Wednesday, June 21, 2017

LE MANS: Classic Event headed Where? Down What Road?

Presumably, since thou legendous' endurance race is OLD-ER than Mwah, having first been contested Wayback in 1923, it'll run on into eternity. Since after all, Rush's Geddy Lee once famously crooned:

"We're only Immortal for a limited time..."

This past weekend at Circuit de la Sarthe, we witnessed another victory by a truly exotic, space-age, cutting edge technological engineering marvel, when the race was won by an umpteen Mega-jewels Quattro-drive Hybrid LMP1 monster!

For which had to be driven to perfection on its ragged "Knife's Edge" of performance by humans, who had NO "do Over" button on their respective steering wheels, nor the Pit Crews, who had to stay awake the entire 24hrs.

And while all of the rage, or Hysteria? Revolves around the relentless push for electric "Plug-ins" and self driving cars; SHEISA! For Mwah, the automobile and driving, is about the freedom it brings the individual to control their own destiny!

Since how enticing will it be watching Driverless vehicles competing? A la mechanical Greyhounds, eh? As my Robot's faster than yours; Sigh!

Alas, every year I look forward to the running of the Grand Madame of Endurance events at Circuit de la Sarthe, always marveling over my ability to awake whenever, and then go back to sleep in the middle of the event.

Not to mention going to the Loo and making a Ham sandwich whenever, along with pondering what race status I'll wake up to the next morning, who'll be leading their respective categories and what racing cars will still be running...

As it's the human element that inevitably pulls my Heartstrings, as the memory of that Steve McQueen Le Mans movie poster I found as a 'Wee lad with him posing in those iconic Gulf Oil blue overalls, lower half face balaclava and steely eyes blazing towards us tends to only become seared into Thy Cranium stronger each year!

As you've gotta wonder what the Pied Piper of Formula Uno; NO! Not "Chevy Chase" (Carey) who ceremoniously waved the green flag at Le Mans this year, but Lewis Hamilton would have to say 'bout Fernando Alonso racing Thar, eh?

Hmm? Strange how Lewis didn't mention a peep 'bout how hard not only a season in Indy Cars including the Indy 500 was for Rubino', nee ex-Scuderia Ferrari F1 driver Rubens Barrichello, who made his debut at Le Mans this year...

But while the drivers are always the stars of the show, obviously without the latest cutting edge technology, dedicated factory workers and hoards 'O mechanics, engineers, et al, to build, maintain and service their racecars, there wouldn't be any legendary drivers!

Case in point, Hurley Haywood, one of endurance racing's greatest drivers, having won Le Mans three times, plus the Rolex 24 five times  and the 12 Hours of Sebring twice. Still marvels over his time spent piloting Porsche's 936, which bridged the performance gap between the legendous' 917's that not only won at Circuit de la Sarthe, but were also featured prominently in McQueen's epic Le Mans movie.

And then the 936, with its venerable turbocharged 2,140cc air cooled Flat-6 held station for Porsche in Group 6 racing until the arrival of first the 956 and the ultimate Ground Effects 962, both designed for Group C rules, Stuttgart's last winning Le Mans Prototype before the arrival of today's modern era three-times winning 919 Hybrid, which has just pulled off the unthinkable Three-Peat over Toyota!

As it's a great look back forty years ago at Haywood's inaugural outing at Le Mans, with the legendary Jacky Ickx being drawn in to ensure victory for Porsche that year...