Editor's Blog: Why I Am Not Going To Le Mans (And You Shouldn't Either)

France is a wonderful country, famed for its food, its pace of life and its warm, passionate people. The Sarthe region, where the Le Mans circuit (or Circuit de la Sarthe, to give it its official name) is situated, is beautiful; rich, green, rolling hills, close woodlands, tight green valleys filled with charming towns and villages. The city of Le Mans itself has its attractions, a stately square and some grand 18th and 19th century architecture. The people in the city and the surrounding villages are warm, friendly and helpful, especially if you are prepared to make an effort to speak at least some French.

All that ends once you arrive at the circuit. It starts at the gate with the security guards, who, to be fair, are no worse than security guards at most of the other races, it being their job to be professionally unpleasant. But it gets worse as you go further in. The facility itself is ramshackle and crumbling, a patched-up shade of what was perhaps once its former glory. Once inside the building, having to deal with the circuit staff makes things worse. Specially bussed-in from Paris, they combine the miserable temperament of the curmudgeon with the professional obstructionism of the jobsworth, appearing to be selected on their disposition towards discouraging people from asking questions in the first place, and then abiding by such an arcane set of regulations with almost Teutonic efficiency that honoring requests for assistance take the entire duration of the weekend, getting the requested job done long after it has become irrelevant.

A case in point: Internet in the media center. At the tracks in Northern Europe (Silverstone, Assen, the Sachsenring) and the US, internet access is provided free of charge. A fair exchange for promoting the event and the circuit, in my opinion. At the tracks in Southern Europe, they charge for internet access, the most reasonable being Estoril, where they asked just 10 euros for five days of internet access (then refunded to those who had paid when the network speeds weren't up to scratch). Spain and Italy commonly charge 60 euros for four days of internet access, though the combination of rise of pay-as-you-go mobile internet and multiple races in the same country gives journalists (though not photographers) a viable alternative to paying the circuit fees.

Le Mans, though, takes the biscuit. Last year, the circuit was asking for 90 euros for four days' internet access from all of the journalists, photographers and team press staff at the circuit. Given that there are usually some 300 to 400 people in the media center, nearly all of whom need internet access, that amounts to an income of perhaps 25,000 euros in the course of four days. For promoting the Le Mans MotoGP round. At a guess, that is around half the cost of data lines that a facility such as Le Mans requires for an entire year, and given that the track also hosts the car and bike 24 hours races, as well as various other events, it would appear that Le Mans is on to a nice little earner with their internet fees. It wouldn't even be so bad if the internet were reliable, and did not stop working for regular and protracted intervals.

At least the media have a roof over their heads and screens to watch. If the journalists feel hard done by, it is hard to imagine what it is like for the fans. The kindest thing that can be said about the facilities at the track is that they are not as bad as at Magny-Cours. Which is a little like saying that Bashar al-Assad treats his people better than Muammar Khadaffi. There are public toilets and showers at the circuit, but using them is a rather more interesting experience than you might have bargained for.

All this has its effect on the atmosphere at the track. During the day it is bearable, though lacking the charm of the Spanish or Italian rounds. But once night falls, the atmosphere turns grim, with exuberance turning to outright aggression and unpleasantness. The fans at other tracks - especially in Spain and Italy - can be very high-spirited after dark, but their behavior is at least filled with - to use an appropriate phrase - some kind of joie de vivre. At Le Mans, there is nothing but seething aggression, more akin to an English city center after the bars shut than a festival of racing. But where, say, in Newcastle's Bigg Market you might expect the police to intervene should things get out of hand, the security staff at Le Mans are more inclined to stand idly by, and watch.

All this could be easily forgiven if Le Mans was a fantastic circuit. But the track itself is dull and uninspired. A lot of hairpins, and tight esses, connected by a series of short straights. Only the long, sweeping Dunlop Curve has any character, but while the long layout used for the 24 hour car race has the benefit of both history and the natural peculiarities that a road circuit bestows, the short Bugatti circuit has little to either interest or entertain.

