You can tell it’s race day. Simple. There are about a million people here! The circuit is packed to the rafters and the excitement is clear, everyone is a race nut there and can’t wait until 3pm, the start of the 79th 24 Heures Du Mans.
Before the race there’s time to visit the Lotus garages and see numbers 64 & 65 being finally checked, checked and checked again for the race. I’m with a TV crew who are filming a short documentary film for Lotus and they interview Claudio Berro, Lotus Motorsport Director who is clearly looking forward and also Gavan Kershaw, Lotus Motorsport Product Manager. Gavan hopes that the cars will be competitive following a very hard 6 months getting the cars to the start line but is aware that it’s only the cars second race, so although they know on paper the car will last the distance, 24 hours is a long time to expect ten tenths from the car. James Rossiter, driver of #64 thinks the team have their strategy well thought out and is keen to get started and his co-driver, Johnny Mowlem was enjoying the huge atmosphere of Le Mans and loves being able to drive the Lotus here. Rather than outright pace, the cars strength will be it’s reliability, fingers crossed for them.
The cars look awesome and it’s just as awesome to think it’s roots lie in the car I drove down here in, it’s been a while since Lotus could have that claim. As they prepare for the formation laps the drivers mock a sprint across the track to the cars as in days gone by, hugely enjoyable for everyone involved. 3pm is approching fast and the cars line up on the grid proper, by now the atmosphere is huge and everyone in the crowd on the start finish straight are on their feet and as the cars complete their green flag lap the lights go out, 23.59.59…
After the first few laps the Evoras are gaining places, at the time of writing they’re up to 46th and 52nd place overall and running well. Within the first hour a huge crash has seen McNish out of the race as passed a Ferrari 458 which turned in on him and they both ended up in the tyres, McNish flipping into the air and rolling, it looked fairly nasty but both drivers walked out of their cars which is good. There’s been another fairly lengthy safety car period since but both Lotus cars are still in the race, keep it up guys!