Information for Le Mans 'First-Timers'
(Updated November 2023)
Over the years I've often been asked for information by people who are making the trip to Le Mans for the first time. The first trip to Le Mans is important in the sense that you want to make the most of it, but there is just so much to experience. These days, with all of the information available on the internet and social media, it's far easier to get this information than it was 36 years ago when I went for the first time. Way back in 2002 I put together some brief information for those about to make their debut as spectators at the world's greatest motor race. This page has undergone a lot of updates over the years since I first wrote it, as things that were important back then probably aren't any more, while other things have become more important to many people.
There is a vital point to remember though which is that there is no 'right' way to do Le Mans, whether you're a first-timer or a seasoned veteran. You'll get a different slant on what you should aim to do depending on who you talk to and particularly who you go with when you go for the first time. By way of example there are many who swear that you cannot enjoy Le Mans properly unless you camp at the circuit whereas others (particularly old Le Mans soldiers like me - I'm now 66) will say that the convenience of a hotel room not too remote from the circuit far far outweighs any advantage of camping. There are those who clearly believe that Le Mans is an event that cannot be survived without consuming copious amounts of alcohol. That's fine if that's what you want, but at least try and stay sober enough to see some of the racing.... Whatever I think doesn't make me right or anyone else wrong. Whatever you do though and however long you go for, you need to make sure you allow it to soak in through every pore. There is no atmosphere like it. In my opinion the only absolute must is to see the cars for as long as possible during the race night. 2023 was my 36th Le Mans and I've avoided sleeping during the night since 1987. The racing in full darkness is just so good that I'm not prepared to miss any of it. As I've said to many people over the years, you've got a whole year to catch up on your sleep - don't waste this one magical night..... But it also means that if you consume a large amount of alcohol during the day and evening on Saturday, you will have absolutely no chance of staying awake during the night. It's hard enough to do when you're stone cold sober...
This isn't a definitive guide to Le Mans. There are other sources for this information, such as the ACO's official site, the Club Arnage guide (sadly no longer updated) and the page at Ten Tenths devoted to frequently asked questions
All of the information is based on my own experiences at Le Mans. If I express a view, it is entirely my own and others are free to disagree.
Note also that information becomes out of date very quickly - almost as quickly as the ACO make changes to my beloved Le Mans circuit - so if you spot something I need to update - let me know. Finally, if there's something you want to know, you can always ask me by email or use the excellent Le Mans subforum at Ten Tenths (where I've been a member and moderator for 22 years).