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Why Le Mans magic will miss a crucial ingredient in 2020
The Le Mans 24 Hours is a visceral experience unlike any other in motorsport, and that's partly down to the atmosphere provided by teeming masses of passionate fans. Their absence from this year's event will rob it of a core part of its enduring appeal.
It was the news we'd all been dreading. My heart sank when it was announced on Monday that the Le Mans 24 Hours in September will take place behind closed doors, without a crowd, minus spectators, in front of empty grandstands. Describe it how you like, the harsh reality is that the event will be robbed of the atmosphere that, well, makes it Le Mans.
The French endurance classic has an all-encompassing ambiance like no other race, certainly not one I've attended. A crowd that can top 300,000 spread around a track measuring eight and half miles is the reason for that. A visit to Le Mans is an assault on the senses. It's not just about what you see, but what you hear, smell and feel. It is a visceral experience.
The screaming rotary-engined Mazda 787 is regarded as one of the most popular Le Mans 24 Hours-winning cars, but until its surprise success on this day 30 years ago it was never regarded as a likely victor. But that reckoned without a new technical partner, some canny political manoeuvring and a rival's bizarre self-inflicted weakness.
It's one of the great what-if stories in Le Mans history. Paul Newman finished second in the 24 Hours in 1979, but it could easily have been a famous victory were it not for the resourcefulness of the late Manfred Kremer.
Making a return to top-flight sportscar racing after 50 years away, Ferrari will enter the Le Mans Hypercar ranks in 2023. The Italian marque denies the link with Formula 1's new cost cap that frees up resources, but it's certainly no coincidence...
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Keeping trophies and momentos of key triumphs is par for the course for motorsport professionals, but what are the most cherished souvenirs picked up by the drivers and engineers who have seen and done it all?
Porsche is returning to the top class of Le Mans with an LMDh prototype that it hopes will write its next successful chapter in sportscar racing. But it will have to go some to emulate its 956/962, a car which defines the Group C age more than any other.
He is synonymous with success at the Circuit de la Sarthe, but Tom Kristensen's sportscar legacy amounts to much more than his record-breaking nine Le Mans wins, as the most successful driver ever at Sebring and a world champion to boot…
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