HURLEY HAYWOOD abhors being late. As a three-time champion of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and a five-time winner of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, arriving anywhere first is a trait that’s served the 72-year-old well during his 30-plus years as a race car driver. But at the moment, “Early Hurley” is stuck in an elevator smaller than a bathtub—with seven other people— for nearly half an hour. Perhaps more upsetting than this claustrophobic predicament is the threat to Haywood’s punctuality. Even worse: As the grand marshal of the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, he’s a guest of honor at a Rolex-sponsored dinner to kick off the famous endurance race. But the finicky elevator within the control tower of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest’s complex in France has a mind of its own.
Upon release, much of the dinner is over and Haywood’s interest in attending has waned. Aggravation may shoulder some blame here, but fatigue factors, too. The requisite grand marshal duties are lengthy and afford few moments of respite. In between photo ops with fellow racing luminaries such as Jacky Ickx or glad-handing the eager cadre of 1,000 volunteer track marshals, many of whom watched Haywood successfully campaign here in 1977, 1983, and 1994, Haywood’s presence has been politely requested at a slew of luncheons, dinners, and other functions, including the drivers’ briefing.
“I remember when you could smoke during these,” Haywood quips quietly during the latter, as we sit in the front row of a room containing 186 drivers, a few seats from returning Le Mans champion and ex-Formula 1 superstar Fernando Alonso.
He also recalls far fewer rules governing his time on the Circuit de la Sarthe. In stark contrast to today’s 150- plus pages of regulations, “We were told not to crash into each other, respect the marshals, and go like hell when you saw the green flag after a caution,” Haywood shares. Among the lengthy instructions FIA race director, Eduardo Freitas gives today’s crop of pilots is a telling command: “Reverse is one of your gears. Make sure you know how to use it. I’m not keen on putting marshals in harm’s way to push your car out of a gravel trap.”
This directive would have been unfathomable in Haywood’s heyday, but it’s a prescient one rookie drivers need to hear. Over the years, the FIA, international racing’s governing body, and the ACO, the Le Mans organizer, have waged a multipronged effort to mitigate risk. Freitas and his colleagues believe the Circuit de la Sarthe needn’t be the notorious danger zone it once was. Part of the safety advances include physical changes to the course, a direct response to ever-increasing speeds.
“The cars are now capable of 400 kph [almost 250 mph] on the Mulsanne Straight,” Freitas says later over lunch, “so two chicanes are necessary. But the placement of the last one is vital: Too far back, and the brakes are too cool for the right-hander at the end.” Blow the braking zone after the 3.7-mile straight, and the punishment is a trip around a newly included roundabout to the left. “You’ll hit a gravel trap, and I can’t risk you dragging stones onto the track, so the roundabout will help knock away the loose pebbles.” Attempts to skirt the maneuver will see marshals holding the car for longer than it takes to comply.
Freitas understands the drivers’ belief that their car is the most important vehicle on track. “But,” he says, “we have the largest field ever this year. There are 61 other cars out there that I must consider. One car has no right to mess up others’ races. If you’re spilling fluids all over the track and still pushing [to the limit], that’s a large problem. You must exit.”
Measures aimed at eliminating driver injury are applauded by all, though it’s a marked paradigm shift, mentally. “The driver [years ago] who overcame obstacles the quickest won,” Haywood offers as we shuffle to the pits where he’ll wave the flag to open practice and qualifying sessions. “Oil on the track was just another obstacle.”
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
HOW CLOSE IS A PROFESSIONAL RACING SIMULATOR TO THE REAL THING? WE SENT OUR PRO DRIVER TO FORD’S PERFORMANCE TECHNICAL CENTER TO FIND OUT
There Goes Your Hero
Ford’s new-Mustang Shelby GT500 can save the day regardless of what kind of mood you're in
FOUR SEASONS INTRO -N MARKS THE SPOT
Our year with Hyundai’s hottest hatch is off to a blistering, blissful start
1988-91 Buick Reatta
THE BUICK REATTA was first conjured in the early 1980s in response to a perceived gap in the marque’s lineup.
Kia - Stinger A Year With South Korea's Star Sedan
Perfectly balanced, as all things should be
The Real Fate Of The Furious
PaulWalker left behind a treasure trove of collector cars
THE FULL PACKAGE
The world needs Teslas,but it wants the Taycan
All these years later, the Lamborghini Countach is still the stuff of dreams.
MAGICAL MINI TOUR
A ROCKING JOURNEY THROUGH ’60S LONDON IN A VINTAGE VERSION OF THE QUINTESSENTIAL 60-YEAR-OLD BRITISH CITY CAR
VW’s electric beach buggy concept channels the past while embracing the future
WITHOUT ITS ROADSTER, PORSCHE MIGHT NOT EXIST TODAY
That was the headline on a New York Times story published on January 20, 1996, detailing the German marque’s effort to turn around its finances and reinvent the way it had built cars for more than 40 years.
BIDEN TELLS EXECS US NEEDS TO INVEST, LEAD IN COMPUTER CHIPS
President Joe Biden used a virtual meeting with corporate leaders about a global shortage of semiconductors to push for his $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, telling them that the U.S. should be the world’s computer chip leader.
ELECTRIC CHEVY PICKUP TO GET ESTIMATED 400 MILES PER CHARGE
An electric version of the Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck will get an estimated 400 miles of range per charge, General Motors says.
Porsche Design Acer Book RS: This stylish, blazingly fast laptop lives up to its name
The detachable display and 360-degree hinge of the original Porsche Design Book One are gone, now replaced by sheer speed.
What Is Wi-FI 6E?
If you’re in the market for a new router or any device that uses Wi-Fi, you should first understand the new Wi-Fi 6E standard and what it means for the future of wireless networks at home and in offices around the US. The Wi-Fi Alliance, a group of Wi-Fi platform vendors that work with the FCC and electronics manufacturers to set standards for Wi-Fi technology, announced the Wi-Fi 6E designation in 2020 for any IEEE 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) products that support 6GHz wireless spectrum. Essentially, this means Wi-Fi 6E enables faster speeds and lower latencies than Wi-Fi 6 and earlier iterations.
BEST OF TIMES, WORST OF TIMES
THAT CRAZY YEAR IN WHICH A SMALLER FIELD MADE THINGS HARDER
4 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4
I could be blindfolded and tell you I was driving a Porsche
7 Porsche Cayenne Turbo Coupe
Forget physics, Porsche’s uber-SUV is right at home at Best Driver’s Car
5 Chevrolet Corvette Z51
The new mid-engine layout places Chevy in exotic car territory
RALLY CAR REVOLUTION
30 YEARS THAT REINVENTED THE SPORT OF RALLYING