The circuit's problem is that other race we keep mentioning, the 24 Heures du Mans. That event's iconic status - exploited locally, where they have 24-hour kart races, 24-hour mountain bike races, a 24-hour book fair and even a 24-hour marbles competition - has made the circuit regard itself as one of the classic venues, and bestowed an arrogance upon the facility that it simply does not deserve. Facilities at other tracks can be pretty basic and ramshackle - Donington Park springs to mind - but for the most part, those tracks have a layout which provides for fantastic racing, and the staff at the track are simply delighted that the fans and media have come along to watch the races. The attitude that the Le Mans staff have is that they would be perfectly happy for us all to curl up and die, preferably away from the circuit so that we do not give them any more work.

So, though it breaks my heart not to be at a MotoGP race, and makes me feel I have let my readers down by not going, I will not be attending the Le Mans MotoGP event. And lest anyone believe this has anything to do with the mechanical breakdown and related stress I suffered at last year's event, while I cannot deny that the experience did not help to make me more favorably disposed towards the circuit, I had already labeled the event as the worst of the year before anything untoward happened.

I was not alone in my complaints. Everyone I spoke to both in the media center and in the paddock were unhappy that the race was held at the circuit. One veteran journalist was so disgusted at the track that he suggested to me - as I have the freedom to do on my own site - that I write a piece discouraging the fans from coming, as this being the only way to get the race moved from Le Mans.

So I echo his sentiments, and make a stand. I will not be going to Le Mans, and I strongly recommend that none of you go there. France is a wonderful country, and it has some fantastic circuits, but the Circuit de la Sarthe is not one of them. It might be near for British fans, but they would be far better served by saving their money and going to Estoril, Barcelona, Assen, the Sachsenring, Mugello or Brno. France deserves a MotoGP race. But it does not deserve to have to host it at Le Mans.

France is a wonderful country, famed for its food, its pace of life and its warm, passionate people. The Sarthe region, where the Le Mans circuit (or Circuit de la Sarthe, to give it its official name) is situated, is beautiful; rich, green, rolling hills, close woodlands, tight green valleys filled with charming towns and villages. The city of Le Mans itself has its attractions, a stately square and some grand 18th and 19th century architecture. The people in the city and the surrounding villages are warm, friendly and helpful, especially if you are prepared to make an effort to speak at least some French. All that ends once you arrive at the circuit. It starts at the gate with the security guards, who, to be fair, are no worse than security guards at most of the other races, it being their job to be professionally unpleasant. But it gets worse as you go further in. The facility itself is ramshackle and crumbling, a patched-up shade of what was perhaps once its former glory. Once inside the building, having to deal with the circuit staff makes things worse. Specially bussed-in from Paris, they combine the miserable temperament of the curmudgeon with the professional obstructionism of the jobsworth, appearing to be selected on their disposition towards discouraging people from asking questions in the first place, and then abiding by such an arcane set of regulations with almost Teutonic efficiency that honoring requests for assistance take the entire duration of the weekend, getting the requested job done long after it has become irrelevant.

Comments

Ha ha ha.. So true...

This was pretty funny reading. After attending the LeMans MotoGP race two years ago, these interesting observations feels all to familiar... :)

Crappy service, people that doesn't speak english and frankly get really pissed off that you don't, 20 Eurous for a dry and crappy sandwich, and crappy facilities...

When I go to a MotoGP race next time, it will not be LeMans. Probably Spain or England....

Total votes: 99

Hell yes.

Sit home, relax and have a nice beer.
More important, never give money to people who don't deserve it if you don't have to.

Total votes: 116

Thanks for the honest

Thanks for the honest appraisal, David. I'm attending Mugello, Brno (WSBK), and the Saschenring this year towards my goal of seeing all the European tracks. I've been traveling to Laguna Seca since 1986 for the bike races, and the inaugural Indy round. Two years ago attended Mugello, Catalunya, and Donnington, and had a great time at all, even with the English Midlands weather. Le Mans is now off my list, I've experienced this aspect of France (I dread flying through Paris), and I don't desire more. I've had a great fun with French fans at the other events, it's the (un)professional workers' attitude that ruins the charm of France for me.
This is the sort of honest reporting I value so much from Motomatters, and I'd love more installments about the tracks, and their surroundings, to guide me in my MotoGP adventure.
Mugello with Valentino on the Ducati, I can hardly wait, what a party!

