Every year, construction is undertaken at the 24 Hours of Le Mans circuit, with safety improvements the number one priority. While the length of the circuit remains the same, modifications often affect the edge and surroundings of the track. For next year's 86th edition, a clearance zone is being put in place at the final turn of the Porsche curves.
When drivers are asked which part of the 24 Hours of Le Mans circuit they prefer, most will answer the Porsche curves, a sequence of four curves including the Pont turn that straddles the main road linking the towns of Arnage and Ruaudin.
Because taking the curves at such high speeds every time is nothing if not thrilling. By the end of the year, the appearance of the last curve before the Karting turn will have been profoundly modified without otherwise affecting the rest of the track.
A long time coming, the work will be carried out under the supervision of the Syndicat Mixte du Circuit des 24 Heures and will continue through December given the sizable scope and significant costs associated with the project.
A stream, the Roule-Crottes, flows beneath the roadway. The extension of its pipeline was carried out during the summer. Now that that stage is completed, the work crews will tackle deforestation and clearing before removig the embankments and fencing that previously secured this portion of the track.
Once all of that is checked off, the earthworks can begin: 25,900 m3 of dirt to haul away and 22,000 m3 of dirt to backfill in order to create a clearance zone and put in place a grassy knoll. To give you an idea of the scale of this phase of the project alone, a 15-ton dump truck can transport approximately 6 to 7 m3!
It is only when the earthworks are completed that the roadworks can properly begin, including undercoats and then bitumen (590 tons of asphalt mix), to be covered with a special high-adhesion coating.
Then 350 meters of safety rails will be erected as well as 370 meters of FIA-approved fencing before the ground is marked as the final task to be completed before the end-of-year holidays. This section will remain unused until the 86th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans given that it is used to connect the Maison Blanche and Bugatti circuits, permanent areas of the track, to the local roads at the opening of the main circuit.