European motorsports is a decidedly different animal than what we see in the States. The average IMSA race attracts less of a crowd than most minor league baseball games, and are serious events attended by serious racing fans. Le Mans, on the other hand, is a 24-hour party. A party that needs crashing.


*This is an article from APiDA Online, written by our resident rule breaker and European motorsport aficionado Jim Zeigler. If you'd like to see more of these types of articles, check us out here.*

The story's original article can be found here.


It was 2010, and my good friend Vinnie and I decided we would go broke. We would accomplish this feat by embarking upon a standard-issue Eurotrip, but with a decidedly narrow focus on cars. The goal was to experience as much Western European automotive culture that a two-month stint (and our credit limits) would allow. On the schedule: LeMans, Goodwood, the Nurburgring, and as many factory tours as possible.

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Charles de Gaulle was a monsoon-soaked stain on the earth when the flight touched down. My plan to combat jetlag (two promethazines and a gin & tonic) was foiled by Delta's Economy Class seats, which were apparently East German military prison surplus pieces designed for sleep-deprivation torture. After a much-needed shower and nap, I rendezvoused with my travel partner. Equipped with the finest backpacking gear available at Academy and a two-month train pass, we set out for Le Mans.

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European motorsports is a decidedly different animal than what we see in the States. The average IMSA race attracts less of a crowd than most minor league baseball games, and are serious events attended by serious racing fans. Le Mans, on the other hand, is a 24-hour party.

The atmosphere felt more like Hullabalooza than the most prestigious racing event on the planet. A large number of the people we met didn't give a damn about the race, instead focusing on drinking as much as possible and catching up on the ongoing World Cup.

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Being college sophomores, our train of thought was similar. Legally purchasing a beer at the wee age of 20 was a novelty of which our appreciation did not wane. After a few hours of watching the race, we retreated to the infield and fell in with a group of generous young Brits.

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It was at this point that we realized we were the only Americans in the area- and we were watching the UK/USA World Cup match. Luckily, our hosts had a sense of humor and permitted us to hang around under the stipulation that we only drink Jack Daniels as punishment for our nationality.

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At around 3 in the morning, Peugeot was still leading, and we were still drinking. Vinnie lamented that the best parts of the track were restricted from spectators because of safety concerns. I posited that this was bullshit, as we were Americans and could go where we please.

With this maverick patriotism flowing through our veins (along with the alcoholic payload of approximately a thousand beers), we began examining the paddock walls for fences to jump over.

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We found one. Our entrance point placed us directly next to the Dunlop tire changing trailer. We made our way to the massive Audi complex, and stopped at the Corvette Racing compound where we caught a glimpse of driver Johnny O'Connell through the window. He returned our gaze with a puzzled look, then went back to watching the race with a crewmember.

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Our drunken walkabout had not yet been intercepted, so we decided to throw a Hail Mary: we'd sneak through the adjacent park in hopes of making it to the end of the Mulsanne straight. After hopping a few more fences, we cut through a wooded area towards the wails of the screaming engines. Suddenly, flashlights: two security guards were walking on the path less than twenty yards away. I pushed Vinnie down to the ground and laid down next to him, flattening out under a bush. The guards heard the noise and shined their lights at the copse of trees immediately next to us. After a brief pause and some radio chatter, they strolled by.

We hopped up, sprinted through the remaining woods, and came out to the grandest sight imaginable; we were fifteen feet away from the track wall. The cars were flying past at inconceivable speeds. The noise, the class-specific headlights whipping by at well over 180mph, the race marshals glaring at us and making their way down the track wall to kick us out… side by side, Vinnie and I pressed our faces against the fence, lacing our fingers through the chain link like prisoners about to be drug off to isolation.

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We put on our best confused tourist faces, and the marshals were kind enough to let us stay for a few more moments before ushering us back to the infield. There were no pictures; my crappy Kodak point-and-shoot couldn't deal with the low lighting. But I don't need a concrete reminder to remember that moment. The sound of GT3-RSRs and the LMP1 diesels roaring past at full tilt is forever imprinted in my mind.

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The story's original article can be found here.

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