Through the years at the 24 Heures du Mans (this is my 13th consecutive mid-June journey to the event), I’ve found that the busyness of the days leading to the twice-around-the-clock race is back-loaded. Mornings are relatively free of stress and provide ample time to catch up. Afternoons and evenings are all hustle and bustle, and this year is proving to be the same as ever…
During the next several days leading to the world’s premier endurance race, I’ll attempt to post some sort of regular “diary” of the goings on. Standard news coverage doesn’t always convey the “feel” of the event and the “character” of the track, so I’ll endeavor to do a bit of that here.
The activities for the week progress something like this:
Sunday: Scrutineering (technical inspection)
Tuesday: Preparation, Autograph Session
Friday: Driver Parade
Team Felbermayr Proton unloads a GT3 RSR in Le Mans’ city center. Photo by Bob Chapman/AutosportImage.com
The spectacle of Le Mans becomes immediately apparent with scrutineering. The competing cars are loaded onto haulers and transported from the circuit to Le Mans’ city center, where they are thoroughly inspected at two stations.
Flying Lizard Motorsports’ GTE-Am entry, a 2011 GT3 RSR, is inspected. Photo by Bob Chapman/AutosportImage.com
As I write this entry, before the autograph session, scrutineering has completed. Fifty-six cars went through the process – 55 cars classified for the race, one car (Nissan Delta Wing) entered as a technological display. Of the 56, seven Porsches across five teams and two classes passed inspection. GTE-Pro entrants run 2012-spec 911 GT3 RSRs; two are here. GTE-Am(ateur) entrants run 2011-spec RSRs; five are here. After scrutineering, the teams are photographed.
Team Felbermayr Proton is fielding two RSRs. The one on the left (#88) is a 2011 GT3 RSR in GTE-Am. On the right (#77) is the team’s GTE-Pro category 2012 GT3 RSR. Photo by Bob Chapman/AutosportImage.com
All of this happens in front of thousands of fans who flood the area. After passing through the drivers’ administrative check, first-time Le Mans competitor Bret Curtis (Prospeed RSR, GTE-Am) surveys the scene and remarks: “So this is only scrutineering, and I already feel like this is the biggest racing event I’ve been to. [The full magnitude] hasn’t really hit me yet, but when you see the lengths they go to, just for scrutineering, you realize this is really a big deal.”
It certainly is, as most motorsport journalists list the event in the same breath as the Grand Prix of Monaco, the Indianapolis 500, and the Daytona 500 in the world of automobile racing. And plenty place it before those three.
We’ve been told that this will be the only year that Porsche runs the 2012 body style, so we’re left wondering if this year marks the end of the 997 GT3 RSR’s racing life…and what’s next, exactly.
Photos by Bob Chapman/AutosportImage.com