For a town that hosts one of the most incredible racing events in the world, Le Mans is short on places to stay. The places that are nice are far away, the places that are there are crappy and expensive. So what do you do for the race? You build your own hotel.
(Full Disclosure: The final part of our trip to Le Mans was staying at the Audi Race Hotel at the circuit. Audi flew us to Germany, loaned us cars, and put us up in the Race Hotel, we took care of the rest.)
Automaker press trips like this typically involve a stay at a luxury hotel or some other breathtaking scene. But because our trip was planned a little last minute, room at the chateau Audi had booked was sparse. So sparse that there actually was no room.
Enter the race hotel.
The race hotel is built just outside the track walls each year to host VIPs, customers, team members, and others that are looking for a crash pad on race weekend. No, there is no sommelier or massage therapist on staff, but you don't need that anyway, do you? It's the 24 Hours of Le Mans, not the 24 Hours of Re Lax.
We didn't know what to expect when we first got to the race hotel. We had heard that it was temporary and there are communal bathrooms. We were told the communal shower might be a little strange.
In reality, the race hotel is the perfect way to spend the race weekend. It's basically glamping, but without the stupid name.
It's cubicle style, and since I'm sure many of you are used to sleeping at your desks during the week, there shouldn't be an issue falling asleep here. Every room has a small bed, a desk, a robe, a light, a flower, and a toiletry kit. They also loan you an iPod to get on the internet, since the wifi network isn't open.
One problem: There is no electric outlet in the rooms. That's a challenge since smart phones run out of juice well before a 24 hour race ends. The only option is to leave whatever needs juice at the front desk so it can get some much deserved electricity.
The rooms themselves are tight. Leaning against the walls will make them pop out of their frames, not that we found out. Being right next to a 24 hour race isn't especially quiet, and because the cubicle rooms don't really have ceilings, so a late night cacophony of burps, snores, and though I didn't hear it, there is coitus. Yes. Sex.
And for a communal bathroom, it's really nice. You have a line of sinks and private shower stalls. There's one big problem though.
In a hotel full of men that drink a ton of beer, there are just two toilets for them to use. That's a problem in the morning when all that beer and track food has settled.
Not that it matters. It's a 10 minute walk to the main gates of the circuit. So while everyone else at a chateau is sitting in traffic, you're watching the race. It's perfect.
Well, technically, the view at the chateau is perfect. And quiet. And lovely. And comfortable. We weren't jealous at all.
Still, there's not really a better way to see the race.
Photo Credits: Máté Petrany