“RACING IS LIFE. ANYTHING THAT HAPPENS BEFORE OR AFTER... IS JUST WAITING”
Le Mans contenders line up on the world-famous racetrack in France
I have driven faster. But so has my co-pilot. So much faster that most of you would be blubbing like small children poked in the eye with a stick. Pleading to slow down to the point where the world made sense again. It’s Le Mans 2019. Famed racing driver
Derek Bell and I are belting down the Mulsanne Straight flat out in an original Bentley from 1930. At a tear-inducing 79 miles per hour. A far cry from Bell’s days pushing the outside of the envelope going faster than almost anyone has since. Epic. Magnificent. Emotional.
The “24 Heures du Mans” Automobile Club De l’Ouest’s endurance race was first held in 1923 in and around the small town of Le Mans in northwestern France. Each team of drivers shares a car, and the challenge of achieving as many laps as possible, without breaking down, in 24 hours. One of the first entrants was a Bentley driven by John Duff and Frank Clement in 1923. They didn’t win the first time around. But their cohort of gentlemen racers, the mythical, “Bentley Boys” went on to win five times in the next seven years. And this year, for Bentley’s 100th anniversary, one of the streets of Le Mans that Bell and I whipped ‘round was renamed “Rue des Bentley Boys” in their honour.
As I sat in Derek’s passenger seat parading around this legendary track, I had a lot to ponder. Derek won Le Mans overall five times. Visions of Steve McQueen and his 1971 film Le Mans, Porsche 917s, Enzo Ferrari, Ford GT40s, and all the ghosts of legends past and present flickered through my mind. He was showing me his form at the wheel bedecked in leather driving gloves and a smile, regaling me with tales of catapulting down the same straight at 246 mph in 1971. Strapped into a voluptuous, wide-hipped, glorious, thundering, blue and orange Gulf Racing Porsche 917.
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