Endurance test

We head to Le Mans 24 Hours – the world’s most iconic endurance race – to experience the unique atmosphere and incredible racing
that can only be found at La Sarthe.

It’s 3am on a Sunday and I should be tucked up in bed, sleeping soundly. Instead, I’m at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, wide awake thanks to a cocktail of coffee and sugary snacks. Standing trackside on the edge of a small wooded area, just before the entrance to the famous Porsche Curves, the air is still. The only sound is the distant thump of techno music emanating from the lively Beausejour campsite behind me. I look left and see two sets of yellow headlights in the distance – GT cars battling for the class lead. Behind them another pair of lights appear – this time bright white, signalling the approach of one of the faster prototype machines – and seconds later the No 8 Audi R18 e-tron quattro they belong to whooshes past at around 190mph and dives into the fast right-hander. It’s a truly surreal experience and one that can only be found at the world’s most famous endurance race.

A day earlier we made the trip down to Le Mans in the 340PS Audi RS Q3 compact SUV. The task of transporting enough camping gear for three people for the weekend was made easier thanks to the additional luggage space provided by an Audi ski and luggage box and roof bag. The drive down to Le Mans couldn’t be easier, just hop on the Eurotunnel, and then head about 300 miles south on France’s super smooth toll roads. We had time for a quick detour to the site of the historic Rouen Les Essarts circuit, where we put the car’s mighty performance to the test on the twisting country roads that once formed one of the greatest race tracks in the world.

Our home for the weekend is the innovative Audi tent. Its frame is inflatable, meaning you simply unroll it and inflate using the air pump provided – there’s no messing around with tent poles. Once pitched, it’s an impressive-looking thing with loads of space inside – enough for me to comfortably stand up. It can also be fixed to the car, meaning weatherproof access between tent and boot. This is very useful, as we also brought along Audi’s espresso mobile coffee maker, which plugs straight into a 12-volt socket in the car and produces the perfect cup of coffee every time. It’s a nice luxury to have on hand when you’ve been awake for nearly 24 hours…

This is my first visit to Le Mans, but it certainly won’t be my last. Standing trackside in the dead of night watching some of the world’s fastest racing cars do battle is a memory that will stay with me for a very long time. The atmosphere within the campsites at the circuit is completely unique, and attending should be at the top of any motorsport fan’s bucket list.

Written by James Clark, Photographs by Alex Shore


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