le Mans, who very generously snapped a few awesome shots while we were acting as spectators at Le Mans 2014. I had the pleasure of working on the Spanish team again at poste 106 and these guys treated me absolutely and genuinely well.

I would love an opportunity to work with Julio and his friends again and again whether at Le Mans or Spa 24h in the future.

But without any further ado, here are the pix:

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As you can see in the photos this year was definitely the year of the Porsche. So many classics on display. So many amazing cars I only wished I saw in action when they were racing similar Mercedes and BMW prototypes. We even got a private tour of the Porsche garage as a few of Julios mates work as engineers for the team. Fantastic experience for sure! Thanks again Julio….

Post Card from France, the 24 hours of Le Mans at the Circuit de la Sarthe

Greetings from the 82nd running of the 24 hours of Le Mans at the Circuit de la Sarthe in the beautiful French countryside two hours drive from Paris.

I mention Paris because we spent a beautiful two hour drive stuck in rush hour traffic trying to get out of the city on our way from Brussels with Pol. My Beligan friend that I met a year earlier at Le Mans was kind enough to offer me a ride from the airport and it was quite an adventure driving down. The trip normally takes about as much as I spent driving from New Jersey to Watkins Glen, just to put things in perspective. So all things considered Europeans are very lucky when it comes to motorsport with all the close proximity of amazing race tracks. Besides Le Mans we also visited Spa-Francochamps, Zolder and the Nordschleife at Nurburgring in Germany, but I will leave that for a follow up story.

This year Le Mans was amazing. Partly because I was much better prepared for it than the previous year. Partly also because I had managed my expectations and things went very smoothly and according to plan. The camping was great, the company was amazing, and we were very lucky again with several incidents taking place at our corner, including the Nissan ZEOD coming to a hault by us giving an opportunity to push something trackside.

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One of my favorite moments however was getting some outstanding interviews done for Marshal Cam, where to my surprise quite a few people were willing to participate. And my Marshal Cam patches were quite a hit, so I’ll be sure to do that again in the future.

All in all fantastic trip, and the first stop on my European Road Trip that also included the 24 hours of Nurburgring.

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The rebirth of a tradition: group photo. See if you can spot me?

Triple Endurance Road Trip debrief

It will definitely take more than one post to describe the most amazing trip I have taken to volunteer in recent memory, but I must start the story somewhere… so this is a very high level overview, a teaser if you will, of what happened. And why I would recommend the trip to anyone even remotely interested in motorsports and especially those marshaling!

This summer I was on a trip of a lifetime… an Endurance Marathon that involved the most famous races in the world, the most well known circuits and some of the most challenging sports car series out there. I am of course talking about the Le Mans 24 hours which is by far the biggest race in the world, period. The Nurburgring 24 hours which is perhaps the most famous racetrack in the world that is Nordschelife. And the Six hours at the Glen which proved to be one of the best experiences I had with the Tudor United SportsCar series though one that proved that the Balance of Performance is still out of whack but is getting better with every race, and endurance racing is alive and well in America.

I have also had a chance to visit a new country on my Euro Trip: Belgium and the fantastic cities of Brussels and Bruge. In fact the Road Trip took me through four countries: Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands; Four circuits including Circuit de la Sarthe, the Nordschleife, Nurburgring, and Spa-Francochamps and Zolder in Belgium as a tourist. I flagged the entirety of the six hour race at Watkins Glen followed by a six hour drive home which was awesome. It’s always a pleasure visiting the Seneca Lake region of Upstate New York especially when the home in New Jersey gets unbearably hot.

All in all the last three weeks of my life went by perfectly. I took a lot of pictures that I will be sharing with the readers. Quite a few videos which will undoubtedly get me in trouble. And interviewed some very experienced marshals that I will share with the world of racing enthusiasts on my Marshal Cam facebook page to recruit new volunteers. The three chapters of this story will be published shortly.

Enjoy the read, the photos and the videos!

Le Mans 24h teaser:

le mans 24h

Nurburgring 24h teaser:

nurburgring 24h

Six hours at the Glen unauthorized video:

six hour at the glen

Help send Chris to the 24 hours of Le Mans

I wanted to share my friend Chris Buccola’s kickstarter-like campaign to get enough donations to volunteer at the 24 hours of Le Mans this year.

This is a worthy cause because Chris has been going through some family issues of late and could use a trip to Europe to work a major race like Le Mans. Chris was also the culprit behind my planning of Le Mans & Nurburgring trips this summer so I’m sure he’d love to join me there.

