Le Mans update: Le Mans-type start to return, sort of

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The ACO announced today that the start of this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans will kind of revert to the great old “Le Mans-type” start in which the drivers line up across the race track and then run across, get in their cars and quickly peel out down the track.

Just, this year, instead of everyone running and leaping in their cars — and not necessarily belting themselves in properly, if memory serves — the drivers will have seven minutes to meander across the track, suck down the rest of their Le Mans Latte and then strap themselves in the car.

Here’s the details:

A reference to the famous Le Mans herringbone start!

56 drivers will cross the track and get into their cars at 14h15 on Saturday at the start of the 78th Le Mans 24 Hours. The tradition of the herringbone start adapted to modern requirement will make its great comeback to Le Mans, and will be one of the highlights of this exceptional event.

The ACO will enable the crowd at the 78th Le Mans 24 Hours to relive the herringbone start. It is one of the symbols of this great race and was also called the Le Mans-type start when it was used from 1925 until 1969. It will be a prelude to the real flying start for the cars at 15h00 on Saturday.

The details:

After the official photo on 12th June at 13h55, the 168 drivers will line up per crew opposite their car parked in herringbone style according to the starting order. The driver nominated to take the start at 15h00 will be in full racing kit with his two team-mates in their overalls by his side.

The winner’s trophy returned by Peugeot will arrive at the top of the pits straight at 14h05. As it passes by, the two team-mates of each driver taking the start will join the mechanics behind their respective cars.

Once the trophy has been given to President Jean-Claude Plassart the tension will rise a few notches, and the drivers lined up along the white line will be ready to cross the track.

The Clerk of the Course will give them the signal at 14h15. They will cross the track, and will have 7 minutes to get properly installed and belted up in their car with the help of their mechanics. At 14h22, the Clerk of the Course will give the green light successively to each car, which can go though the pit line until 14h37.

The cars will then line up on the grid for the flying start. The passage of the French Patrol (aerobatics) will be the signal to begin the formation lap before the flag falls at 15h00!

Now, I understand the safety concerns with the old start, and I’m glad to see the race organizers giving this bit of tradition a nod. But it won’t quite have the same flair, although the photo opportunity will be tremendous.

Still, a definite nice touch.

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