Total votes: 121

Le Mans, 1971

"A lot of people go through life doing things badly. Racing’s important to men who do it well. When you’re racing, it... it’s life. Anything that happens before or after... is just waiting."

Another picturesque Hollywood image in my mind cruelly crushed by reality! Never been there, probably never will, but at least now I have an excuse...

Total votes: 123

Funny, I've never been there,

Funny, I've never been there, only watched the Le Mans race on TV, and it is my least-favorite race of the season. Boring track.

Thanks for the heads up, though. Since I work for a company in Belgium I travel there occasionally, and was considering going to a GP in Europe if it coincided with my travel dates. I'll be sure to take Le Mans off the list of possible GPs. Assen is a much better choice anyway.

Total votes: 111

I echo your sentiments...

There´s nothing worse than to spend your hard earned money on places where you don´t feel welcome. Some years ago I found that the "rude/arrogant french waiter stereotype" was absolutely true. You also find fantastic people all over France, but it takes just one really bad experience to spoil a trip. I´ve been lucky enough to attend racing events in Europe, North América and Latin America, and everywhere I´ve found that racing fans and racing communities in general are friendly, relaxed and helpful. With so many places wanting to have top tier races, the survival of the fittest must apply.

I´m still celebrating Texas will host MotoGP races in the future, as this side of the pond is not as visited as we would like. I´d love to live in Spain which is not only hosting four MotoGP races, they are hosting four great races in four great venues.

Total votes: 99

Paul Ricard

Could they return to it?

Total votes: 133

Awesome track!!

Awesome track!!

Total votes: 117

I've also never been there but...

I've been to Indy...It appears the Yellow shirted security at this track is close to what you were explaining about at Leman...I don't think
i'll go back...Incompetent bores...

Total votes: 116

Your comment about the staff

Your comment about the staff at Indy is interesting. I've been to all the MotoGP races there and my experiences have been the exact opposite. Indy is a big place, I guess individual experiences can vary greatly.

I had hoped things had changed in France since I was there in the 60's, but it seems they haven't.

Total votes: 119

Indy

I'd like to echo AL-2's sentiments about Indy. I have been to every MotoGP race there, and the staff have always been friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful. Great post David, I'm happy to say I'm boycotting Le Mans as well. (Not that I was going anyway! I just got back from WSBK @ Assen.) It would be great if you did a MotoMatters "tour guide" to tracks, as far as "must see", or "must avoid".

P.S. Assen........ definitely a "must see"!

Total votes: 118

Ditto...

I could say exactly the same about Indy, and being in France in the 60's. But now I don't have to because you said it for me.

I love the Indy history and facilities. The staff are not MotoGP experts but not many in the US are. Here even avid motorcyclists aren't die hard MotoGP fans - but once they attend either Laguna or Indy that changes.

Total votes: 109

Magny-Cours?

I know it's not the greatest circuit either, but the Superbike races are always entertaining to watch. What I am wondering is if Le Mans is in fact so bad why is it even on the calendar? Isn't there some sort of "minimum standard" for all these sub-par elements that Dorna should go by when selecting venues?

Total votes: 103

I attended 4 MotoGP races,

I attended 4 MotoGP races, twice in Valencia and twice in Brno. The staff was very friendly, especially at Ricado Tormo and everything was well organised, especially at Brno. It seems that Le Mans is at the opposite pole.

Total votes: 126

France!

Back in '03, I was a member of the US Long Range shooting team, and competed at the World Champsionships, in England. I spent 3+ weeks there, then spent a week in/around Normandy (I'm a WWII historian), then went onto spent a week in Italy. To say the french were 'unfriendly' would be an HUGE understatement! Their rudeness and arrogance was stunning! I was attempting to catch a train to Paris, from Caen, and was talking to a French gal, behind the counter (she worked for the company), attempting to get some info about the schedule, and she simply turned around and walked away from me! Luckily, a guy came up and helped me.

And then we headed to Italy, which was the exact OPPOSITE of France! The Italians were VERY friendly, always helpfull, with a smile on their face(s)! A pleasure to interact with! BTW . . . the guy that helped me at the train station was Italian!!!

