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HindustanTimes Wed,01 Oct 2014
Big build-up to the big race
Karun Chandhok, Hindustan Times
June 16, 2012
First Published: 01:17 IST(16/6/2012)
Last Updated: 01:27 IST(16/6/2012)
HRT Formula One driver Karun Chandhok of India waits to get his car ready during the first practice session of the Australian F1 Grand Prix in Melbourne.

Along with the Indianapolis 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix it is widely recognised as one of the crown jewels of world motorsport.

I feel very honoured to be the first Indian to start this blue ribbon event which has a huge history in our sport. The cars that race here are known as 'Sportscars' and look very different to Formula 1 cars. For the first time in two decades, Le Mans forms part of the World Endurance Championship which consists of 8 rounds around the globe. 

The participants at the blue riband event include not only the top sportscar drivers but also former F1 drivers as well. Drivers like Alex Wurz, Allan Mcnish and my team-mate David Brabham are part of this club and are also all former Le Mans 24 hour winners while other legends like Tom Kristensen and Rinaldo Capello have won multiple races at Le Mans.

While the knowledge base for F1 has grown exponentially, it's perhaps time to help you look at other forms of top level motorsport.

Karun breaks down the 24 hours of Le Mans

'What is Le Mans?' I hear you ask. For over a decade now, Narain and I have been working tirelessly to promote Formula 1 in India. Here’s the lowdown of another premier category of motorsport.

This year is the 80th running of the Le Mans 24 hours race:
The race is one of the longest running motorsport events in the world. It is held annually near the town of Le Mans since 1923 on the 13.629km long La Sarthe circuit.  The cars that race here are known as 'Sportscars' and look very different to Formula 1 cars. For the first time in two decades, Le Mans forms part of the World Endurance Ch’ship which consists of 8 rounds around the globe.

One of the biggest global sporting events:
Over 250,000 fans will descend on the Le Mans track for the race weekend, making it one of the highest viewed sporting events at a single stadium worldwide. To give you an idea, the expected crowd is more than the 120,000 at Eden Gardens for a Cricket match and the 105,000 for the F1 Indian Grand Prix combined!

19 F1 drivers on the grid this year:
Over the years, a number of motorsport stars have tackled Le Mans to 'tick the box' including Michael Schumacher, Jacques Villeneuve, David Coulthard as well as rally stars Colin McRae and Sebastien Loeb. This year, I form part of a club of 19 drivers who have moved from Formula 1 to Sportscar racing, ensuring that the quality of drivers is very high indeed. Back in the 1950s and 60s, F1 drivers who would race at a GP one weekend and then in sportscars in another were regular participants at Le Mans.

Huge variety in cars: There are 4 different categories of cars which make up the 56 car line up at this year's Le Mans race. The class I will be in is the top category called LMP1 (Le Mans Prototype 1) and within this category itself there is a mix of Turbo Diesel, Diesel Hybrid (both Audi's), Petrol Hybrid (Toyota) and standard Petrol cars, one of which will be our JRM Racing HPD car. The manufacturers with their F1 size budgets and infrastructure have a huge advantage, so for us as a privateer team, we are realistically fighting to be the 'best of the rest' behind the Audi's and Toyota's.

Over 5000 kilometres of racing:
The leading teams will cover a distance equal to 18 Formula 1 Grands Prix! The race traditionally starts at 3pm on Saturday afternoon and runs until Sunday afternoon. The crews are effectively awake from 8am on Saturday when we do the pre-race warm up session which makes it a true test of endurance for not just the cars but also the drivers, engineers and mechanics. With such long distances, teams have to stay alert while fighting fatigue through the night and running repairs on the cars.

Vital Stats

24  -- The number of continuous hours of racing at the endurance sportscar event 
3 --  The number of drivers per team that share one car throughout the course of the event.
5,000 -- The number of kilometers covered by the top teams by the end of the race.
19  --  Number of ex and current F1 drivers on the Le Mans grid amongst the 56 team entry list.


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