Two for the Road is a hangout for mystery writers Tammy Kaehler and Simon Wood to chat, reminisce, gossip, speculate and argue about all things motorsport.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

An Epic Le Mans

By all accounts, the 24 Hours of Le Mans is the granddaddy of all endurance races. Teams of drivers trade shifts in a car and race all out for two trips around the clock—completing more miles in this single race than are driven in an entire Formula 1 season. Every year we see many of the same stories: the warriors who come out on top after months of prep and 24 hours of battle, the scrappy teams whose point of pride is simply to be still running at the end of the race, the heartbroken few who come so close—for the fourth, or ninth, or sixteenth time—but fail again to see the podium.

This year’s race, however, is poised to go down as one of the all-time classics. But what was the story of the race?

Was it the total, explosive destruction of two cars in accidents that in decades past would have meant certain death for the drivers, but today meant they walked away unscathed?

Was it the fact that those two cars were from the same Audi factory team? And that the third and only-remaining car went on to take a fairytale win?

Was it that after 24 hours, some three-dozen pit stops, and nearly 3,000 miles, the winner had only a 13.8 second margin over the second place car?

Was it that the engineer of the winning car was, for the first time ever, a woman (Leena Gade)?

Was it that Corvette returned to victory lane in both GT classes on the 10th anniversary of Corvette Racing’s first Le Mans win and the 100th anniversary of the founding of Chevrolet?

Was it that a woman (Andrea Robertson) stood on the podium at Le Mans for the first time since 1931?

Every year, I am astounded by the effort, the expense, and the passion that go into this race. Skill and preparation are fundamental to success, but you also need luck—and sometimes your luck is in the hands of one of the other 150 drivers. The 24 Hours of Le Mans is a crazy, exhausting, and awesome spectacle to watch. This year was no exception, and every bit of it was epic.

What was your story of Le Mans? And who’s up for a trip to France in 2012?

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