Total votes: 126

Crossed that one off!

Was considering a trip out there next year - have crossed that one off the list....

I'm more amazed that you have been to the Bigg Market!

Total votes: 113

MotoMatters

Striking the biggest blow to French tourism since the mid-decade slide of the dollar to the Euro.

Total votes: 120

Fantastic...

...and that one gets crossed off the list. Assen is my favorite, anyway...

To get an opinion of how the riders view the facilities, as well as any crappy attitudes they might suffer, I'm gonna ask Colin how he feels about racing and staying at LeMans. I would assume that he is somewhat above all that, but you never know...

Total votes: 108

not really related to le

not really related to le Mans, but when you (David) visit a MotoGP event, why didn't you do the usual walk around and photo from inside the track?

Total votes: 133

Time

The reason I don't do that is just pressures of time. There are only so many hours in the day and so much to do at a race weekend. I'll try and do it again at one of the tracks I haven't done so far.

Total votes: 117

Yeah through out the many

Yeah through out the many seasons I have watched MotoGP...
Le Mans was the one track that I almost always skipped...
As dull a track as they come!
Hope they will eventually stop racing there!

Total votes: 124

For Rully and others; I'll be

For Rully and others; I'll be taking plenty of photos (and video) at Mugello, Brno, and the Saschenring and posting them and travel info on a Google blog. I'm a decent photographer and want to show fellow Americans how great a European MotoGP adventure can be on a budget. I'll be using trains and hostels and camping at the tracks (that's where the party is!). Maybe I catch something good enough, and well enough, to meet MotoMatters' high standards! I've still got video of a flame-throwing minibike from Saturday night at Mugello '09 that makes me laugh everytime I watch it...and many others!

Total votes: 115

that would super

that would super awesome!
looking forward to see the mentioned video :)

thanks in advance!

Total votes: 116

Track photos

Hi John - not clear how to make a private reply on this, but get in touch with me and I will be happy to link your photos to our own galleries for the events. Depending on event (Sachsenring or Brno best) can loan you a paddock pass for a day to help you get closer...

--gordon
gordon@polepositiontravel.com

Total votes: 114

Funny

Hi, thanks for this website, the best i found about our passion.
This comment was quite fun, let say it now, im french, sorry about that :)
Unfortunatly, what you say is true ... Le Mans organisation is crap, and so is the track ... not only for the motogp race but also if you want to ride there but it's an other story.

You say that France has great circuits ... true but they don't feet to motogp nor formula 1 for security reasons (except Le Mans and Magny Cours). I love to ride in Pau or Ledenon but you can only welcome 500 people and the security is crap.

I don't give a f... about french pride, i would prefer so much replace Le Mans with Spa....

Thanks again for this site ... and sorry for the poor english

Total votes: 121

Getbouc

Thanks for the French perspective! And your english is great!

I wonder why they don't race at spa...?

Total votes: 109

probably

probably security reasons ... like Suzuka which is the second greatest after Spa in my opinion.

Monza is missing too (even with the chicane "problems") ... for its incredible speed and history

Total votes: 111

Spa-Francorchamps

I don't give a f... about french pride, i would prefer so much replace Le Mans with Spa....

Haha, that's hilarious: I just imagine Simoncelli passing Rossi in Eau Rouge at 300km/h and if both survive that hearing Rossi "whine like a pussy" afterwards.

Total votes: 124

Charged With Manslaughter

According to GPone, Le Mans just got even worse for Tech3 crew chief Guy Colon. Apparently Guy was backing up one of the Tech3 trucks from a toll booth and ran over a motorcyclist dragging him and ultimately killing him. Guy is now being charged with manslaughter. Very tragic story.

Total votes: 106

Well this seems newsworthy?

Will this get brushed under the rug like the Paul Bird bust?

Or the Bubba Stewart arrest here in the US?

Total votes: 113

Perspective

Did those guys do something that resulted in a death?

Total votes: 125

Perspective

No, Bubba Stewart didn't do anything other than be stupid.

But during the coverage of the Supercross event that same weekend in Texas, there was absolutely no mention of the arrest during the coverage on CBS. I wouldn't expect it to be covered here, but I would like to know who made the call not to mention the story: Yamaha, CBS or Red Bull.

