“It's a huge event and a festival. Everybody's camping in the middle. The track is mildly terrifying at all times and especially in the middle of the night, in the rain, with oil on it or gravel or pieces of other car. It's a scary racetrack. You don't have too many small accidents there, they always tend to be big. And that's a nice challenge I think.
“There's also that lovely satisfaction of triple-stinting. You become at one with the car and you start to work the traffic. Le Mans is all about working the traffic, at the end of the day, and not having unscheduled pitstops. If you have an unscheduled pitstop, because you've bumped into somebody or had a reliability issue, you're almost certainly not going to win it these days because somebody will have a trouble free run.
“It's just the immensity of it. What is it - 5000km in a day? It's extraordinary. If you look at the number of people in a team, and 28 scheduled pitstops or something like that, the logistics make F1 look puny.
“The satisfaction of getting over the line in a 24 hour race is quite something. It's a 36 hour race anyway, if you finish it, because you've got the warm-up early on Saturday morning and then quite a long procedure through the day before you start the race. Everybody is exhausted.
“I don't normally sleep during a 24 hour race because I don't like to. And it's so damn noisy in the middle of the track.
“One of the most awe-inspiring things I see on any given year of motorsport, other than the Isle of Man TT which caps everything, is an Audi in the middle of the night going through the Porsche curves... because it makes very little noise. But everybody thinks that's fantastic. Nobody criticises that at all because it's such an immense thing and so fast.
“You've got to share the car. That's a massive difference between a single-seater and a sportscar role. In a single-seater your first job is to destroy your team mate. In a sportscar role, you've got to work with him. When you tally up all the averages on a Tuesday after the event, you still want to be the best in your car and best in your team. But at the same time you've got to work with this guy and have a trust.
“My son was racing in it last year and I took some of his sponsors out and about half an hour before the race started we walked out to find a perch in the first few corners and there wasn't a square centimetre of anything available on the ground to watch from. So we ended up paying 20 euros each, for nine of us, to get up onto a fairground truck.
“My son was doing the middle of the night stint and I went out with my daughter at three o'clock in the morning to watch it. First of all, it terrified me to watch him going flat out through Tertre Rouge onto the back straight. But there was a point where we couldn't get near the fence because there were so many people there. We had to wait our turn.
“It's got phases; the build-up, the start, then it settles down and you start getting into the pitstops and then the night falls, the night, sunrise. But at sunrise, you've still got eight or nine hours of racing to go.”
Original source: Le Mans: a racing driver's view