Perspective: American Le Mans and WEC – The Best of Both Worlds

Photos: Jennifer Stamps

Endurance racing—live—is unlike anything else I have ever experienced.  My knowledge of motorsport began and ended with Formula 1.  It wasn’t until Circuit of the Americas started being built that I began paying attention and learning about other motorsport series.  First it was Grand-Am, then MotoGP, and of course the Australian V8 Supercars.  Next on my list?  American Le Mans Series and World Endurance Championship.  I watched this year’s 12 hours of Sebring and 24 hours of Le Mans with serious interest for the first time. I have spent time looking things up and asking questions on Twitter.  But it wasn’t until the 6 hours of Circuit of the Americas that I truly grasped just how special these two series really are.

Rewind to March, 2013.  One of the things I loved most about Grand-Am was how much access they gave to the fans.  Open paddock, garage doors open.  It was great!  You saw kids walking around in awe that they got to see these cars (and drivers) up close and personal.  At the time, it was unlike anything I had ever seen.

But what about the prestige? My love for Formula 1 is partially because it is not like that, at all.  It is far too glamorous.  The drivers are too busy to be bothered with fans.  There are too many secrets in the garages to risk photos being taken and shared with opposing teams.  To me, that’s a part of what makes Formula 1 what it is.

In ALMS and WEC, with drivers like Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen, Nick Heidfeld, and Bruno Senna you get the glamour.  You have some of the best drivers in the world, racing in (arguably) the most rigorous racing series, pushing their cars to limits you couldn’t even imagine. Yet you still get all the access.  The garages are open.  Drivers are out talking with the fans and signing autographs.

You really do get the best of both worlds.  The drivers could easily be exclusive.  Lock themselves in their trailers.  Request an entourage of people catering to their every whim, but they don’t.  I got to talk with Martin Plowman (a driver for Oak Racing) on Saturday.  He gave me a tour of his garage.  Showed me his car. Let me ask questions. You would never guess that he was one of the drivers in the leading LMP2 car for WEC. Never in a million years.  He was unbelievably nice and down to earth.  And it wasn’t just him.  Many of the drivers were just as approachable, kind, and down to earth.

Experiencing these two series live has me hooked.  To take a car, make it as fast as it is, drive it as hard as they do, for multiple hours in a row, is amazing.  Then you add all of the features for fans to the mix; it really is a series for everyone.  If you are a fan of elite motorsport and want to be able to see it up close and personal, ALMS and WEC is definitely for you.

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Jennifer Stamps

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