The Paul Bird bust at customs didn't result in a death, either. But getting popped with a gun, meth and 220 pounds of weed seems like it would at least deserve a little space here. I don't buy the PBMS press release explanation of someone sneaking it in the truck. This should be a bigger story than it is, in my humble opinion.

As far as the Tech3 death, my theory is that David doesn't want to offend his connections at Tech3 and lose his access to Jerve. I would hope that MM is above all that, and I have a great amount of respect for David, but I am suspicious by the silence. I think a crew chief being arrested right before a race is relevant.

Am I the only one who has a problem with any of this? I know the default answer is "If you don't like it, go read crash.net." I just don't want my conspiracy theory on this one to be true.

Total votes: 121

Conspiracy theories

Incompetence trumps conspiracy every time. I have gotten plenty of hassle from Herve in the past. I have offended plenty of people in the past, and heard all about it. But last time I looked, there are only 24 hours in a day, and I need to sleep sometimes. See my post elsewhere.

Total votes: 122

Tragic

All around.

Total votes: 99

Tragic, yes.

I think this is a newsworthy story.

Why no mention of it on here or motogp.com?

Total votes: 108

Time

This is a complicated story. It needs time to do it justice. I will post something about it tomorrow. I don't have enough resources to cover everything, so I have to pick and choose.

Total votes: 116

I don't know

It sounds like just a sad accident. One thing that may be deceptive to American readers is the use of the word manslaughter. In the US it's not a charge that comes along with true accidents without severe negligence or malice. In France, it seems to be attached to anyone ultimately responsible for a death. For example the head of Air France is charged with manslaughter for the plane crash in the South Atlantic. I'm just saying that it may seem more remarkable than it actually is in the sense that many of use normally hear the word manslaughter.

There may be more to the story, but I don't think I've heard anything else. And MotoGP.com isn't a media outlet. It's a producer of entertainment services.

Total votes: 106

lemans

sounds like Daytona, only with French food and wine. But Daytona has ceased to have any real relevance.

Total votes: 121

This is the reason I love

This is the reason I love your site. An honest, no holds barred look at an aspect of GP racing someone like me wouldn't have realized until Id paid my money to go there and it was too late.
I never liked the circuit, but I love France and the people. Guess I'll wait till they go back to Paul Ricard.

Total votes: 121

Question for David on circuit contracts/selection

Little bit unrelated question - looking at the MotoGP and SBK circuits for 2011 there are some that overlap (i.e. Assen, Silverstone, Misano, Brno, Aragon, Phillip Island), and quite a few where they are racing in the same countries but on different circuits. I realize that MotoGP and SBK are totally separate but why is MotoGP (Italy) always at Mugello and SBK (Italy) at Monza - or MotoGP (France) at Le Mans and SBK (France) at Magny Cours - or MotoGP (Portugal) at Estoril and SBK (Portugal) at Portimao. Isn't Portimao for example ever going to "bid" on the Portugese MotoGP race? Are these 10-20 yr contracts to host the race like in F1? Your insight is appreciated - great site!

Total votes: 119

Contracts

As you say, this is mainly down to contracts. It's a fairly long and complicated subject, but basically, it's about history, availability and most of all, money. Being able to pay the sanctioning fee (around 4 million euros, reportedly) is key to landing a MotoGP race, though both MotoGP and WSBK also try to spread their races around geographically (though not so successfully, in the case of MotoGP).

Contracts are generally for 3-5 years, though that differs from circuit to circuit. Racer's Republic has an excellent overview of the contract situation here.

Total votes: 121

Le Mans

Sorry to hear it was such a bad experience. Never been there, but you would think a circuit with so much history would be one of the finest on the circuit. I wonder if it is as bad as the British Track, (do not remember which one), that F1 Boss Bernie Ecclestone used to complain about. By his word, in shambles, flooded garages and dilapidated facilities. It should not be. They get more than enough business there.

Oh well. I won' t be going. David you have been on point with so much other stuff I am ROLLIN WITH YA!

