Only eight riders ventured out for the test session
Jacques Villeneuve is reason number nine
#1. Feel awed by the start between earth and space
100 years ago the first flight by an aircraft on European soil took place on Les Hunaudières, and the 2008 Le Mans 24 Hours will commemorate this historic event. A replica of the 1908 Flyer will be towed down the pit straight by a car from Le Mans, a Léon Bollée.
On board will be French astronaut Jean-Loup Chrétien, American astronaut Mark Brown and Russian cosmonaut Vladimir Titov. They will give the start by waving the French flag at the same time as the residents in the International Orbiting Station, which will overfly Le Mans some 400 kms above the circuit!
#2. Thrill to the Battle of the Titans
The two major manufacturers in the running for victory have made huge investments: three Audi R10 TDI prototypes against three Peugeot 908 HDi FAPs in LM P1. This will be a real battle of the Titans like the famous duels Jaguar/Ferrari (1953 to 1958), Ford/Ferrari (1964-1969) and Porsche/Ferrari 1970-1971) of the past. Audi is out to continue its domination (7 victories so far including two with the diesel) while Peugeot dreams of toppling the Ingolstadt make at any price and scoring its first diesel victory after its two successes with the petrol-engined 905 (1992-1993). The whole world will be watching Audi and Peugeot. So why not you?
#3. Support the challengers
In more than 5000 kms racing anything can happen: this is why the privateers believe in their chances. Which will be the highest-placed petrol-engined prototype at the finish? Among the main contenders are Pescarolo Sport that has filled all the rostrum placings (3rd in 2007, 2nd in 2006 and 2005) except the no.1 spot, the very quick Charouz Team’s closed Lola-Aston Martin, the strikingly coloured Courage-Oreca (which, in the not too distant future, could have a major manufacturer’s engine under its bonnet!). Unless, of course, some of the LM P2s get involved in the fight at the front like one of the two Porsche Spyder RSs competing at Le Mans for the first time.
#4. Marvel at the F1 drivers
The Formula 1 drivers that Peugeot has chosen, Christian Klien, Franck Montagny, Jacques Villeneuve, Alexander Wurtz (the youngest winner of the Le Mans 24 Hours, 22 years old in 1966) and Ricardo Zonta total 393 grand prix and 32 Le Mans 24 Hours between them.
#5. See Olivier Panis’s career shift
Olivier Panis has 158 grand prix under his belt including a victory in Monaco in 1996. He is making his Le Mans debut at the age of 41 in one of the Courage-Orecas. As he says,» no driver can remain insensitive to the call of the Le Mans 24 Hours.” No lack of passion there!
#6. Remember the art cars!
After the cars decorated by famous artists (art cars) like Calder (BMW 3.0 CSL in 1975) and Arman (Venturi 600 LM in 1994) among others, the nos 5 and 6 Courage-Orecas livery is based on the work of the Dutch master of abstraction and colour Piet Mondrian.
#7. Celebrate Lola’s 50th birthday!
British make Lola will have 7 cars at the start to celebrate its 50th birthday. A nod to history or a sign? Aston Martin, the engine supplier to the Charouz team in LM P1, won the 24 Hours outright in 1959, 50 races ago!
#8. The years ending in 8
1928 was the first year in which the number of foreign cars (17) exceeded that of French makes (16). 1938: 6 woman drivers at the start, a record! 1948: no Le Mans 24 Hours. France was rebuilding itself after World War II. 1958: 15 hours’ rain out of the 24. 1968: the race was put back until September because of May 68. 1978: Renault Alpine’s first victory. 1988: Roger Dorchy’s WM set the top speed record: 405 km/h on Les Hunaudières. 1998: the last outright Porsche victory. 2008?
#9. Believe in Jacques Villeneuve’s mind-boggling bet
Jacques Villeneuve is back with Peugeot again after 2007. He is here for victory and is determined to become the first driver to win the Indy 500 (1995), the CART Championship (1995), the F1 World Championship (1997) and the Le Mans 24 Hours – 2008?
