Le Mans 2019
Returning to Le Mans, just two years after attending for the first time was just as exciting as our maiden visit. Not being a novice this time we had a plan and this time the weather cooperated and we didn’t melt from the heat.
Guide to 24h Le Mans
I admit this is not exhaustive, however I aim to provide sufficient guidance that your visit to the 24h of Le Mans will be enjoyable.
Topics – Guide to 24h Le Mans
- Getting Around & Parking
- What else to do
General admission, grandstand, and parking pass tickets go up for sale in the fall before the event. Typically they will be on sale in October for the race in the following June. If you know that you are attending, purchase early as this will ensure your ability to purchase your preferred tickets.
Some grandstands are reserved for ACO members. Membership is available through the official Le Mans website and can be purchased at the same tickets as tickets. I haven’t signed up for the membership, so cannot comment on its value. For people planning to return in consecutive years membership usually provides early access to tickets, and during the race there are hospitality areas that are exclusive to ACO members.
General admission tickets
These tickets are mandatory. Without them you’ll be listening to the race from outside the track and have no view. These tickets, for both 2017 & 2019 provided free admission to the 24h museum during the race weekend. There are many vantage points where, if early enough, you could step up a folding chair and watch the race. The start/finish straight has tiered steps providing the ability to pack the area and provide a view of the start of the race for everybody in the area.
The majority of the grandstands line the start/finish line, with a few grandstands directly above the pits. There are additional grandstands along the track, such as up at the Dunlop chicane, or at Indianapolis or Arnage corners.
Both visits we selected Tribune 11, initially because all the other grandstands were sold out in 2017. Although it appears away from the action on a map, we have found this grandstand to be great.
Location: It’s closest to the entrance beside the museum, and beside a tunnel to cross under the track to get to the village. Right outside of the entrance are concession stands, and the bathroom building is located a short distance away.
Views: The big screen TV opposite the track provides an excellent view of the TV feed during the race. The grandstand is located just past the blend line from pit lane, and gives a perfect view of cars entering the first corner as they head uphill to the Dunlop chicane before cresting the hill at the Dunlop bridge and disappearing as they head downhill towards Tetre Rouge.
This is a covered grandstand providing protection from the sun from about 9am through to late in the afternoon when it’ll be at your back. Expect a breeze the higher up you sit in the grandstand. This was a lifesaver in 2017 when it was close to 34C at the start of the race. In 2019, the breeze made both of us regret not having layers of clothing available.
Only if you are at the corner closest to the start/finish line will you get a direct view of the start and end of the race.
Our seats were at the very top and in the middle of the grandstands. To get the perspective from our seats, watch the YouTube video I put together.
Getting to the Track (aka Parking)
There is public transit to the track. The tram will drop you off east of the village, and it’ll be a 1km to get to the start/finish area.
It is possible that you could keep your accommodations in Paris, as there are TGV (France’s high speed) trains from Paris to Le Mans. They run regularly and are faster than driving. There is a tram stop just outside of Le Mans train station and it will take you out to the track. The obvious downside is that you’ll be missing out hours of the race during your TGV ride to and from Paris, and while on Le Mans city transit to the track.
For us, we rented a car and parked in one of their designated parking areas. It’s important to note that the closer you get to the track, expect crowds to grow complete with cyclists and pedestrians. As well, the main road just west of the Tribunes has temporary chicanes setup to slow traffic. Give yourself plenty of time to get around so you aren’t rushed behind the wheel of the car.
The parking lot I have used is the Rotunde. It’s a smaller grass lot west of the entrance beside the museum.
Pros: Tiny lot, easy and quick to enter, and park a vehicle. It’s less than a 10 minute walk to the entrance/museum. There is a roundabout beside the lot with on-ramps to the east/west highway (D323). This highway directly connects to the A11 highway to the west, and eastbound it’ll take you to the A28 that is just south of the A11.
Cons: Tiny lot, and when some people illegally camp you might have to get creative in where you will park. Really, that’s it.
There are parking lots closer, however the combination of Rotunde parking and Tribune 11 seats meant within 10 minutes of parking I’d be at the grandstand.
As mentioned above, it is possible to commute from Paris for the race, however you’ll have to make the choice of how much racing you’ll watch in exchange for commuting to your hotel.
This event regularly draws over 250,000 spectators. That’s 70% more than the city of Le Mans arriving for a weekend. There are many options:
This is an option directly from the Le Mans website. There are several camping sites that are at the track to provide the ability to maximize time at the track. Some people will just sleep at the track during the race. I spotted no shortage of these diehard spectators:
These areas are setup where your allocated space is sufficient for one vehicle and a tent. The distinct upside is that without the need to drive anywhere for the weekend you can join the hordes of people who drink throughout the weekend.
