Le Mans and Lohéac, a little more than 200 kilometers separate these two extremely popular cornerstone locations in motorsport. Endurance is king at the first in June, and Rallycross reigns at the second at the end of the summer. Two very different worlds, so close yet so far. Some have taken on both Le Mans and Lohéac, such as Sébastien Loeb, as a driver; Andreas Roos, as an engineer with Audi; Patrick Morisseau, as Race Director or marshals steward. Lap by lap, here they share their thoughts on these two legendary racing spots in France.
The role of the track marshals is crucial to the success of any motorsport event. These volunteers, all immense fans of competition, are the first eyes and ears of the race direction on the ground, at Lohéac as at Le Mans.
The caliber of the marshals trained at Le Mans and who serve at the 24 Hours is internationally recognized, as are the training provided during the winter break and the level of excellence expected. At Lohéac, they represented 90% of the marshals in the World Rallycross Championship.
"We had a truly great weekend in both dry and wet conditions, especially with stunning battles on the track. In Rallycross, the cars touch and make contact whereas at Le Mans it's much cleaner. You have to be there for the long haul. It's different but just as fun," explains Joel Esnault, track marshal, trainer and marshals steward at Lohéac. With the experience that comes with his 32 editions of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, including many as Post Chief, Esnault managed a team of 37 marshals at Lohéac. "To work as a track marshal at Le Mans allows you to serve at other races and it's a committment to professionalism. We go to other circuits like at Lohéac and are used to working together. We are the eyes of the race direction and must intervene very quickly. That includes everything from flag waving to driver protection to removing debris on the track to extricating cars from gravel traps. The key word is safety; but mainly teamwork, and it is always enjoyable."
Also sent to the race was an extraction team that had taken part in a unique training in France this past February entrusted to the teams of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest under the auspices of the FIA. The goal of the annual training workshop is to test, optimize and certify the ability to extract a driver from his or her racing car, when necessary after an accident.
Alain Godefroy, President of the Association Extraction 72, rescuer since 1976 and member of the first extraction team created in 1992 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, was in charge at Lohéac. "There were four of us at Lohéac and everything went well. At the 24 Hours of Le Mans, our association deploys three of the eight teams who take turns during the race. Our mission is to intervene, always upon the request of the head doctor, to extract a driver if he cannot exit his car on his own. Thanks to the training we receive at Le Mans, we can serve at all the FIA championships (Endurance, F1, WTCC, Formula e, Ed.)."
Enthusiastically, he adds: "There is a certain pride that comes with being at Le Mans and serving at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. We are sort of well-known and recognized, and so we have to perform impeccably. Often when we go to other races, we overhear 'there's the team from Le Mans.'"
In addition to the marshals deployed to Lohéac to ensure the French round of the 2017 World Rallycross Championship goes off without a hitch, the ACO also sent two pick-up trucks loaded with extraction and fire equipment used during the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The management of all the intervention teams was handled by Patrick Morisseau, the Race Director at Lohéac and at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
To become an Auto or Moto marshal:
Just like thousands of other men and women, you too can become a marshal (must be 16 or older), live out your passion for motorsport at the heart of any and all circuit races held at Le Mans, including the 24 Hours, and be a part of the legend.
To do so, nothing could be simpler. Just obtain an auto or moto volunteer track marshal license from one of the Associations Sportives affiliated with the ACO.
For more information:
PHOTO (Copyright - Stéphane LUSTEAU, Red Bull Content Pool and the ACO)