What is Le Mans?

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On the eve of one of the most prestigious motorsport events in the world, Nick DeGroot takes a moment to talk about Le Mans.

Tell me, how do you say something that can not be said? How do you describe a place so captivating, that there are no words in the English language that would do it justice? How am I suppose to capture the essence of Le Mans with mere words? Quite a loaded question, isn't it?

Well, I'm going to give it a shot.

In the motorsports faction of society, there are a handful of events that take participants and onlookers to transcendent levels of awe and fascination, where all five senses are numb with feeling. I'm talking about a place where the world melts away when the green flag drops; a place where you are enveloped by an intangible force that hungers for your undivided attention. I'm talking about Le Mans.

Perhaps it is Le Mans' incredible history that evokes such poignant feelings in all those fortunate enough to walk its sacred grounds. It could be the many souls of fallen racers that still wander the circuit, drawn to it by the same forces that compelled them to pursue racing immortality the day they lost it all.

This place is made of asphalt, yet, it is alive. The pilgrimage of people who travel to this event every year gives it sustenance. The cars and the men that pilot them, give it life. When you are at the track and the race commences, nothing else exists. At night, the dark forests surrounding the circuit are awakened every few seconds when a screaming car blisters by in a flash of evanescent light, before it vanishes off into the distance; much like a whisper in the wind.

This is the pinnacle of sports car and endurance racing. This 24 hour crusade for immortality has crushed dreams, broken bones, eviscerated race cars, and claimed dozens of lives.

The trees that aline the ominous Mulsanne Straight stand ready to engulf any car that dares go for a gap that may or may not exist. The tight chicanes and high-speed turns such as the notorious Porsche Curves demand nothing less than absolute precision. The results of any lapse in judgement would be catastrophic, as 2013 winner Loic Duval found out Wednesday. It takes an innate capacity for racing cars and some serious fortitude to take on this circuit and leave unscathed.

Le Mans is like the more eloquent, but just as vicious brother of the Nürburgring. Imprudence is not tolerated here.

On the eve of this sports car spectacle, take a moment to appreciate what this race is. It's a proving ground for man and machine, the equivalent of a religious landmark for racing enthusiasts, an untamed wilderness, a graveyard, and more than anything else, it's a race track, and the greatest race track of them all. This is Le Mans.

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About this article
Series LEMANS
Event 24 Hours of Le Mans
Article type Special feature
Tags 2014, le mans, nick degroot