Total votes: 106

David, another great write

David, another great write up! As an American fan I appreciate your frank and honest assessment of the MotoGP series in all aspects. I think the tracks are one are of focus that is often left behind and forgotten.

I wonder if you could do an analysis of tracks by comparing their facilities. I love going to Laguna Seca every year, but I am so bummed when I watch the other events on the calendar, it is so sub par in its seating for fans. I admire tracks such as Malaysia, Sepang the new grandstand for Mugello, Jerez... The list goes on and on. While the track itself is amazing the fan side of things (facilities, seating, shade) don't live up to the hype of the racetrack. How out dated are port-a-potties? Anyone remember the 2006 race? It was about 110 outside with track temps over 140 degrees (Fahrenheit).

I love to watch bikes drop down into the Corkscrew, but with limited shade and no stands for fans it sucks... I've only watched two sessions in five years from on the hill. They should have a massive amount of grand stands on both sides of the Corkscrew, I don't understand why this hasn't happened to bring additional revenue and enhance the fan experience.

Total votes: 123

Le Mans

No surprise that it is just as bad to work at, as it is to attend. We used to head down there for the 24 hour bike race pretty much every year until CRS decided the fun had got out of hand and attacked any bikers wheelying, doing burnouts, watching..anybody. A few of us witnessed them beat an old local walking his dog, after which they turned their batons on us. There were police road blocks at the city limits where you'd be breathalysed and have documents checked and the fun in Arnage was nothing like it had been in the past.

That was in the early 90s and soured it from then on and after a couple more visits we were on the verge of canning the trip when, on the Saturday night, we discovered the most amazing nightclub in a little village 25 mins. away from the city of Le Mans. It catered for everyone around - from 15 year-olds to senior citizens - and it was divided up accordingly with separate areas for ballroom dancing, disco, karaoke, nosebleed acid house and techno, everything. Despite having a major bike event nearby we were the only bikers there and every year we'd roll up and the bouncers would welcome us, put us at the front of the queue and generally treat us like visiting VIPs.

When Le Mans was dropped as a leg of the official World Endurance Championship it wasn't the same but, by then, we would only go to watch the start and perhaps the hardier souls would straight from the club (around 3.30 am) to catch the night riding. We returned in the last year of 990s and had a good enough time (at the night club not that shithole of a track, natch) to return again in 2010 but I wish we hadn't.

Most of Northern France seemed to have closed down; the restaurant at our lunch stop, a few of our favourite bars and, worst of all, so had the club. On Saturday night we scoured the place (we actually did 120 miles from about 9.30 to 3am) looking for some fun.

The authorities had corralled and confined everyone at the track. Road closures ensured we couldn't access Arnage but what would have been the point? The city and all outlying areas were deserted and now it just looked like any other crappy town, not a place hosting a GP the next day. Oh, and it always pisses with rain at some point on that weekend.

It gave us loads of great memories but oh, to be back at Paul Ricard - they know how it's done! Let's lobby octagenarian Bernie (with £50 notes - that's all he really wants).

Total votes: 116

They need a like button here.

Because that whole comment was entertaining, start to finish.

Total votes: 108

Good stuff

This report reminds me of an endorsement by P.J. O'Rourke of a Carl Hiassen book: 'Does more to damage the appeal of Florida as a tourist destination than anything other than an actual visit to Florida itself'

One has to hand it to Dorna for chasing the almighty Euro than any other consideration, such as fan support or (gasp!) rider satisfaction. P.I. has pretty low-class facilities but friendly people, superb racing and weather that makes 'Survivors' into a studio game show but it is scrambling to survive as a motoGp destination.

Total votes: 116

This is the only racing site

This is the only racing site I have ever seen with both references to Hiassen and O"Rourke....hahahhaaaa
The French can continue in their drawbridge mentality for only so long unitl it actually starts to impact their wallets, but Im not even sure that will effect them. They are so far gone at this point as to nearly be irrelevant. I would much rather see a Monza MotoGp race any day. This attitude you describe of having achieved in their own minds iconic status for a venue is not limited to France, but apparently they have perfected it.
Thank you for an honest report, as my calendar expands to include Euro races, I will exclude this one.

Total votes: 114

In defense (somewhat) of Le Mans

David -
Let me share with your readers our take on Le Mans as a company who takes people there...