#10. See the stars in driving suits
After Paul Newman (Porsche 935 in 1979) and Jean-Louis Trintignant (Porsche 935 in 1980) other stars who are car lovers cannot resist the lure of Le Mans. David Hallyday and Luc Alphand are going to put their celebrity to the test, one in the Larbre Competition Saleen and the other in his own team’s Corvette. A former British defence minister, Lord Paul Drayson, also dreams of being on the grid; he is currently racing an Aston Martin DBRS9 in the ALMS.
#11. Find yourself in the midst of 250 000 spectators
Live your passion for the Le Mans 24 Hours. Last year 250 952 spectators thrilled to the cars flashing by.
#12. Don’t miss a trick thanks to 12 giant screens
The 12 giant screens on the Le Mans circuit provide a very practical way of following the on-track action without changing places. You won’t find this anywhere else in the world!
#13. Get close the cars and drivers
One of the great Le Mans traditions is that the public can get near both the cars and drivers: at scrutineering (Place des Jacobins on 9th/10th June) during the pit walks (13th June) and during the Drivers Parade (Le Mans town centre 13th June at 18:00). It’s heaven come true for autograph hunters!
#14. Acclaim the arrival of E 10 at Le Mans.
If 2008 sees the 74th victory of a petrol-engined car, it will be the first by an ecological fuel: the E10 (10% ethanol) is the exclusive fuel for petrol-engined machines.
#15. Share the history of a couple
Amanda Stretton, a woman driver in the Chamberlain team’s Lola, will share the car with two men including Bob Berridge, her husband. This is a very unusual phenomenon in racing, one that they share with Swiss couple Lilian Bryner and Enzo Calderari who raced together in the Sarthe between 1994 and 1997.
#16. Dream of being behind the wheel of an Aston Martin or a Corvette?
Do you prefer British charm to American muscle? It’s all a question of taste. Whatever you choice the LM GT1s will provide a thrilling race within the race. They’ll start on an equal footing with 4 Aston Martin DBR9s against 4 Corvette C6.Rs. But how many will see the chequered flag?
#17. Betting on Porsche or Ferrari
Porsche and Ferrari are two of the most famous names associated with the Le Mans 24 Hours. They will go head-to-head in LM GT2 with a numerical advantage for the Italian make: 7 F 430 GTs against 3 GT3 RSRs. Last year the German firm triumphed. It’s up to the fans to choose their camp!
#18. The Samurai are back to do battle
The Japanese are coming back to Le Mans in force: Dome with a closed prototype, the Kruse Schiller team’s Lola-Mazda and the Tokai University in Tokyo, which has entered a Courage powered by the Japanese YGK engine. But the star of the Samurai will be 61-year-old veteran Yojiro Terada in his Courage-Mugen. He will be both the oldest of the Le Mans drivers currently racing as well as the record-holder of participations (29). Respect!
#19. Dance the night away thanks to free concerts
A super Rock ambience in the free concerts. On Wednesday evening The Hossiers (English rebels!) followed by Fiction Plane Joe Sumner’s group. The latter is the son of mythic Police lead singer, Sting. On Saturday evening Mademoiselle K will whip up the atmosphere followed by the famous English Group Starsailor.
#20. Walk around with your own mini TV set
If you want to be your own TV director rent a mobile Kangaroo TV set at the circuit. Race footage, on-board cameras, commentary, classifications – keep up to date with the latest info and see all the action!
#21. Have a bite to eat overlooking the track
The new Welcome Centre has been finished. This huge restaurant is open to the public with a marvellous view of the track at the pit exit. Ambience guaranteed.
#22. Watch the race from the Big Wheel
For instant thrills you can’t miss the funfair at Maison Blanche with the Big Wheel which gives you an exceptional view of the race – 40 m above ground level!
#23. Go on a shopping spree in the ACO Boutique
The new ACO boutique in the Sarthe Motorcar Museum is open 7 days out of 7 and in it you will find 190m2 dedicated to Le Mans 24- Hours official products. It’s a must if you want to buy presents (why not for yourself too?).
#24. Just for the simple pleasure of saying, “I was there!”
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