LE MANS, France — The Indianapolis 500 is billed as The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” — true enough. The Daytona 500 is The Great American Race, or it was until NASCAR let Toyota come to the party.
I would put forth the 24 Hours of Le Mans as The Greatest Race in the World. A big statement you might say, and I say, yes, it sure is. But, today, from here, it’s true.
Indianapolis is the closest thing to Le Mans in pageantry and excitement (or at least it used to be until someone spiked the water in Indiana and the organizers went berserk and tried to ruin a great thing).
Le Mans is a festival of car nuts with a 24-hour race at the end of it.
Born just 12 years apart, Indy and Le Mans share a similar legacy — proving the then untested automobile. What sets them apart today is that Le Mans has remained true to its roots while Indy, which used to have a more open format for technical rules, has become nearly a spec race with the only choice available to the competitors being Honda or Chevrolet engines. The chassis and tires used (Firestone and Dallara DW-13) are dictated by the rules makers.
While Ray Harroun used a rearview mirror (not the first) to win the first Indianapolis 500-mile race, Le Mans over the years has seen the first application of disc brakes (Jaguar winning in 1953) and windshield wipers, and since the turn of the millennium we have seen unparalleled advancement with Audi winning with the first TFSI (Direct Injection) engine — 2000, the first Diesel engine — 2006 and one year past the first Hybrid/Diesel.