24 Hours of Le Mans Centenary – The race owes an undying debt to its volunteers
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24 Hours of Le Mans Centenary – The race owes an undying debt to its volunteers

24 HOURS CENTENARY – THE LE MANS EXCEPTION ⎮ Track marshals, medical staff, Club ACO members, drivers and many more…the 24 Hours of Le Mans would be impossible to stage without the thousands of volunteers who, every year, donate their time and endless enthusiasm. The centennial running of the race is the perfect opportunity to pay them tribute.

Of the dozens of volunteers at the 24 Hours, the track marshals sporting their bright orange coveralls immediately spring to mind. They number 1,600 at their posts around the circuit during Race Week every year.

Track marshals are the kingpins of the event, serving as the eyes and ears of Race Direction. Without them, there simply would be no race. Deputy chief track marshal at the Tertre Rouge, Rémi Bouquaire: "During a procedure, [Race Direction] must be informed of anything it cannot see or sense." The marshals take care of the drivers by deploying various coloured flags, warning them of overtakings and other important in-race occurrences. 

They also volunteer so they can experience the race literally "at the edge of the track" and to "feel the vibrations and rushes of pure adrenaline," explains Dorian Moinet, posted at the first chicane. Mathilde Boulgarian, also a track marshal, values above all the relationships forged within her team: "We get together outside of the race, they've become like a second family, with a very special bond."

Medical services | A family affair

The word family comes up again and again. Isabelle Villeret, deputy head physician at the track medical centre, understands why better than most. She met her husband at the 24 Hours circuit: "He's why I kept coming back!"

The couple formed a great team: as a first responder, he took care of the track safety part and Isabelle the medical par. They also worked together to standardise equipment and procedures since the 185 medical volunteers – doctors, nurses, first aiders, paramedics, physiotherapists, dispatchers and radio operators – come from all over the world and therefore need to be on the same page.

Club members eager to help

There are now more than 100 Club ACO member volunteers who work toward the smooth running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans! These members of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest have been volunteering since 2020 to assist with logistics, welcoming members and providing guided tours. Stéphane Bardet, a member for more than 10 years: "We diehard enthusiasts need to experience the race behind the scenes, to participate on a personal level. And the club needs volunteers. I think it's a win-win situation!"

These Club ACO volunteers help to welcome members to their dedicated areas and, above all, enjoy meeting each other. "There are so many nice people!", says Antoine, a member since 2012. Young member Marwane Agzanay was able to join the team of volunteers in an adapted capacity due to his disability. He provides support for Antoine: “I have met some great people. It doesn't really feel like work!"

Specialised volunteers

Other lesser known positions are also held by volunteers, such as the rapid response team of 16 bikers. "Everything related to track safety. We are here so the track marshals can work calmly," explains Laurent Moisé, a deputy chief. On their motorcycles or in their trucks, they can bring back “bonnets, wheels, you name it."

Another vital role filled by trained volunteers is extraction. Dominique Brosse is the president of the Extraction 72 association, overseeing a team of 32 individuals from the medical field dedicated to removing drivers from vehicles in the event of an accident. They can be called upon to use "tools such as cervical collars that require complex techniques."

Volunteers armed with a variety of skills and from diverse backgrounds come from all over France and other countries to unite around a common passion and goal: the success of the greatest endurance race in the world. We thank them from the bottom of our hearts!

 

PHOTOS (Copyright - Jean-Pierre Espitalier/ACO): LE MANS (SARTHE, FRANCE), CIRCUIT DES 24 HEURES, 24 HOURS OF LE MANS. From top to bottom: track marshals are the most visible example of volunteer involvement in race, but there are many other ways to experience Le Mans, as shown here by Rémi, Isabelle, Antoine and Dominique.

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