Le Mans is historically our smallest European event. In fact, this year it is a strong runner for smallest event period. We have somewhat less than 30 package customers there this weekend; even Qatar & Motegi (pre-cancel) were considerably bigger!

Given that about 50% of our customer base is British, and virtually nil French our experience pretty much echoes your sentiments and those of your respondents.

However, to give its due, any event is mostly what you make of it. Le Mans is no exception - last year we had an absolute blast and our customer reports of Le Mans over the years are generally no worse or better than other venues.

Many of your comments are very valid - with caveats. Guards are evil - unless you speak French (sometimes). Is this any different than Paris?

Crowds are drunk and unruly - after dark, if you happen to be at the circuit, which we usually are not. However last year the Saturday night 'show mechanique' was marvelous - yes, many of the 1000s of attendees were a bit inebriated; but it was a very happy atmosphere and the equal to the much-lauded Mugello atmosphere (although no one was stalking with live unmuffled chainsaws as the Italians are fond of...)

The track is boring - perhaps. But I remember it as being the venue of Bradley Smith's first podium. Chris Vermeulen's sole MotoGP victory. Toni Elias's maiden Moto2 victory. Exciting things can happen on boring tracks. Also I am there to watch bikes, and there are a lot of vantage points on a track which permits great access for not a lot of money (unlike, say, Misano or Aragon which charge a lot to keep you in a cage)

And you can't overlook the town of Le Mans itself. The medieval city is absolutely charming; and - this being a town which caters to high profile sports enthusiasts - there is an inordinately high number of great restaurants.

I don't argue in order to promote higher-cost services; however like anything else if you know the issues and work around the negative points, this is a great weekend. The VIP Village is like an oasis in the midst of the Le Mans mayhem; and being the smallest in Europe, you get a lot of attention.

There is no question that Le Mans is not the star venue of the MotoGP tournament. We despair in efforts to build up this event and do more business here. Without the cooperation of the circuit and with the rubbish reputation it has amongst our primary customer base, we will spend our promotion time and money elsewhere.

BUT I would love to help make this a good and popular event; in the unlikely event that anyone from Le Mans is looking at this (and I will point this out to senior people there); please help us help you by:

1/ Introducing friendly, and more diligent security
2/ Across the board demand more courtesy and helpfulness from your staff
3/ Abolish internet fees for media people
4/ Regulate and police the campgrounds more (this is the breeding ground for some of the most revolting behaviour in motogp - I have plenty of photos to prove this!)
5/ Although I doubt there is much that can be done with the circuit itself; I am not the expert here. Consult with riders and journalists like David for suggestions on small but effective improvements to enhance the racing.

-gordon

PS -
You miss one of my favourite complaints - the variomatic traffic control; access which seems to vary by the hour! How about flying in top VIPs to the literally adjacent airport for race day? Good for business, no? We have done this for each of the past two years. So, to travel the 500m from the airport to the main entrance of the circuit, one has to circumnavigate the entire track (and I mean about 320 degrees!) through traffic and unhelpful guards (many of whom have never heard of 'VIP Parking' for example). Typically 45 minutes, with a van load of top VIPs. Who just flew the English channel in about the same time...

PPS -
Like David, I am skipping this round. The ONLY European round I am missing this year. Gives me more time to offer constructive criticism! :-)

Total votes: 110

Visiting Le Mans

Gordon, if I were to visit Le Mans as a spectator, then the only way to do it would be with one of your VIP packages. As you say (and as I tried to say in the blog post), Le Mans (and the surrounding area) are fantastic. It just all stops once you get to the track. Going VIP is a great way of avoiding (most of) the hassles, and you certainly take care of your guests!

Total votes: 121

I stopped reading after...

