“This race is like a war. Nobody knows if they are going to return”.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the world’s oldest active sports car race in endurance racing, held annually since 1923 near the town of Le Mans, France. Commonly known as the Grand Prix of Endurance and Efficiency, race teams have to balance speed against the cars’ ability to run for 24 hours without sustaining mechanical damage to the car and manage the cars’ consumables, primarily fuel, tyres and braking materials. The endurance of the drivers is likewise tested as drivers frequently spend stints of over two hours behind the wheel before stopping in the pits and allowing a relief driver to take over the driving duties. Drivers then grab what food and rest they can before returning to drive another stint. Today it is mandated that three drivers share each competing vehicle.
The race is organised by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) and runs on the Circuit de la Sarthe, a circuit containing a mix of closed public roads and specialist motor racing circuit that are meant not only to test a car and driver’s ability to be quick, but also to last over a 24 hour period. The competing teams will race in groups called classes for cars of similar specification while at the same time competing for outright placing amongst all of the classes. Originally, the race was held for cars as they were sold to the general public which were then called Sports Cars compared to the specialist racing cars used in Grands Prix. Over time, the competing vehicles evolved away from their publicly available road car roots and today, the race is made of two classes specialised enclosed-bodywork two-seat Prototype sports cars and two classes of Grand Touring cars which bear much closer resemblance to high performance sports cars as sold to the public.
Competing teams have had a wide variety of organisation, ranging from competition departments of road car manufacturers who are eager to prove the supremacy of their products, to professional motor racing teams who represent their commercial backers, some of which are also road car manufacturers attempting to win without the expense of setting up their own teams, to amateur race teams, racing as much to compete in the famous race as to claim victory for their commercial partners.
The race is held near the height of the European summer in June, leading at times to very hot weather conditions for the drivers, particularly in closed roof vehicles whose cabins can heat up to uncomfortably hot temperatures with generally poor ventilation; rain, however, is not uncommon. The race begins in mid-afternoon, racing through the night and following morning before finishing at the same time the race started, the following day. Over the 24 hour period modern competitors will complete race distances well over 5,000 km (3,110 mi). The present record is 5,410 km (3,360 mi), recorded in the 2010 race. It is a distance over six times longer than the Indianapolis 500, or approximately 18 times longer than a Formula One Grand Prix.
The film is particularly well known for a single tracking shot that lasts for over 8 minutes. The shot follows a car slowly moving through a traffic jam. After eight minutes, the cause is discovered: a family has been in a car accident and their bodies lie across the road. It is a stark contrast to the beeping horns and frustrated drivers waiting to get by.
The Who are an English rock band formed in 1964 by Roger Daltrey (lead vocals, harmonica and guitar), Pete Townshend (guitar, keyboards and vocals), John Entwistle (bass guitar, brass and vocals) and Keith Moon (drums and percussion). They became known for energetic live performances which often included instrument destruction. The Who have sold about 100 million records, and have charted 27 top forty singles in the United Kingdom and United States, as well as 17 top ten albums, with 18 Gold, 12 Platinum and 5 Multi-Platinum album awards in the United States alone.
The Who rose to fame in the UK with a series of top ten hit singles, boosted in part by pirate radio stations such as Radio Caroline, beginning in January 1965 with “I Can’t Explain“. The albums My Generation (1965), A Quick One (1966) and The Who Sell Out (1967) followed, with the first two reaching the UK top five. They first hit the US Top 40 in 1967 with “Happy Jack” and hit the top ten later that year with “I Can See for Miles“. Their fame grew with memorable performances at the Monterey Pop, Woodstock and Isle of Wight music festivals. The 1969 release of Tommy was the first in a series of top ten albums in the US, followed by Live at Leeds (1970), Who’s Next (1971), Quadrophenia (1973), The Who by Numbers (1975), Who Are You (1978) and The Kids Are Alright (1979).
Moon died at the age of 32 in 1978, after which the band released two studio albums, the UK and US top five Face Dances (1981) and the US top ten It’s Hard (1982), with drummer Kenney Jones, before disbanding in 1983. They re-formed at events such as Live Aid and for reunion tours such as their 25th anniversary tour (1989) and the Quadrophenia tours of 1996 and 1997. In 2000, the three surviving original members discussed recording an album of new material, but their plans temporarily stalled upon Entwistle’s death at the age of 57 in 2002. Townshend and Daltrey continue to perform as The Who, and in 2006 they released the studio album Endless Wire, which reached the top ten in the UK and US.
The Who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, their first year of eligibility; the display describes them as “Prime contenders, in the minds of many, for the title of World’s Greatest Rock Band.” Time magazine wrote in 1979 that “No other group has ever pushed rock so far, or asked so much from it.” Rolling Stone magazine wrote: “Along with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, The Who complete the holy trinity of British rock.” They received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the British Phonographic Industry in 1988, and from the Grammy Foundation in 2001, for creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording. In 2008 surviving members Townshend and Daltrey were honoured at the 31st Annual Kennedy Center Honors. That same year VH1 Rock Honors paid tribute to The Who where Jack Black of Tenacious D called them “the greatest band of all time.”