Photo: Ker Robertson/Getty Images
This weekend, we citizens get to watch one of the few bloodsports left open to public view. More accurately, it's a sport of blood, sweat and tears. I'm talking about 24 Hours of Le Mans. This year's race, held this weekend at France's Circuit de la Sarthe will be memorable, with several manufacturers set to throw haymakers at the sports-car royalty in every single class. Exotic prototypes and production sports cars will fight it out while trying to avoid playing tag with each other at 200 mph. Vehicular attrition pares down the competition as over-aggression, darkness, fatigue and asking 100 percent out of cars already tuned to within an inch of their lives all conspire against the teams. Click through for the tale of the tape.
Blood: Emphasis on "bad," as in some of these teams flat don't like each other. This is especially evident in the trenches of the production-based GT cars, specifically Corvette and Aston Martin and Porsche and Ferrari. The C6-Rs gave Prodrive's DBR9s such fits that Prodrive successfully lobbied to have ballast added to the Corvettes. The 'Vette team didn't like their gunfight being downgraded to knives and let Prodrive know it. Aston Martin then left the American LeMans Series in a snit at the end of the season. Now they're back at it on the biggest stage possible. Look for the Prodrive team to have some new tricks against the juggernaut Vettes. You may remember the closest finish in the history of Sebring a few months ago when a Risi F430 GT rubbed and raced with a Flying Lizard 997 GT3 RSR to a victory margin of just a fifth of a second after twelve hours of racing. Had you forgotten? Flying Lizard hasn't. They'll face their blood-red nemesis again on the Circuit de le Sarthe with the added twist of fending off last year's GT2-winning Panoz Esperante GTLM for Team LNT. That's right: Modena vs. Stuttgart vs. Braselton, Georgia. Be sure to check out the new bat-country inspired Flying Lizard livery.
Sweat: Peugeot climbs through the ropes and into the ring with Audi, undisputed champion and a team almost in a class all their own until this year's Gallic entry joins the turbodiesel club with their 908 HDi. Audi brings momentum, experience, and a cadre of proven, winning drivers, but Peugeot has one very big ace up its sleeve: the exceptionally skilled Champ Car star Sebastien Bourdais. A young driver (from the area, no less) with a brand new car and a shot at the champ. Those butterflies are going to feel like vultures in the stomachs of the Peugeot team come race day.
Tears: Thousands of hours of testing, wrenching, tweaking, training and tuning and you have no idea how long your chances at the win will live. Two cars in a wheel-to-wheel battle for fifth place in class can cut a corner and chop the nose off your million dollar prototype in the 23rd hour just as easily as they can in the first. We'd like to see a race with zero yellow flags, ideally, but who knows what may happen to affect the outcome. Chances are you'll see more than one pit crew with their heads in theirs hands as their baby is wheeled into the garages on a dolly.
It's the ultimate drama and, unlike a certain national letdown, this one ends with a big payoff. Watch it, people. This is the real thing.
Parisian Prototype: Peugeot 908 HDi Nabs First LeMans Win [internal]