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24 Hours of Le Mans 2017

Champagne Spraying 24Hrs Le Mans 2017 motorsport photography by Ian Skelton Photography

24 Hours of Le Mans 2017

Original plans to cover the event had fallen through when Media/Photo accreditation was oversubscribed. I had settled my mind that I would try again in 2018, when a late night text on the Sunday before changed all that. I was offered a fantastic set of entry tickets by Mike at New channel Media  The next few hours were spent on ‘tinternet’ booking a slot on the train & trying to find accommodation…. I was going to take photos at the 24 hours of Le Mans 2017!!

Thursday – Qualifying 2 & 3…

Up at 4am, load the car & I’m on the road by 5am… I had an appointment with the 07:39 EuroTunnel train to Calais. Ahead of me is 6 hours of driving to put a tick in a ‘bucket list’ box! I have never been to Le Mans before & it really is a full on event. Starting way back here at EuroTunnel car park with cars everywhere decorated in 24HR stickers. I was driving down in convoy with some friends that I had found out were regular Le Mans visitors. We were soon flying down the motorway, only interrupted by the odd coffee stop & me having to run round the car at the ‘Payage’ machines!!

It felt in no time at all that I was peeling off the motorway to my B & B while they carried on to their campsite at the track. Being a last minute decision to go meant that the close by hotels were either full or extremely expensive. So I had been forced to book one some 40 mins drive away from the track. As the SatNav directed me down a gravel track I really wondered if I had made the right move or would I be sleeping in the car for 4 days? ……I needn’t have worried 🙂

My Chateaux Hotel for the 2017 24 Hours Le Mans at Circuit de la Sarthe on Friday 16 June 2017. Photo: Ian Skelton

I checked-in, got me keys, lugged all the gear up to the top floor (that’s my room under the centre arch). Dropped everything there before grabbing all the camera kit & heading back down to the car. Another quick drive back to the circuit to get into CarPark Rouge in time to catch Qualfying 2 & 3 for the main event cars. It very quickly dawned on me the sheer size of the circuit & the walking involved.

I had researched the corners I wanted to shoot at, Tertre Rouge to The Porsche Curves & as much in-between. These 2 corners are close to 3 miles apart!!! Quali started at 20:00 & ran through to Midnight, it’s amazing what adrenalin can do when when you’ve been awake 20hrs!

Miroslav Konopka (BTS) / Konstantin Calkos (LAT) / Rik Breakers (NDL) driving the #49 ARC LMP2 Bratislava Oreca 07-Gibson during qualifying for the 2017 24 Hours Le Mans at Circuit de la Sarthe on Thursday 15 June 2017. Photo: Ian Skelton

Brake discs glowing on Patrice Lafargue (FRA) / Paul Lafargue (FRA) / David Zollinger (FRA) driving the #17 LMP2 IDEC Sport Racing Ligier JS P217-Gibson chase Richard Lietz (AUT) / Frederic Makowiecki (FRA) / Patrick Pilet (FRA) driving the #91 LMGTE Pro Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR during qualifying for the 2017 24 Hours Le Mans at Circuit de la Sarthe on Thursday 15 June 2017. Photo: Ian Skelton

As soon as Qualifying was finished, it was another hike back to Car Park Rouge before I could head back to the Chateaux & download/back-up the memory cards. Then it was time for some much needed sleep.

Friday – Pit Walk…

3 hours later the alarm was going off! Order of the day was to get to the track for 09:00 when they opened the Pit Lane. Friday is traditional a day with no action on track as such. The Pit Lane is opened to spectators to buy tickets & come along to watch the mechanics preparing the cars for the next day’s big race. Everything is really relaxed & a great atmosphere even though the Pit lane is packed with spectators…many in fancy dress!!

