Welcome to the Le Mans 24 hours 2008. Most of Autocar’s team are here, joining the pilgrimage of British petrolheads who come in their thousands every year to witness motorsport’s most gruelling race. This year, organisers reckon around 70,000 Brits have made the trip. And we’re doing it properly too – camping out in Spay, which is a small town near the Circuit de la Sarthe, and we’ll be blogging on the race throughout the weekend to try to bring you a taste of the fantastic atmosphere that engulfs the entire event. Let’s talk about the start first, which has only just happened at 3pm local time. If there’s a finer sight in motorsport than a full bore Le Mans rolling start, I’m yet to see it. The enormous sound’s phenomenal; more varied and overwhelming than the shriek of an F1 grid launching.
OK, so the chief LMP1 contenders (Audi’s R10 TDI and Peugeot’s 908HDi) are near-silent diesel racers. But the raucous LMP2 and GT1 cars, like Aston Martin’s DBR9, and Chevrolet’s Corvette C6R are more than vocal enough to make up for it.
I reckon it’s a crying shame the drivers aren’t allowed to run to their cars from the pit wall these days, but the Le Mans field is so vast that by the time the lead LMP1 cars are hitting 240-odd mph on the Mulsanne Straight on lap one, the trailing GT2 racers are only just crossing the starting line.