Sometimes you need a change of perspective in order to entirely understand what's really going on.
In my case, I was struggling to comprehend the true size and scale of the Le Mans circuit. From the ground, or even the tall stands, you can’t see the track in its entirety. One thing's for sure - it’s big. Really, really big.
The speeds the cars are achieving can be deceptive too, and in some cases it can be very tricky to judge what kind of velocities they’re achieving. So, in order to really understand what was going on, I changed my viewing position by 900ft – vertically.
Helicopters are a familiar sight at Le Mans, with several operating at any given time providing tours, serving as camera platforms and – for the more moneyed out there – transport to and from the historic and long-running event.
Aviation company Heliberte appeared to be running its own small air force, with around 10 different helicopters landing and - very swiftly – taking off again every ten minutes, usually simultaneously in groups of five.
We jumped aboard one of its helicopters, an Aerospatiale AS-350B-2 Ecureuil, in order to see what the circuit and racing looked like from a significantly elevated vantage point.
The AS-350B-2 has a rate of climb in excess of 1,500ft/min, and the pilot seemed more than happy to exploit that. Very quickly we were well above the circuit, looking down on the cars are they pounded around the track.
The most astounding thing was being able to see the speed at which the real big guns of the Le Mans series – the LM P1 and P2 cars, like the Audi R18 e-tron quattro and Lotus T128-Pragas – closed up on the slower GTE cars.
Even when there were substantial gaps on straights, the LM cars would get right up behind the GTE competitors, like the Aston Martin Vantages, in no time at all - and then simply drive around them. Passing took but a moment, and then the LM car would be gone, spearing off in to the distance.
Despite knowing how quick some of the cars were, it was still impressive to see that virtually every single one was going notably quicker than the helicopter. We were doing around 100mph in places, yet some cars cruised by on the ground - particularly on the Mulsanne straight - like we were static.
You got a real sense of the speed that the Le Mans cars could carry through the corners too, as from above reference points and the distances involved were much clearer. Being able to see the entirety of the bend also allowed you to watch how the cars braked and accelerated, as well as seeing if they were following the prominent racing line.