24h Le Mans
Le Mans is a woman’s world too
To mark international women’s rights day (8 March), we are beginning a series of articles celebrating the women of Le Mans 24 Hours. Women have long played a role in motorsport and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) particularly welcomes and encourages female participants in all its events. Today we meet European top-notch Le Mans truck racing driver Steffi Halm and professional dancer Emmanuelle Berne who is soon to take the wheel on the Bugatti track in the Talon Piste x Exclusive Drive event.
The women are no strangers to Le Mans, the aura of the 24 Hours, the circuit and its world-famous events.
As a regular competitor in the FIA European Truck Racing Championship, 35-year-old Halm is particularly familiar with the Bugatti track. She triumphed in the 24-hour truck race in 2017. How does she feel at the wheel of a 5-tonne monster? “I’m a driver. It’s not a question of male or female. I was made to feel welcome in this sport. I respect my opponents and they respect me. It doesn’t matter who’s driving the truck in front of you; all that counts is to overtake it. It’s the same for everyone. When I tell people what I do, they always ask if I race the same trucks as the ones you see on the road. When I tell them I do 160 kph in a 5-tonne truck, they are impressed. So imagine when I tell them we could actually do over 200 kph but are limited to 160 kph for safety reasons!”
Two weeks from now, Berne, who stars in the French version of TV contest Strictly Come Dancing, will be finding out how it feels to race at Le Mans when she takes part in the Talon Piste x Exclusive Drive event. The dancer will be flying the colours of the ACO and children’s heart surgery charity Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque in the female charity racing challenge. Her mentor will be her fiancé, racing driver Chris Buncombe, who has taken part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans several times and can boast a first place in the LMP2 class. “My father built a car for the 24 Hours 30 years ago and with Chris’s track record here, I feel especially honoured to be representing the ACO and Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque. I’ll give it my best shot and and I hope to do our young patients proud!"