Hundreds of race fans enjoying a Pit Lane walk of the 2017 24 Hours Le Mans at Circuit de la Sarthe on Friday 16 June 2017. Photo: Ian Skelton

The attention to detail of the mechanics is fantastic to watch. The LMP1 & LMP2 type cars look incredible up close, dripping in Carbon Fibre everywhere

Nelson Panciatici (FRA) / Pierre Ragues (FRA) / Andre Negrao (BRA) driving the #35 LMP2 Signatech Alpine A470-Gibson during Rest Day & Pit Lane walk of the 2017 24 Hours Le Mans at Circuit de la Sarthe on Friday 16 June 2017. Photo: Ian Skelton

Later in the day there is the ceremonial Drivers Parade in Le Mans town centre. I decided to give it a miss as I wanted get back & get a start on some of the editing. Plus relax a little & get some sleep ahead of what would be a very long day tomorrow. From what I heard the atmosphere in town was great & so if I cover the event again I will be sure to add the Drivers parade to my shooting list. For now I had an appointment with some brie & a bottle of wine, which I even had to ask the man in the deli to open for me as he didn’t sell corkscrews…. that was fun trying to get him to understand as my French isn’t good :))

Evening dinner in my Chateaux Hotel for the 2017 24 Hours Le Mans at Circuit de la Sarthe on Friday 16 June 2017. Photo: Ian Skelton

Saturday into Sunday – Race Day…

Race Day dawned to another blazing hot 30+ degrees. All batteries & memory cards checked & double checked, I headed back to the Circuit de la Sarthe. There were to be 2 races ahead of the main race starting at 3pm. A large entry for the Porsche Carrera Cup included a lot of cars competing in the UK series. So I made my way down to Porsche Curves & their paddock assembly area.

Staying cool in the shade, Dino Zamparelli (GBR) driving the #908 JTR Porsche Carrera GT3 during the Porsche Carrera Cup race. Part of the 2017 24 Hours Le Mans race weekend at Circuit de la Sarthe on Saturday 17 June 2017. Photo: Ian Skelton

Helmet design for Florian LaTorre (FRA) driving the #10 Martinet By Almeras Porsche Carrera GT3 during the Porsche Carrera Cup race. Part of the 2017 24 Hours Le Mans race weekend at Circuit de la Sarthe on Saturday 17 June 2017. Photo: Ian Skelton

Heading out to track, Dino Zamparelli (GBR) driving the #908 JTR Porsche Carrera GT3 during the Porsche Carrera Cup race. Part of the 2017 24 Hours Le Mans race weekend at Circuit de la Sarthe on Saturday 17 June 2017. Photo: Ian Skelton

3pm was very soon going to be upon us. You could feel the electric atmosphere building in the 350, 000 fans around the circuit. Part of my ticket package was a pass to the Grid Walk with all the cars ahead of the race. There were some real racing heroes out amongst the fans, Mark Webber was with the Porsche teams as was Jacky Ickx

Mark Webber & Timo Bernhard in the Pit Lane during the 2017 24 Hours Le Mans race at Circuit de la Sarthe on Saturday 17 June 2017. Photo: Ian Skelton

Jacky Ickx on the grid during the 2017 24 Hours Le Mans race at Circuit de la Sarthe on Saturday 17 June 2017. Photo: Ian Skelton

But non more so than the young racing driver Billy Monger ‘Billy Whizz’, injured recently at Donnington Park…. what an absolute hero & a delight to meet & shake the hand of that young man!!

Billy Monger – ‘Billy Whizz’ on the grid during the 2017 24 Hours Le Mans race at Circuit de la Sarthe on Saturday 17 June 2017. Photo: Ian Skelton

The time had come & the Safety Car lead the cars around the 8.7 mile circuit before they crossed the line to a deafening roar from the engines drowned out the almost equally deafening roar of the crowd. The 24 Hours of Le Mans 2017 was under way.

Safety Car leads the cars round to the start of the 2017 24 Hours Le Mans at Circuit de la Sarthe on Saturday 17 June 2017. Photo: Ian Skelton

Jacques Nicolet (FRA) / Pierre Nicolet (FRA) / Erik Maris (FRA) driving the #33 LMP2 Eurasia Motorsport Ligier JS P217-Gibson during the race of the 2017 24 Hours Le Mans at Circuit de la Sarthe on Saturday 17 June 2017. Photo: Ian Skelton

Nelson Piquet Jnr (BRA) Mathias Beche (CHE) / David Heinemeier Hansson (DNK) driving the #13 LMP2 Vaillante Rebellion Oreca 07-Gibson during the race of the 2017 24 Hours Le Mans at Circuit de la Sarthe on Saturday 17 June 2017. Photo: Ian Skelton

Throughout the race day I had been given a commission to capture the story & fun around the Fan Villages & many Campsites that make up so much of the Le Mans adventure for thousands of race fans. Here are a few photos from that collection & will feature in a Le Mans Review ebook available to download from iTunes.

