This year’s Le Mans started yesterday and, like the 78 runnings before it, ended today 24 hours later. I think I wound up watching about 10 hours or so of the coverage.
Racing is an interesting thing. Ever since people existed there was always competitions to see who could go faster. Once vehicles came about the moment you could line two of them up next to one another the natural outcome was to see which was better — whether faster, more agile, lasts longer, whatever.
One of the ultimate tests for cars is, of course, Le Mans. 24 hours of racing. In one race you run as far as Formula One does in a whole season. The real team aspect of the race comes through too with how much time you spend in your pit box.
This really was brought home to me a few years back. When Audi started running their R8 in 2000 it had a weak point – it’s gearbox. The first or second year they ran the race it had a problem. In around three and a half minutes they swapped the rear portion of the car and they were on their way. But that’s not teamwork yet — that’s just engineering.
The teamwork came the next year after the organizers decided that it gave them too much of an advantage. The rule was changed so the gearbox housing couldn’t be changed during the race. Of course they had another failure. I will never forget looking at some mechanic with the guts of a transmission — all the gears, screws and everything that makes it work — laid out in front of him on the ground. They rebuilt it in around half an hour.
There’s also an element of danger to racing. I can attest to that myself with my newly installed titanium screws. But that’s part of the draw in a way. You do everything that you can to ensure safety but there’s always a chance that a freak occurrence will give you grief. Thankfully this year even with several huge crashes (shunts if you’re on the other side of the pond) everyone walked away unhurt.
When you go out there you know that you’re taking a chance. You know what’s going on and you go in anyway.
The engineering in the cars saved lives today. But it still took a good bit of luck none the less.
Regardless of the crashes, Audi came out on top with their one remaining car. They won by only 13.8 seconds over the next car. That’s 13.8 seconds after 86,400 seconds in the day. Only 0.016% faster.
But that’s all it takes. :-)