There are many available in the city, however good luck booking them. Expect any major chain in the city to be blocked or fully booked a year or more in advance, and expect to pay a premium price for them.
Pricing is very localized. In 2017 we stayed 1 hour west in Laval where the budget hotel was still offered at a budget price. If that range is acceptable other cities to the south of Le Mans are Angers and Tours. They might offer similar reasonable priced accommodations however you’ll spend more time commuting to the track.
We used this option in 2019 and was able to land a clean, simple private bedroom in a house south of Arnage. We had our own private bath (shower & sink), with the toilet in a separate room down the hall. We were maybe 20 minutes away from the track, but it felt like a world away as it was quiet — albeit the neighbours’ roosters did help ensure I woke up early on Sunday.
B&Bs, and palaces
The Loire Valley has several old manors, estates, and castles. Some have been converted into small hotels or bed and breakfasts. The Corvette corral organizer, Gerard, offers assistance in finding accommodation that is close by. This option can work for those attending for the week of activities leading up to the race weekend, or in a small group where it is possible you could book out the entire building.
Tour Operator Campsites
There are several English based tour operators who offer package tours to the event. I found them when searching ahead of the 2017 race. These operators offer the same basic camping, however also offer glamping and even purpose built containers that are tiny hotel rooms.
With accommodations set, you’ve entered the track with your general admission tickets, now what?
Getting Around at the track
Bring very comfortable shoes. Lots of walking await to get to and from the track, and while at it. There are shuttle buses that will take spectators from the start/finish area out to Indianapolis and Arnage corners, however I have not tried this yet.
I’ve spotted bicycles throughout the weekend, however with the large crowds, walking is the best option.
Views around the track
There are many general admission areas where you can have great views of the track from the final corners, along the start/finish straight, and up to the Dunlop chicane and bridge.
With a total track distance of over 13 km, it’ll be a bit of walk to get around even these areas. As mentioned earlier, if you’re early it is easily possible to setup a folding chair and watch the race, and even have a good view of the many large screen TVs that are setup aimed at grandstands.
What to do at the track
This section is for when you need a break from watching the race.
First, keeping it vehicle themed is that there is a go-kart track near the Porsche Curves that are available during the race weekend.
Next, the iconic Ferris wheel. It is located south of the start/finish straight and is accessed by being on the westside of the track, and walking past the Porsche Experience Centre. For 2019 the price was 10 Euro per person. The area around it is quiet on Sunday as any carnival elements must have focused on Saturday as the key time to be operating.
This area located east of the start/finish line (infield), is the location where race teams and vendors have their stores configured as their main shopping area. Official Le Mans branded merchandise, sponsors and factory team items can be found in the shops.
There are a few fancy (aka pricy) food options as you near pit lane. We looked at the menu and prices and didn’t try either location.
Dunlop Bridge area
On the outside of the track by the Dunlop Bridge is a concert stage. It has listed concerts each evening Thursday to Saturday. We haven’t been there to watch yet — maybe that’ll be a goal in a future visit. 😉
Around the stage area are a grater variety of food options that appear to be a food truck gathering area.
Directly across from Turn 1, on the outside is a cafe that offers roof-top views. During the race you’ll have a minimum spend to get a view of the track. Based on the sized of the cameras in use, this was a preferred spot for amateur photography.
Around Tribune 11 is a small collection of stores and concession stands. Official ACO Le Mans merchandise is available alongside other misc. merchandise. The concession stand took pity on Little Miss in 2019 as they gave her free hot water, as she already had a tea bag in her mug ready for some caffeine for the afternoon.
Concession stands are located near Tribunes, as well in the Village and around Dunlop Bridge. Selection is not limited to hamburgers and hot dogs. For sit-down affairs we spotted a restaurant at the end of pit lane on the Village side. Views of the track were possible, however pricing would be similar to a good restaurant in Paris (pricey).
What Else to do
Included in general admission tickets (for both 2017 & 2019) was admission the 24h Museum located at the north west corner of the track. In 2017 we went through on Saturday afternoon and it was packed due to the oppressive heat outside. In 2019 we went through on Friday afternoon and crowds were manageable. There is a significant collection of former vehicles on display through the whole history of the track.
Explore other parts of this trip:
Part 5 – Guide to 24h Le Mans – This post!