Racing has existed for almost as long as cars. But the first race cars weren’t monoposto machines like those that were popularised in the 1930s, they were sports cars. Sports car racing is the very heart of the sport. Not for sports car racers the quick sprint around the track on a Sunday afternoon then back on the PJ to head off to the next round. Sports car racing is gruelling – it goes on for hours and in cars that in recent times are only a little less fast than F1 machines. Do 24 hours at Le Mans or Daytona, or even just 12 at Sebring and you’ll have earned your living in a way few F1 drivers would ever understand.
Nor would they likely recognise the team element: sports car racing is multi-dimensional not just because of the length of the races or that some go through the night, but because whenever a driver gets in the car, he or she is merely its custodian, their first duty being not to drive it as fast as it will go, but to bring it back to the pits for the next driver in the same shape in which you found it. You can’t be a prima donna, insisting on your own set up, or dash layout, you can’t protest if one of your teammates is a few tenths off or get jealous if you’re a few tenths down yourself. You have to work as a team, you have to be a caring, considerate, empathetic human being, qualities known mainly for their absence from the F1 grid.
And if you want to win sports car racing’s biggest prize, you have also to be prepared to hurl your car around an old circuit whose safety standards would be laughed at by F1, at night, in the rain amid a bunch of amateurs all jostling for position in their own personal battles for lesser class victories. Negotiate all that, get a good car run by a crack team, have top drawer teammates and even that won’t secure victory at Le Mans, for the race is so long and so fickle, luck always plays a part too – good luck for you, bad luck for others and usually both.
It is why we love sports car racing. It is why when he wanted to make a racing film, Steve McQueen didn’t turn to F1 or Indycar, but to Le Mans where some of the world’s fastest, most exciting, beautiful and lethal cars were raced by true heroes prepared to put their lives on the line to win the world’s greatest motor race.
And it is why The Intercooler will always bring you news and features from sports car racing not just at Le Mans, but right around the world, so our knowledge can help inform your passion for this most human and thrilling of racing disciplines.