24 HOURS CENTENARY – THE LE MANS EXCEPTION ⎮ Scrutineering and the Drivers' Parade held in the city centre of Le Mans are the two big events between fans and drivers during Race Week every year.
One of the things that makes the 24 Hours of Le Mans so special is its intoxicating atmosphere that reverberates throughout the city and even in surrounding towns. Two Race Week highlights for locals, tourists, spectators and competitors alike are Scrutineering and the Drivers' Parade.
During these exceptional events, the drivers and their cars leave the circuit and head to the Le Mans city centre. You don't even need a 24 Hours entrance pass to see the cars up close, ask for autographs or takes selfies with your heros!
The previous Scrutineering locations
The administrative and technical checks known as Scrutineering have always been a part of the 24 Hours to uphold the ACO's mandate of ensuring fairness between competitors. This first major event of Race Week, held openly over the course of two days in the Le Mans city centre, serves to kick off the festivities every year.
During Scrutineering, cars are checked from top to bottom to assess general standards as well as safety and aerodynamic aspects...and at almost all times under the eyes of hundreds if not thousands of spectators.
The location of Scrutineering has changed several times over the years. Pre-WWII, it was held in the rue Victor-Bonhommet (formerly the rue du Porc-Épic), then in the Halle aux Toiles (now the Place d’Alger). Starting in 1949, it was moved to the Cavaignac barracks and the old rue Paul-Courboulay tramway station. From 1954 to 1960, it took place at the Quinconce des Jacobins behind the theatre.
Le Mans locals weren't exactly happy when Scrutineering switched to the circuit in 1961, rendering it impossible to enjoy the previously free excitement without a race entrance pass! It was then changed again to the Jacobins in 1976 in the square opposite the cathedral. The tramway's arrival in 2012 resulted in Scrutineering moving to its current location at the place de la République.
1995 | The birth of the Drivers' Parade
The Drivers' Parade is attended by thousands of spectators looking to watch the colourful and thrilling procession in the heart of the city centre. For a little less than two kilometres, the drivers are perched atop vintage automobiles, namely convertible torpedo cars from the early 1900s, flanked by dancers, orchestras, supercars and more. The Drivers' Parade borrows from the Tour de France caravan, throwing out goodies and surprise swag to the delight of fans all along the route.
The parade starts on the Friday before the race at the place des Jacobins with the cathedral as a backdrop, then heads to the avenue Pierre Mendès-France and the avenue Général de Gaulle to arrive at the place de la République. The cars then pass by rue Victor-Bonhommet to go down to the place de l'Eperon and the avenue Rostov-sur-le-Don before completing the loop and returning to the place des Jacobins.
Jean-Pierre ESPITALIER (ACO)
The parade exists today thanks to a "crazy" idea offered by a local named Philippe Pasteau. It took quite a bit of courage and determination for the diehard racing fan to convince the ACO, the city of Le Mans and the competitors to get on board. His main goal? To offer a piece of the 24 Hours to locals who could not afford an entrance pass for the race.
Thankfully, they were won over and the first annual Drivers' Parade took place in 1995 with nearly 180,000 semi-hysterical spectators cheering on 186 beaming drivers. It's the perfect moment to profess one's adoration and ask for an autograph or selfie...or simply celebrate! Naturally, the festivities carry on in the streets of Le Mans well after the last car passes by...
PHOTOS (Copyright - ACO/Archives): LE MANS (SARTHE, FRANCE), 24 HOURS OF LE MANS, SCRUTINEERING AND THE DRIVERS' PARADE. From top to bottom: the various sites that have staged Scrutineering, includinng the place de la République in 2022, the rue du Porc-Epic in 1923, the Halle aux Toiles in 1925, the Cavaignac barracks in 1950, the tramway station in 1952, the place des Jacobins in 1960, the 24 Hours circuit in 1974 and the Jacobins near the cathedral in 2011; snapshots of the always popular Drivers' Parade where fans get *this* close to their favourite drivers (above, French driver Lilou Wadoux in 2022).