France is a wonderful country (jk).
I have never been to Le Mans so I cannot argue with you, I would just like to point out 2 or 3 simple facts about France in a more general fashion to some of your readers .
First, Europe can pretty much be divided in 2 parts concerning the average english-speaking capability: Northern Europe (Germany, Netherlands, Danemark, Sweden and so on) speak very good english and Southern Europe (Spain, Italy, Portugal, France, Greece etc...) is really not that good (on average obviously).
From the US I've heard that they also speak some kind of english though with a funny accent in the UK ;-)
So having to deal with people not speaking english can be a pretty big hurdle for international tourists and it can also lead sometimes to misunderstandings or wrong interpretation in people's behavior (I can guarantee than many people dealing every day with tourists like in a train station or restaurants do not speak english).
Second I would like to point out that references to Paris may not be relevant for France in general because well...even French people from different regions don't appreciate the stereotypical Parisians (whom we make fun of).
Lastly, it is well known that the only match for French arrogance is the US arrogance, we've even been voted worst international tourists in polls, yes, we can be as annoying in other countries than on our home soil.
Also there are pretty big differences between the various regions in France so if you found people not welcoming and not warm enough in Paris or Le Mans, you should try to go down south towards the Riviera or the Basque country, people are much more "latin" over there ;-)

Total votes: 119

Brilliant thread and comments..........

that describe the Gallic horror to a T. Visiting France at any time can be likened to having a root canal. There are so many great circuits available ( in pleasant countries ), that there is no reason to return to this toilet.

Would it be workable to have threads on each GP where people could share details of their experiences visiting and thus provide a great info resource to others contemplating a visit ?

Finally, there is one French experience guaranteed 100% to be enjoyable; the sight of France, in your rear vision mirror, when you cross the border into Belgium ( the Flemish region though ! ), Italy, Switzerland or Spain.....

Total votes: 111

Interesting

How interesting to read all these comments, we were at Catalunya in 2009 on our first ever trip to Europe and it was fantastic experience and the racing was terrific , we also caught WSBk at Donnington at which I was disappointed in the facilities but the track looked fantastic, it undulated a lot more than you see on the tv and we had both good and bad experiences with track staff. so thats the luck of the draw, we are off again this year and are catching the Brno Motogp and Nurburgring for WSBk so i am glad to see that most people seem to think we should be in for a great experience. If any of you Europeans or Americans want to head down under a weekend at the Island is a treat and with current scheduling you can probaly mix it in with either Japan or Malaysia
Hope this weekends racing makes up for the dud circuit

Total votes: 130

Le Mans 2011 motogp

Hi ,How I wish I had read your blog before booking to take my wife and son with girlfriend to Le Mans .This was supposed to be a treat for my son for his 21st birthday instead of a party .What a huge mistake .the campsite rouge which we stayed at and I use the word campsite very loosely was beyond any word I have in my vocabulary.We had to pack up after the first night due to sheer despair and fatigue and find a hotel which we did at a horrendous cost .All in all it was a complete waste of money no one enjoyed themselves and to top it all when we got to the eurotunnel we were told our tickets had expired even though we had arrived 3 hours early and it cost us £278 for a car and a bike single fare .We phoned Grandstand tours when we got back and were told what did we expect from the campsite well we expected a campsite or some thing resembling one and to send a letter and they would see what they can do about the confusion with our tickets.
On a positive we did enjoy race day hugely!
We went independantly to Misano last year and had a fantastic time we combined it with 2 weeks touring there and back but we will never do Le mans again and would not advise anyone else to do it .

Total votes: 98

Le Mans

Good article David.
I would welcome an article on the new Silverstone if you have time.

Total votes: 115

Le Man MotoGP vs. Le Mans 24 Heures?

I'm sitting here watching Le Mans 24 Hours and listening to the commentators say what a great experience it is to go to Le Mans for the whole week. Strange how racing events at (almost) the same circuit can be so different. Is it because it's a biker crowd vs. a car crowd? Is it the organizers? Wonder if anyone has been to both MotoGP and 24 Heures events and can compare/contrast the two.

Total votes: 122

The 24h Du Mans

The 24-hour car race is the reason for that circuit's existence, its very raison d'etre, to use an apposite phrase. Everyone at the circuit lives for that race. What's more, Le Mans has built a culture around 24 hour events, so even the 24 hour bike race is a big draw. I think they regard the MotoGP race the same way that actors see waiting on tables between acting jobs: a necessary evil to pay the rent while waiting for the right part to come along. And the right part always takes 24 hours at Le Mans.

Total votes: 120

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