Every year, the 24 Hours of Le Mans officially kicks off in the city centre, where each of the 56 cars and their crews make the trip downtown for the annual scrutineering and administrative checks. With thousands of fans flocking to the streets to get their first glimpse of the cars and drivers, “pesage” as it’s known in French, is one of the most popular events during the entire race week.
However, from the team’s perspectives, it’s also an important part in the build up to the race, as final safety and technical checks are performed on both the car and the drivers.
For Level 5 Motorsports, the process begins Sunday morning when the finishing touches are put on its Honda Performance Development ARX-03b prior to it being loaded into a transporter and taken on a rather short, five-mile journey downtown. Once there, the car goes through a three-part inspection procedure, each taking roughly 15 minutes to complete.
Despite it being a thorough process, uniquely staged in front of the public, there are typically no surprises from a team’s perspective.
"We're always confident that the car will go through just fine,” Level 5 crew chief Ken Swan says. “It's pretty much the same tech we do in the States. It's a little bit more for some areas, but I guess I'm more concerned for tech at the test day. Did we forget to put a decal on? Did we miss some little rule for Le Mans? But with the experience we have, it’s never a serious concern and more about going through the process.”
While the car is being carefully inspected by ACO officials, a similar set of checks are performed on the drivers’ equipment as well. From helmets to fire suits and HANS devices, all are verified to meet the mandated safety requirements. In addition to also presenting their licenses and other paperwork, drivers also take time for interviews with the media.
The final stop is the team picture, where the drivers are reunited with their car and crew and are lined up in front of dozens of press photographers for the traditional photo. It signifies that you’re an official entrant and often comes as a proud moment for everyone who has shed blood, sweat and tears in order to get to the world’s greatest endurance race.
While the entire scrutineering process takes a few hours to complete, it often turns into a day long affair for teams, who like to soak in the atmosphere as much as possible prior to the grueling race week ahead.
“It's an event that we really want the guys to enjoy,” Swan says. “Last year, it was raining, but the year before, we got down there a few hours early, parked the car and went to a little cafe and just took it all in. It's a day where you get to enjoy it and really feel and see what Le Mans is all about. To see the fans that close, it's a lot of fun for the guys; they love it. You get to unload the car and the fans are cheering. You get your picture taken. It's a big day and kind of like qualifying day at Indy. It's something you remember.”
Level 5 Motorsports