The 24 Hours of Le Mans is a bucket list race for many drivers around the world. Part of the illustrious Triple Crown of motorsport, it’s the race that every driver wants to win. In this exclusive blog, FIA World Endurance champion, and Prosperity Investment Management ambassador, Mike Conway, gives readers an insight into what it’s like to take part in the biggest race on the planet.
This year will be my eighth trip to Le Mans but you never lose the excitement and the buzz when you turn up to the circuit. If you ask any racing driver the one race they want to win, or even just race at, I can guarantee that Le Mans will be on almost everyone’s list . It’s the true test of what human and machine are capable of, and what’s possible when you put them together.
We’ve been close to that win a few times now but those occasions only drive you on even more as a driver. After each set back, I come back more determined to win and this year is no different. We managed to claim the world title last year but that Le Mans win has evaded us for a few years now. It’s difficult to take when you’re within an hour of the win like we were in 2019 and it’s suddenly taken away from you, it’s heartbreaking. But those moments only spur you on and I hope to give it my all to put that right next weekend.
It’s one thing to win the championship, it’s a different game entirely trying to defend it the next year. But we’re really fighting our corner - it’s the first year with this new Hypercar and, as a team at TOYOTA GAZOO Racing, we’ve won every race so far. On my side of the garage in the #7, we got there in Monza and made it count. The title fight is really close and every point really does matter. At Le Mans, you score double the amount of points so you really can’t afford a poor result there. But this is our first trip to Le Mans with the Hypercar and you can’t be complacent - success is never guaranteed so we can’t let our guard down.
That makes your preparation in the weeks before even more important. We won the last race so that gives us some extra confidence but you can’t take your eye off the ball - if anything you have to push harder to get yourself physically and mentally fit for the race. It can be a gruelling 24 hours where you have to manage driving at night, driving in the rain (or sometimes even both!) along with managing the strategy, reacting to what’s happening elsewhere in the race and making sure the car doesn’t end up in the barriers.
During the race, drivers try to find an hour or so for a quick nap, you need to just to keep your energy levels up but it can be really difficult to switch off, especially if you’ve just finished your stint. My mind will be replaying some of the laps I just did, analysing each moment to see where I’m doing well and where I can improve. When that happens, I find the best thing to do is to just jump straight back into the action - listen to the team radio, offer any support I can and generally keep an eye on what’s happening. Just finishing the race is an achievement in itself and that makes standing on the podium all the more sweet.
It’s a memory and a feeling I will never forget. The podium at Le Mans is one of the most unique in the world, where it looks out over the start-finish straight, meaning you can see the thousands of fans in the grandstands and they can all see you - and you’re all there, sharing that same moment. It’s quite surreal but I’d love to stand up there as the winner this time, I’ve stood in second place too often!
Before that though, we’ve a race on our hands. It’s the highlight of my year and I honestly can’t wait to get there and get the weekend started - even more so knowing we’ll have the fans there to cheer us on again as the atmosphere really just isn’t the same without them.
Images courtesy of TOYOTA GAZOO Racing.