Slow zones were introduced at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2014. But when and how does race control decide to activate a slow zone? Read on to learn more about this procedure, which means less safety car presence on track.
What is a slow zone?
A slow zone is a portion of the track that has been neutralised: speed is limited to 80 km/h in one part the circuit and overtaking is forbidden, making it safer for marshalls and emergency teams to intervene when necessary.
When does race control decide to activate a slow zone?
Martin Goureau, ACO’s head of track safety explains: “Race control will activate a slow zone when something happens on track and the marshals are required to go on, for example to pick up a bollard used to mark out the track boundaries, or when a boom lift is needed to lift a car from the gravel trap. The aim to ensure safe conditions on the track for the technical staff.”
How many slow zones are there around the 13.629-km circuit in Le Mans?
There are 35 zones split into nine sectors. The start of each zone coincides with a ‘main signaller’ post (the post with a track light, a yellow board with ‘NEXT SLOW’ written in black, and an orange board marked ‘SLOW’, and the signallers with their flags).
Do the slow zones replace the safety car?
Martin Goureau has the answer again: “The slow zones mean far fewer safety car interventions. Without the slow zones, we’d have an American Nascar-style race where the safety car is out virtually all the time. Yes, the slow zone neutralises the race over a kilometre or two but things carry on as normal over the remaining 10 or 12 km.”
The slow zones were introduced to make for a more interesting race for drivers and spectators alike, while improving safety for technical staff. The safety cars (three in all) are still required: the race may still be neutralised entirely at any time and, in that case, the safety cars come out, reducing competitors’ speed all the way round the circuit.
PHOTO: There are 35 zones split into nine zones around the 13.629-km Le Mans circuit. The first sector stretches from the starter’s vantage point to the Dunlop Bridge.