Fantastic camping setups at Porsche Curves in the Fan Village during the 2017 24 Hours Le Mans race at Circuit de la Sarthe on Saturday 17 June 2017. Photo: Ian Skelton

Fans having a great time in the Fan Village during the 2017 24 Hours Le Mans race at Circuit de la Sarthe on Saturday 17 June 2017. Photo: Ian Skelton

Fans having a great time in the Fan Village during the 2017 24 Hours Le Mans race at Circuit de la Sarthe on Saturday 17 June 2017. Photo: Ian Skelton

Fantastic camping setups at Porsche Curves in the Fan Village during the 2017 24 Hours Le Mans race at Circuit de la Sarthe on Saturday 17 June 2017. Photo: Ian Skelton

Back on track the action was heading into the night. The adrenaline had kicked in again & I was covering the miles back & forth to Tertre Rouge & Porsche Curves. Every so often I would dive into the paddock behind the Pit Lane, in the hope of spotting some great shot of the Pit Crews in action.

Light trails through the Esses into Tertre Rouge during the 2017 24 Hours Le Mans race at Circuit de la Sarthe on Sunday 18 June 2017. Photo: Ian Skelton

Jacques Nicolet (FRA) / Pierre Nicolet (FRA) / Erik Maris (FRA) driving the #33 LMP2 Eurasia Motorsport Ligier JS P217-Gibson Lollipop Man Pit Crew during the 2017 24 Hours Le Mans race at Circuit de la Sarthe on Sunday 18 June 2017. Photo: Ian Skelton

Light trails at Ford Kink & Fairground viewed from grandstand Tribune 20 during the 2017 24 Hours Le Mans race at Circuit de la Sarthe on Sunday 18 June 2017. Photo: Ian Skelton

3am came & went, I had made it to halfway point but I was fading fast. I was determined to make it to see the dawn rise over the Pit Lane & it was worth the wait to see the colour change in the sky.

Dawn breaks over the Pit Lane during the race of the 2017 24 Hours Le Mans at Circuit de la Sarthe on Sunday 18 June 2017. Photo: Ian Skelton

After this I took the tripod back to the car & had to sleep, I was broken….. but I wasn’t the only one!

Tired race fan at Tertre Rouge during the 2017 24 Hours Le Mans race at Circuit de la Sarthe on Sunday 18 June 2017. Photo: Ian Skelton

Jacques Nicolet (FRA) / Pierre Nicolet (FRA) / Erik Maris (FRA) driving the #33 LMP2 Eurasia Motorsport Ligier JS P217-Gibson Pit Crew catching a nap during the 2017 24 Hours Le Mans race at Circuit de la Sarthe on Sunday 18 June 2017. Photo: Ian Skelton

Very tired Pit Crew taking a well earned break during the 2017 24 Hours Le Mans race at Circuit de la Sarthe on Sunday 18 June 2017. Photo: Ian Skelton

A few more hours ticked by & soon the checkered flag was out & ready for the winning Porsche to cross the line.

Brendon Hartl (NZL) / Timo Bernhard (DEU) / Earl Bamber (NZL) / driving the #2 LMP1 Porsche LMP Team Porsche 919 Hybrid crossing the line & winning the 2017 24 Hours Le Mans race at Circuit de la Sarthe on Sunday 18 June 2017. Photo: Ian Skelton

Trophy presentations & Champagne spraying on the podium for the Winners of the 2017 24 Hours Le Mans at Circuit de la Sarthe on Sunday 18 June 2017. Photo: Ian Skelton

I can’t wait to go back in 2018….maybe even twice, as its Historic Le Mans too next year!!

For a larger collection of images from my 4 day shoot please visit Photo Galleries or

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