Retro Relapse: Le Mans: The Greatest Race in the World

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2014.

Since 1923, one race has stood above all others as the greatest race in the world: The 24 Hours of Le Mans.

It has now gone on for over 90 years and is inching towards that century mark. It is the most important event in motorsports history. It pits the best car manufacturers in the world, head-to-head, to see who is the best between them. It is a dangerous game of impossible odds, cutthroat competition and bragging rights yet it still exudes more class than any other sporting event in the history of the world.

The only thing that even comes close to the 24 Hours of Le Mans is Formula 1. However, Formula 1 doesn’t race for 24 hours straight, through the elements and into the dark of night on poorly lit and often times wet roads. I can’t think of a sport or a single event with such a level of danger, risk and reward. The 24 Hours of Le Mans is a showcase of the immortals behind the wheel. Only the best can hack it and only the best of the best can cross the finish line.

I could spend all day pumping this thing up because it is the most amazing thing that I get to witness year in and year out. This race is great for all the reasons I stated above but it doesn’t seem to click with American audiences. I guess watching ugly billboards go round and round in a circle for four hours is more exciting than seeing Ferraris, Porches, Aston Martins, BMWs, Audis, Mercedes and other beautiful cars weaving in and out of other luxury cars, s-curves and sharp turns for 24 hours. Sorry America, I have to side with the rest of the world on this one.

Additionally, Le Mans brings out the prototypes. The best manufacturers and engineers in the world use all their resources and knowledge to create the absolute best machine they can build in order to compete against one another. For more than a decade, Audi has dominated the sport because they have made cars that make supercars looks like ’82 Datsuns. In the past, manufacturers like Porsche and Ferrari dominated the sport. I’d rather see these majestic beasts of the road zipping by than some Chevrolet eyesore trying to sell me penis pills and Pop Tarts. If you don’t feel the same way, you need to really look at yourself in the mirror. To succeed in Le Mans, you have to be able to do a lot more than turn left at high speeds and talk with a twang.

This weekend, the 24 Hours of Le Mans returns. I will be glued to my television set for 24 hours, actually more than that due to all the pre-race and post-race coverage. Yes, I know that Audi will most assuredly win once again but that’s not the point. I didn’t stop watching Formula 1 when Michael Schumacher won five seasons in a row.

The point is, this is a sport for men. The most dangerous and life-threatening sport in the world. It gives us the best drivers in the best machines on the best race track ever created. It gives one more excitement and awe than some Mike’s Hard Lemonade 900 or whatever the next NASCAR race is called.

Steve McQueen, one of the greatest manly men to ever live, made a racing movie about one event, it was the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Hell, the film itself was simply called Le Mans.

Any argument one could have against Le Mans being the most badass sporting event of the year is completely and utterly invalid.

NASCAR can keep Tom Cruise.

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