Sunday 11 June 2017

Le Mans 2017 : Pesage, the slowest lap.

A few years ago we had a running joke regarding the scrutineering (pesage) days at Le Mans that nothing happened in the morning and then surprisingly little happened in the afternoon. To be fair, although it's never going to be a thrill ride, it does have its own unique charm.

United Autosports #35 Ligier-Gibson arrives at the square.
If you have never experienced it before, the process works something like this. In one of the main squares of Le Mans (Place de la République ), a set of tents open at each end are set up along the four sides of a square. Race cars arrive according to a strict schedule in the south east corner and are pushed one after another through the sequence of tents within which they are weighed, measured and minutely inspected to ensure they conform to regulations. At the same time as the cars are getting a serious bit of looking-at, the drivers are summoned to present their licenses, helmets, suits and other safety gear in the registration office in the centre of the square. All this sounds a bit dull and if that was all there was to 'pesage' then I would agree that it is an unlikely spectator event.  

Porsche drivers are interviewed on the covered stage.
Once the cars have passed inspection the official ACO stickers are applied and the cars are wheeled into an area where they are joined by the drivers and the rest of the team for a set-up photo opportunity for the group of press photographers positioned to capture the moment. Once the group-shot is done the drivers are invited onto a covered stage area where they are interviewed by Le Mans commentators Bruno Vandestick and David Waldron in front of an audience gathered in small grandstand. Outside the square of inspection tents there is another ring of awnings that contain a range of stalls where you can shop for a T-shirt, hat or scale model of your favourite car past or present. 

In past years the pesage has been on Monday and Tuesday, but a few years ago it was brought forward to Sunday and Monday. The move to Sunday has made the event incredibly popular with the local population of Le Mans, not least because it is entirely free to attend and they can see the cars and drivers at close quarters, possibly the closest race fans will have a chance to get all week. 

Thrilling it isn't, but well worth attending for the party atmosphere, particularly in the gorgeous weather we have been blessed with today.

Dave Davies.