Photo : Copyright ACO
The Mulsanne Straight
The Mulsanne Straight is without doubt the best-known section of the 24 Hours circuit. In French it is called Les Hunaudières, after the hamlet located half-way along it. English-speakers refer to the Mulsanne Straight because the seemingly interminable stretch ends at the entrance to the village of Mulsanne. And it has to be said that for an Anglophone, pronouncing Les Hunaudières is quite a feat! (Repeat after me: lay-oo-no-dee-air...)
Until 1990 the straight remained unchanged, but new speed limitations imposed the addition of two chicanes, currently known as Forza and Michelin. Consequently, cars now reach their highest speeds just before Indianapolis corner and the 1988 record speed of 405 kph (251.7 mph) set by Roger Dorchy in a WM P88 has little chance of ever being broken.
The second alteration came in 2001 when the famous Mulsanne hump was flattened to prevent cars from taking off. Once again, safety took precedence over spectacle - much to the dismay of certain purists. For the same reason, spectators are not allowed along the Mulsanne Straight, a rule strictly enforced by an army of marshals and police.
There are two vantage points to view the race along the straight: the Auberge des Hunaudières, just before the first chicane and the Hôtel Arbor, not far from the second one. The Auberge is regularly jam-packed, but the hotel is quieter. All the same, access to both is rather challenging as, of course, the road is closed to the public during the race.
The third option is to go to the Mulsanne Corner, at the end of the straight. But that’s a story for another time.
To be continued...
Cécile Bonardel / ACO Translation by Emma Paulay
PHOTO: LE MANS (SARTHE, FRANCE), CIRCUIT DES 24 HEURES, 24 HOURS OF LE MANS, 10 & 11 JUNE 1989.