THE PODIUM AT LE MANS: ON TOP OF THE WORLD The podium ceremony at Le Mans is just as iconic as the race itself. The 24 Hours of Le Mans is full of memorable sights and images. Out of all those, however, the one that stands out most...
THE PODIUM AT LE MANS: ON TOP OF THE WORLD
The podium ceremony at Le Mans is just as iconic as the race itself.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans is full of memorable sights and images. Out of all those, however, the one that stands out most to spectators and participants is the podium ceremony. There may be no more iconic scene than a mass of 200,000-plus fans pushing and crowding to get as close to the platform as they can following the world's greatest race.
They fill the pitlane and frontstretch all the way to and past the first turn of the legendary circuit; this after a full 24 hours of the most intense competition in motorsport.
"There is no feeling that I have ever had that compares with being on the podium at Le Mans," says Seth Neiman.
"There is no feeling that I have ever had that compares with being on the podium at Le Mans," said Flying Lizard Motorsports' Seth Neiman, who was on the GT2 podium in his (and the team's) first Le Mans in 2005.
"First of all, you spend a good 30 minutes in a staging area with the some of the greatest drivers in history - McNish, Kristensen, Bergmeister, etc - just 36 of you who will climb on the stage. Then you go out to the podium, and turn to face a huge crowd. At that moment I was totally disoriented. After no real sleep for 40 hours, and a long time at the wheel of a race car in all kinds of conditions, the impact of 200,000 people staring up at you is surreal. It was only then that I realized that we had actually done it, and that this was really happening. All feelings of exhaustion are swept away, and I think everybody up there gets a huge smile on their face."
The ultimate thrill of course is being on the top step. Audi Sport's Allan McNish can fully appreciate it after going a decade between his first Le Mans win and his historic second in 2008. The Scot had three podiums in between, but nothing felt like being there as a winner.
Allan McNish: "It reminds you of the size and scale of the place, the history of it all and the sheer number of people."
"When I was standing up last year in comparison to any other year, I took a deep breath and absorbed it much, much more," McNish said. "You see just a sea of people up the start-finish straight, up the pit lane and through the grandstands. There are quite a few pictures not of me celebrating but standing there with hands on hips and taking it all in. Taking in what this was, the whole experience, the fight we had and then the ceremony. It's a mass of people all the way up to Dunlop Chicane.
"Then I watched it on 'Truth in 24' and there is a shot from the camera that is high up and shows the circuit all the way up to Dunlop with people everywhere," he added. "It reminds you of the size and scale of the place, the history of it all and the sheer number of people there that are crowding to the bottom of the podium to congratulate the people standing up there."