Are you getting excited yet? Just over three weeks to go, and now should be the time to start compiling lists of what to take and organising the things you’ll need to take. But what do you need?
I’m assuming here that you have already bought your transport package, by ferry, train, or (for the lucky few) by air, got your graphics from our friends at StickeredUp4LeMans, and have purchased all your entrance and grandstand tickets, so this list is more a personal idea of some of the essential kit to add to your enjoyment during race week.
Because of the prolonged delay regarding the UK’s exit from the European Union, it is anticipated that no special regulations different to past years will be in place. Therefore, you should not need any Visa’s, green cards or international drivers permits, but always watch the news or the gov.uk website for the latest information. And make sure your passport is current, with a good 6 months left before its expiry date.
For those bringing tents and gazebos, remember your vehicle and your camping equipment (tent, tables, chairs, etc.) must fit on a 35m² pitch, so don’t bring everything AND the kitchen sink from home. Each vehicle (car, motorbike, camper van) must have its own access pass, left visible on the dashboard at all times.
For clothing, you really need to cover both ends of the temperature scale, as the nights can be cold, and the days can be boiling! And, as Jason Statham famously said in the film “Truth in 24”, it (almost) always rains at Le Mans, so good wet weather clothing is essential too, even if you hope to not need it. And suntan lotion too, as you’ll be out in the sun for hours ………
Whether trackside or laid back at your campsite, you’ll want to follow events on track, seeing how your favourite is fairing. Long gone are the days when the commentary invited Bob Costandurous to speak to English visitors on the hour for 5 minutes, giving the current positions over the PA, and you prayed a long stream of loud cars didn’t pass at exactly the wrong moment!
Also, some people will no doubt have a good grasp of the French language, and therefore be quite happy to listen to the mellow tones of Bruno Vanderstick, the circuit’s main commentator, booming continuously over the PA speakers.
But for most of the English-speaking followers, the source of information is Radio Le Mans and their team of commentators, led by ‘the voice of Le Mans’, John Hindhaugh. The radio station is found on 91.2FM, and whether you buy a simple radio at the circuit, organise an app for your mobile phone such as TuneIn, use an MP3 player with built-in radio, or purchase ear defenders with built in FM/AM radio, you will need this as your link. Don’t think that you will look silly wearing ear defenders as you walk around, as an increasing number of fans do it as habit.
Another essential for your mobile phone is the Le Mans Info app, developed over the past couple of years. Containing schedules, live news, a geolocation function to show where you are, timings for the Setram system into the city, and so much more, this is your event guide in your pocket. But be aware that there has not been an open Wi-Fi system in place in the past. Times are changing all the time, so it’s possible that a system will be in place soon. However, some fans go to the McDonalds near to Centre Sud, just for the free Wi-Fi and to catch up with their social media.
Another item worth considering for your mobile phone is a translator program, allowing you to speak in your native tones, and for the phone to speak aloud with the French phrase you were chasing around your mind. This could save the embarrassment of ordering 25 bottles of wine when you meant to order a bottle of water. Check with your phone provider for suitable apps.
Finally for phones, don’t forget your car chargers, and switch off the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth options when you don’t need them. That way, your battery will go further between the need for recharges.
Hydration is important, and not just of the alcoholic variety. The local authorities do search cars on arrival at the campsites as, for safety and environmental reasons, it is forbidden to bring glass bottles into the Bugatti circuit enclosures and the campsites. Refusal to allow a search to take place will result in being refused access to the campsite.
Many people sample the local French delicacies while at Le Mans, with favourites including the various forms of Rillettes, a local preparation of meat similar to pâté. And the many supermarkets nearby will stock all the famous smelly cheeses you know and love (and probably a lot more you have never heard of).
And then there is also a list of things to leave at home! At the 24 Hours of Le Mans circuit, you are strictly forbidden from possessing any kind of weapon, any dangerous or illegal object or substance, knives, cutters, bombs, explosives, scissors, aerosols/gas, or glass bottles. You may be searched on entering the site, and entry may be refused in the event of failure to comply with instructions.
So that’s the basics, just remember what you take also must be looked after in a secure manner as the race does attract some less than desirable and opportunist characters. Locking valuables inside your car at night, even while you sleep in your tent, is recommended.
Next time, I will look at places and events to visit during race week.
Cheers for now,