Sam Hancock, Esquire’s favourite motor racing legend in the making, has been telling us about what’s it like to race at the Le Mans 24 hour endurance race. Sam was looking good to finish fourth – a career making position – in last week’s race, when sadly the engine of his Aston Martin let go. Coming to a stop at the remote Arnage corner in the woods he was given a standing ovation by an entire stand for the incredible race he’d just driven.
“People eulogise about Le Mans being the greatest race in the world and when you take part you understand why. You’re surrounded by the most famous drivers and car marques in the world. In the lead up you’re exhilarated but when you’re in the middle of it it’s bloody hard. You’re at the wheel for such a long time and the G forces are incredible as the prototype car I drove is basically F1 grade but stronger."
"Mentally it’s more challenging than any F1 circuit apart from Monaco - you cannot make one mistake. Brake one metre too late in the dark and you’re in a wall. Two thirds of the race is on public roads covered in a year’s worth of leaves, gravel and dropped diesel from lorries and they’re bumpy and you’re doing 210mph and the car is tram lining from every ripple in the road and darting left and right – and that’s just the straights! Your eyes are on storks and you’re fighting to hang on. We had a power cut at one point and even with powerful headlights you can’t see where you are."
“But it has my favourite corner, Indianapolis. You go through an avenue of trees flat out for about five miles then you dab the brake down to 170mph through the corner. You can’t see it when you enter it – your heart really is in your mouth. And you never know what the driver of the car next to you – some of whom can be relatively inexperienced – is going to do.”
See Sam’s guide to taking a corner in the July edition of Esquire