In a city where no sporting event is taken seriously if it lasts any less than 24 hours – Le Mans even has a literary festival which features 24-hour readings – MotoGP feels slightly out of place. Yet over 100,000 fans come to watch what is surely the greatest motorized show on earth, flocking to what remains a legendary racing venue, despite the fact that MotoGP runs on the much shorter, tighter Bugatti circuit rather than the full length layout used by the 24-hour car race.
The race is very much a throwback to the past. The atmosphere is different to almost every other race: there is a constant edge, a sense of danger lurking just below the surface. Some revel in that excitement, others – myself included – grow tired at spending the evening wondering if you will make it out of the track alive if you leave after dark. If Quentin Tarantino directed a movie about MotoGP, he would set it at Le Mans.
The track may be rather tight and stop and go, but it presents a unique and fascinating challenge. Just making it through the Dunlop Chicane after the blisteringly fast first corner at Dunlop Curve is an achievement at the start, and it remains a favorite passing place throughout the race. The downhill right hander at La Chapelle can be treacherous, as can Musee, the long left hander which follows.