I will try to paint a picture with words for you. Then leave you with no words and just a lot of pictures to try and describe my week at Le Mans.
It’s 7:02 pm on Thursday afternoon, June 13. I have been holding onto my good friend and ace snapper, Camden Thasher’s waist for the last 20 minutes as we trundle out into the French countryside on a scooter. With a track this massive, that uses mostly public roads, you have to drive miles out of the way, to get to where you want. We finally arrive at our destination, a fast section of the track between Mulsanne corner and Indianapolis, known as “the kink”. The birds are chirping and the forest is alive around us. The tall pines are quietly blowing in the breeze as the 7pm qualifying session gets underway. Miles and miles away, the cars are rolling onto to the track. A slight buzzing sound turns to a ever louder roar as the field of 56 begins to work it’s way around the circuit. Then at over 200 miles per hour, one by one, the cars roar, scream, rumble and whisper past. Each blasting a different note into the French forest. It is amazing. I could stand there all day watching and listening. The speed they come past is truly staggering. There is nothing but a small armco and a forest at your back to protect you should the worst happen. It is magic. For 83 years, cars have run this race and it is like nothing else on Earth.
I have now covered quite a bit of racing over the last 3 years since I went head first into this career as a motorsport photographer. I have visited special tracks and been asked to cover special races, but Le Mans, and the 8.5 mile Circuit de la Sarthe is like nothing I have ever seen or experienced. It is a relic in a modern world of runoffs, catch fences and red zones. Sure, it has plenty of all of those things, but it is different at Le Mans. The tenacity of the racing, the fever of the crowd, all there to see who is crowed king of this endurance racing classic, it is truly unique and very special in the sporting world. Walk around the grounds on race week and you can feel the level of excitement building. There are few races left on Earth that give you that sensation of racing euphoria. It must be seen and experienced and smelled to be believed.
At 3:00pm on Sunday, after the race had ended, and the cars were slowly crossing the finish line like a procession of walking wounded covered in dirt and grime and rubber and flame marks from burning exhaust gases, I was left in a state of exhaustion. A 4o hour work day with only a very brief nap on Sunday mid morning will do that to you. But Le Mans is rewarding. Looking back through these images and the images I made for Nismo with my two teammates leave nothing but a smile on my face. Good memories with good friends watching the greatest most intense racing on Earth.
I cannot give enough thanks and praise to the people who helped me through this race week. Patrick, Chris, James, Laurent, Drew, Rebecca, Camden, Brecht, Rick, Brian, Regis the ACO media center staff, the marshals and fans and most especially the people at Nismo. It was an incredible experience. One I hope to repeat again in the future.
To see more images, or search for images, please visit my archive.
And make sure you check out the blog covering Nismo’s return to La Sarthe as well….