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Chris is also friends with Matt McMurry and is offering an autographed hero card in return for your contribution. But instead of giving you a summary of what he needs I’ll copy and paste his original request below:

Help Send Chris to the 24 Hours of Le Mans

I have been selected to work the 24 Hours of Le Mans as a volunteer corner marshal. Few get this honored opportunity. Please help send me to France!
chris buccola

My name is Chris Buccola.  I have been involved with auto racing my entire life.  When I tell most people about my involvement with auto racing, particularly sports car racing, they assume I have been driving.   Actually, I have been involved with the aspects of racing that are not in the spotlight.  I am a corner/flag marshal.  This is a volunteer position, of which the only payment on most occasions is a sack lunch and cold beer at the end of the day.  Without people like me, the races cannot be run.

What I Do

As a marshal my responsibilities include, communicating with the drivers through various methods, but primarily with different colored flags that indicate course conditions, the presence of safety vehicles, and faster cars approaching from behind.   Marshals are also responsible for maintaining communication with race control and relaying information about any condition changes at our corner (turn).  Lastly, but most importantly, we are the first ones to respond whenever an incident occurs.  Marshaling is a role that I have been enjoying for nearly a decade.

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What is the 24 Hours of Le Mans?

The 24 Hours of Le Mans is like no other race, much less  any sporting event in the world.  The race takes place on mostly public roads through the French countryside over a 24 hour period, no matter what the weather conditions.  During the night drivers have only their headlights to rely on for illumination while they travel at speeds of 200+ mph.  There are multiple classes of cars that make up four different races within the overall race. The cars are driving at different speeds which adds to the excitement and creates a lot of passing.  Each car has a team of three drivers that take shifts behind the wheel.  Le Mans is the ultimate endurance challenge of man and machine.

Why this Year?

My goal to work at at Le Mans this year is heightened because of my long friendship with a now 16 year old driver named Matt McMurry who will be breaking a 50+ year record and become the youngest driver to ever race in the 24 hours of Le Mans.  I met Matt and his father, Chris McMurry, while I was attending college at Arizona State University.  Our paths crossed on the go-kart track and we all quickly became friends.  Watching Matt work his way up through the racing world to this pinnacle point in his career is something I have been privileged to be a part of and I would hate to miss this record breaking milestone.

Thanks to the support of Matt McMurry, anyone who contributes $25 or more will receive an autographed picture of Matt and his Nissan Powered-Zytek Z11SN P2 class Le Mans Prototype race car.  This is your chance to own a piece of racing history!

Matt McMurry Racing

Matt McMurry Racing Facebook

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Why I need your support.

Auto racing is extremely expensive, even for me to attend as a volunteer, as I get no monetary compensation for working.  Most of my expenses for this trip are associated with travel since the event is in France and I live the Chicagoland area.  My “hotel” accommodations, will be my one-man tent in the worker area at my turn/corner.  Nothing luxurious, but a sleeping bag is a welcome bed after a long day of chasing cars and waving flags.

Thank you in advance for listening to my plea and for any help you can offer.  I am grateful to each and every one of you. Any contribution is greatly appreciated, whether it is $1, $5 or more, every little bit helps.  If you choose to contribute $25 or more, you will receive an autographed picture “hero card,” from Matt McMurry.

So if you are in a position to contribute, I would encourage you to!

chris buccola

Link: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/help-send-chris-to-the-24-hours-of-le-mans#home

24 heuers du Mans

Au revoir France! Le Mans 24 was an incredible event. It was wet, it was sunny. It was sad and full of joy simultaneously. I learned new things, met new friends, and got to do a little intervention. Very impressed with the entire operation.

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PS. I learned of two new people that read my blog, one of them is pictured above: Julio from España. Hopefully he will chime in and make some posts about marshalling in spain and europe.

Bonjour Le Mans! Postcard from the 24h of Le Mans

Salut Le Mans!

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I am thrilled to participate in this little event.

I’m stationed at Poste 106 bis, between Arnage corner and Porsche Curves. So far we have had the Toyota Hybrid of Buemi visit on Wed and a Ferrari Challenge 458 caught on fire on Thu. Plenty of action.

For race day I will be on these shifts, from 6pm to 9pm, from 2am to 4am and from 9am to 12pm.

I love it so far! Making good friends with all the Brits, Frenchys, Chechs and Germans on my station. As well as a few Spaniards and a single American from VIR.