24 hours in Le Mans
If you take a morning walk through the medieval center of Le mans Without knowing what Le Mans is, all you're going to find is slow. Medieval houses with wooden beams, cobblestones as irregular as the urban layout, school children that trot the slopes, ladies with the purchase that stop to greet, the typical four-can still in service and rural French car with the baguete under the arm they look like Typism extras. It seems almost impossible that what made this city of 144,000 inhabitants famous is speed.
If you approach Le mans This weekend, just when the most famous endurance race in the world turns 90, the landscape is transformed: bars in the street, crowds overflowing the center, drivers who are infected with the Formula 1 spirit and run over and a night city artistically lit in every corner, especially on the facades of historic buildings. “Welcome to the grand prize of endurance and tenacity, the 24 hours of Le Mans”says the movie The 24 hours of Le Mans. And that seems to go as much for the runners as for the spectators of that crazy weekend in which the city awakens for once.
Three-day houses that last six centuries. Civil and popular architecture is the greatest of Le Mans surprise values. Throughout the center there are medieval houses made of mud and wood that are still preserved, a little piled up. It is said that they were prefabricated and could be built in three days, and there they continue. But above all there are stone houses well in sight, to symbolize the economic power of its inhabitants in a city in which there is a prosperity of centuries and whose historical center barely intervened more than to prop up. The result is A walk along a winding urban path full of hidden jewels, like the palatial gardens, of which about 10 or 15 open to the public in September, during Cour et jardin. More information here.
The three-day houses that last six centuries © Rafael de Rojas
The wall. It is the first urban surprise, a huge mazacote very well preserved and it would be said that it is quite impregnable. To be part of a fortress it's too pretty, so it is suspected that the purpose besides defensive, was to demonstrate Roman power to the Gauls. The towers support the wall and are inclined, which makes it more impressive.
Flowers. At this time of the year there are wild flowers being born in any hole between the stones of the villa. Lilac and yellow colors predominate.
The mills. There are several in the city. One belonged to the pioneer filmmaker of the 1930s Marcel Pagnol.
Le Potagenet Public urban gardens spread throughout the city. You reap what you sow. The name is a pun between potage(orchard) and Plantagenet (The most conspicuous dynasty of Le Mans, who reigned in England and whose founder is buried in the Cathedral of Saint Julian of the town).
Le Potagenet, urban gardens in Le Mans © Rafael de Rojas
Robert Doisneau The photographer of "The Kiss" was in Le Mans, where he took a photo that also became famous, “The house that flies”. Now, in the place, there is a stuffed animal looking out the window reminiscent of Doisneau and the girl.
The street of Reina Berenguela. It is the most photographed in the city, is full of palaces and flows into the Cathedral. Here it was filmed Cyrano de Bergerac and many other movies, documentaries and advertisements. Next to it has the Queen Berenguela's garden and museum.
The Roman wall of Le Mans © Rafael de Rojas
More 24 hours In Le Mans, 24 hours away by motorbike, bike and even skateboard are also held under 24 hours.
The race. Created shortly after World War I, it turns 90 years old in this edition. The route has 13 kilometers and 605 meters, and its longest straight, 5 kilometers and 520 meters. The race starts on Saturday, June 22 at 3 p.m. and ends on Sunday 23 at the same time.
The rules. As they explain didactically in the film The 24 Hours of Le Mans: “They will drive day and night, rain or shine”, “No driver can drive more than 14 of the 24 hours, none can drive more than 4 consecutive hours"And" the car that rolls the greatest number of kilometers during the 24 hours will be the winner ".
Steve McQueen With his blond bangs of urinal bangs, now so fashionable among the posh teenagers, and his intense look that seems to say "I'm thinking something really screwed up", McQueen is everything in the 1971 film that gave the circuit a definite fame. The actor was a war hero who saved 5 companions from drowning in World War II, a driver who achieved good results in official races and a racing fan who insisted on rolling everything in the most realistic way possible (that is, running really). He was pissed off when he saw that he had been cut scenes instead of leaving the races even longer than what we do. They sell t-shirts with their hard blond face in the circuit shop at 42 euros.
Steve McQueen on the set of 'The 24 Hours of Le Mans' © Corbis
The yellow. "Yellow means danger" they say in the film. It is the one used in the circuit to indicate that there is an accident or a problem later.
The movie. It's about cars running. You'll like it if you like cars running. The prota wears a pretty Porsche 917 and the adversary a Ferrari that is not bad either. Enzo Ferrari refused to lend his cars because it was feared that on the screen they would lose that race against their enemies of the time. As they lost those of 1970 and 1971 in the real circuit. Epic by a tube. Try to transmit intensity based on languid glances -which is wrong-, or a montage of western spaghetti, as in the beginning of the race, marked by beats -that something better-.
Chimeras It is the night lighting with which the ancient city is decorated in summer. As part of the celebrations of the 90 years of the race, a visual show has been created that will be screened on the Church of the Annunciation, in the Republic Square. It can be seen every day until June 23 at 10 pm.
Chimeras, summer night lighting in Le Mans © Guy Durand
Pontlieue's fork. It was a curve of almost 360 degrees in the center of the city, where it was possible to compete when the race was released in 1923. For this 90th anniversary they have recovered it. It is not that he is going to run around, but they have redecorated it as at the time with the advertising posters of that time, the bar that has remained there since the 20s -related to the 20s-, interwar cars circulating around the curve and a dance with music and retro costumes at the adjacent Mauboussin school.
Parade of classics. The French association of classic cars puts its collector's cars (racing, supercar, electric and vintage) parading through the city. They go from the Republic Square to the Plaza de los Condes de Maine on Friday, June 21 at 5 p.m.
The classic race, a classic © Corbis
The fair. A village fair, with a huge ferris wheel from which you can see the circuit and attractions such as the Boomerang or the Booster on the outside of the Maison Blanchand. There is another fair next to the Dunlop tire with go-karting, an inverted car and other things related to the automotive industry.
11 legendary cars. During the days that the circuit lasts, eleven winning cars will be exhibited, almost one per decade (the 90's is represented by two). They will be parked in a space prepared in the circuit and will give some exhibition spin. They are the Bentley Speed Six (1929), Alfa Romeo 8C (1933), Ferrari 166 MM (1949), Jaguar D (1957), Ford GT40 (1969), Porsche 917K (1971), Porsche 956 (1982), Dead Heat Mazda 787B (1991), Peugeot 905 (1992), Audi R10 TDI (2006) and Audi e-tron Quattro (2012).
A fan at the exit. A spectator will be graced with the possibility of starting the official race. And then, they will give you a seat in the best place on the track.
Cyrano de Bergerac. A good part of the exteriors of the 1990 film were shot in Le Mans. When he starts and Depardieu enters the theater, he is actually at the gates of the Villa's Cathedral.
Depardieu in 'Cyrano de Bergerac' © D.R.
Air Baptism Flying over the circuit for 10 minutes (two laps) costs 99 euros per person in Heliberte ([email protected]).
24 hour museum. Classic cars and material related to the circuit. It is in the circuit of La sarthe (the race), opens until 7 a day and extends its schedule until 12 at night on the weekend of the competition. It costs 8.50 euros.
Earth, Wind & Fire. The group, almost as classic as the race, is the star of Sunday's concert on the circuit. There are other concerts on Friday and Saturday.
Street entertainment. Saturday and Sunday, in the Plaza de l'Ancien Musée acrobatics are staged, there is a pit stop and trial shows. From 10 to 8 in the afternoon.
Callejuelillas de Le Mans, the pause of speed © Rafael de Rojas