Now in its 84th year, Le Mans remains the most exciting event on the motorsport calendar. The 2016 event takes place from 15-19 June, and thousands of Brits are expected to make the pilgrimage to Circuit de la Sarthe in France.
With 24 hours of racing to complete, Le Mans is a herculean test for both cars and drivers. We caught up with Strakka Racing’s Danny Watts – an eight-time veteran of Le Mans and former LMP2 winner – to discover his six secrets of survival. You can follow Danny’s progress on Twitter: @wattsracing
1. Eat properly
Carbs are really important. It’s critical drivers get a good amount at breakfast. Pasta, rice, noodles are great sources of energy. It’s important to get a reward, too. I do like a fish-finger sandwich after a long stint in the car! It’s the same for the fans. Make sure you eat regularly – and not big, heavy meals. They will make you feel tired.
2. Drink well
Our ‘human performance’ guy creates a drink with electrolytes – these help our muscles to work properly. You need replace the fluids you lose while driving, and your muscles need sodium and potassium. So we don’t just have water. Coconut water is a good natural source of electrolyte. The mechanics have taken at least 60 litres for them to drink! Don’t have too much coffee, it’s diuretic too. Some of the guys like to have an espresso 30 mins before qualifying.
3. Warm yourself up
Warm up properly – it’s really important that we are ready for those stints at night-time, both physically and mentally. We do some hand-eye co-ordination work, maybe some ball-catching – as well as your usual muscle stretches.
Le Mans is a long week for drivers – on Wednesday and Thursday we have qualifying until late in the night. After that, we have a debrief with the engineers, so we get to bed late. I’ve got a motorhome on the Bugatti circuit (on the infield) that I share with my team-mate Jonny Kane. It’s a quiet (ish) area to get some quiet time. I’ll get sleep whenever I can, and the fans should as well. It’s not easy, but you’ve got a better chance of surviving the weekend…
5. Enjoy every minute, but pace yourself
The atmosphere at Le Mans is amazing, and you just want to soak it all up. There is so much to do, but pace yourself – whether as a driver or as a fan. From scrutineering through to the drivers’ parade, qualifying, photoshoots – it’s a full-on event. Keep a sense of humour; it’s really hard when everyone is tired but we’ll have some banter with the guys to keep spirits high. The race is an emotionally draining event for everyone.
6. Be prepared
Pack properly, and don’t forget phone chargers and plenty of spare clothing. The weather isn’t always great and you don’t have many places to dry out. That especially applies to us in an open-top car, although it’s probably the last time these will run at Le Mans.