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8 days ago
By Nick Harris

Le Mans: the bigger picture

Nick Harris shares his thoughts about the historic French circuit, and why the place will be buzzing all weekend

Of course, we all loved going to the Paul Ricard circuit in the sunshine and next to the so blue Mediterranean, but sometimes we so called journalists can get things out of perspective. The French MotoGP™ Grand Prix at Le Mans is a prime example of our somewhat one-eyed opinions based on what suits us, while totally losing what the event and MotoGP™ is all about.

To be fair, there are plenty of reasons not to enjoy Le Mans if you are working there. But the event is not about us, it’s about the fans and they just love the place. Over 100,000 are expected to pack the legendary Bugatti circuit on Sunday and most of them will have been partying all weekend. For many years, the French Grand Prix was drifting. Average crowds, lack of entertainment at the circuit causing problems in the town and a general feeling of the racing out on the track was enough to keep everybody happy. It was not, and so they did something about it.

This weekend it could not be a greater contrast – the place will be buzzing. Rock Concerts, public autograph sessions and rider appearances, stunt shows plus the fun fair with the obligatory dodgems and big wheel gives the place more the feel of a festival, until the serious business of racing gets underway. A French rider starring in the premier class, where a certain Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) has propelled the popularity of the sport in his home country. After all, the last French premier class winner was Regis Laconi, 19 long years ago, and Zarco has reignited a flame with the French sporting public.

Sometimes you have to forget your own problems and look at the bigger picture. I can assure you we were all fed up with the random road closures around the circuit that make the journey in a nightmare. Nobody enjoyed having a big under the influence Frenchman jumping on the bonnet of your car and then exchanging pleasantries when you protested after you left the circuit after a long day. Then there was the weather, but there is nothing anybody can do about that.

Although better known for the legendary 24-hour car race, Le Mans will stage its 31st motorcycle Grand Prix on Sunday. That first 500cc race back in 1969 was won by Giacomo Agostini as he lapped the complete field. One thing we can guarantee in the 27-lap race on Sunday is that will not happen again. The weather - we can offer no such guarantees.

Le Mans may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but those 100,000 fans on Sunday will not be drinking tea, I can assure you of that. 

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