The Automobile Club de l'Ouest is hard at work preparing the 2008 season with what promises to be an exceptional action-packed programme. Note the dates:
29th & 30th MARCH FRENCH SUPERBIKE CHAMPIONSHIP
This is the start of the motorbike season on the Bugatti circuit and also the first event in the 2008 French Superbike Championship. The 125ccs, Mono Challenge, Supersports, 1000ccs and side-cars will be the first to race on the new layout of the Garage Vert corner. Even if the design of the corner is identical to the previous one, it has been shifted eastwards and together with its enlarged run-off areas will lead to new track records.
19th & 20th APRIL THE 24 HOURS FOR MOTORCYCLES
This is the 31st 24 Hours for Motorcycles and is part of the Endurance World Championship. The riders will also tackle the new Bugatti circuit layout. The major news is the increasing involvement of works teams: in addition to Suzuki, the reigning champions, Kawasaki, Yamaha and Honda, 2008 will see BMW joining the battle for the world title. The supreme achievement for one of these makes would be starting the year with victory in the 24 Hours.
17th & 18th MAY THE FRENCH MOTORCYCLE GRAND PRIX
Moto GP is the top category in high-speed racing for motorcycles in the world. In 2008, the 20th French Motorcycle Grand Prix will take place on the Bugatti circuit. It is the fifth of the 18 round championships, and will be the right moment to come and support French riders Randy De Puniet and Sylvan Giuntoli in their new Moto GP teams.
1st JUNE LE MANS 24 HOURS TEST DAY
This test day is of crucial importance for the 55 entries invited by the ACO to take part in the Le Mans 24 Hours, as it enables drivers and mechanics to find their marks on the mythic 13,629km 24 Hours circuit. It's a day that they cannot afford to miss, while for the spectators it is an opportunity to get up close to those who will write another page in the legend of the 24 Hours in 13 days time.
14th & 15th JUNE THE LE MANS 24 HOURS
The greatest race in the world...and in space! In 2008, the start will be given at 15:00 on the track (by three famous astronauts) and from the international orbital station (ISS) in liaison on the circuit's giant screens. Already the 76th Le Mans 24 Hours is well on the way to beating the 2007 record crowd (250 952 spectators!). From a sporting point of view everything is in place for 2 rounds of the clock full of suspense: adjustment of the equivalence between diesel and petrol engines, Peugeot's thirst for revenge over Audi, the reaffirmed ambition of the other petrol-engined prototypes, non-stop battles in GT, etc, and a few other surprises!
12th & 13th JULY LE MANS CLASSIC
In even years the cult of the historic motorcar invades the long 24 Hours circuit. In 2006, 6000 collectors' cars were on show in the Clubs' zone and there was a succession of races over 24 Hours reserved for cars (or the same type) that had already taken part in the Le Mans 24 Hours between 1923 and 1979. Timeless and simply magnificent.
26th & 27th JULY PROMOSPORT
In the middle of the summer it is both refreshing and exciting to see so many passionate riders, often young ones, who compete for victory in Promosport. Whatever the category (Junior Cup, 600 or 1000 Promo, Makes' Cup etc) and the future of the riders, appearing on the Le Mans rostrum is a brilliant reward.
20th & 21st SEPTEMBER THE 24 HOURS FOR TRUCKS
This is the ultimate form of XXL racing! These trucks weighing over 5 tons with more than 1 000 bhp under the bonnet go at it hammer and tongs on the Bugatti circuit. It's an amazing spectacle backed up by a parade of over 150 fully-decorated trucks as well as numerous sideshows... and the probable return of a round of the Side-Car World Championship.
5th OCTOBER DTM
The Super German Touring Car Champiobnship is back in France on the Le Mans Bugatti circuit. In 2006, 34 000 spectators came to see the show put on by these highly-tuned racing saloons. On the track it is a no-holds-barred battle between Audi and Mercedes-Benz and all the drivers are known internationally (Hakkinen, Kristensen, Schneider, etc.)
Other red-letter events in 2008 (dates to be confirmed):
- The Le Mans 24 Hours for Karts 30th & 31st August (Alain-Prost circuit): like the cars the karts also have their own 24 Hours race. Even with 4 drivers the physical and sporting demands are tough and having one's name in the results means a lot in the world of karting.
- The 50 cc Le Mans 6 Hours 6th & 7th September (Maison-Blanche circuit): this is no game but a real endurance event with a 24 Hours type start with mopeds as highly tuned as motorbikes. Riding skills have been part of the race for several years now. All the 50 cc riders are between 12 and 14 and those on the 125 cc machines allowed to start have to be 14 years old minimum.
- Inauguration of the new Welcome Centre: the new Welcome Centre continues the name of the historic bar cum restaurant "The Welcome" that was beside the track until 2005, but develops the concept with a more modern slant. After 9 months work it will be a huge reception area with a 750 m2 restaurant and a terrace that will delight the spectators.
- Inauguration of the Maison-Blanche track: the Maison-Blanche layout, a driving school near the Bugatti circuit, will be revamped during the 2007/2008 winter: It will be extended and will have different access roads to enable several layouts to be used. It will also have 4 permanent pits, new guardrail and gravel traps. The aim is to use it to complement the Bugatti circuit in the context of the diversification of activities offered by the ACO (different training courses, driving school, club activities, etc.)