24h Le Mans

19/06/18

The 25th hour of Le Mans

 

Pierre Fillon, President of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, delivers his epilogue to the 2018 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“The 86th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is over. All the excitement, tension, suspense, elation and relief are fast turning into a lifelong memory.

In the wake of the event, what we might call the 25th hour, it is always satisfying to look at what we have achieved. An event of such proportions can only be staged with an outstanding team and I am immensely proud of the ACO and grateful to our army of volunteers, marshals and circuit staff without whom this race could not take place.

Thanks to them, 259,600 spectators and hundreds of thousands of viewers around the world enjoyed another 24 hours of racing, 24 hours of passion, 24 hours in which a story unfolds, 24 hours of legend.       

Several aspects of the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans already stand out in my mind. There is no rank, no order. All together, these moments are already shaping my lifelong memory of the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Having Rafael Nadal as starter of the race was one of the highlights of the day. Our sport-loving crowd was rapturous and the formidable tennis player visibly moved as he pronounced the famous words “Pilotes, démarrez vos moteurs”. The champion and our guest of honour, die-hard Le Mans fan Michael Fassbender, were both full of admiration for the drivers and their teams, and I share their esteem of the effort that goes into this 24-hour marathon. Anyone who takes part in this race deserves that recognition and I feel we can’t emphasise it enough.

Talking of recognition, I salute Toyota’s courage, combativeness and tenacity which finally led to a well-deserved win at the 20th attempt. Such perseverance proves the worth, the value, the all-consuming importance of victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The race itself has followed the course set out in 1923 when the aim was to create a testing-ground for carmakers to put new technology to the ultimate challenge before introducing it on production vehicles. The ACO’s founding fathers also intended the 24 Hours of Le Mans to attract a huge following, to provide a show that would incite sporting passion. This weekend’s action certainly proved that their goal is still met year after year.

At the finish, the stunned looks, then the relief and finally the unbridled joy on the faces of the Toyota team as realisation took hold will stay with me forever. They did it! They finally won the 24 Hours of Le Mans. For the first time in his life, Fernando Alonso won a race without driving across the finish line. The responsibility and privilege of the chequered flag was left to Kazuki Nakajima.  Alonso seemed in his element at Le Mans, welcoming the long-haul race, the teamwork involved and relishing the new challenge. We’re glad you like our discipline, Fernando. Welcome to the family.

The happiness in the Porsche camp as the manufacturer celebrated its 70th anniversary with two class wins in LM GTE Pro and Am was also a joy to behold. But memories are made of more than podiums. Everyone who took part in this year’s race contributed to its resounding success.  

Infield entertainment was as popular as ever, with a festival-like concert line-up including Jamiroquai and Texas, a funfair, fan zone, race village, exhibitions and the 24 Hours of Le Mans Museum – a celebration of all things automotive.

Is my 25th hour of Le Mans tinged with nostalgia?  Yes and no. Yes, in that we have to wait another year to do it all again and next year’s race on 15–16 June will be the culmination of FIA World Endurance Championship Super Season. And no, because for all its history, the ACO remains forward-looking. We are already working on the implementation of the 2020–24 regulations we presented on Friday. The plan was well-received, and we are eager to submit it to the FIA world council at the end of the year. 

In the meantime, I am looking forward to joining endurance racing fans for the third round of the FIA WEC, the 6 hours of Silverstone on 19 August.”

 

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