Le Mans Circuit

The French city and circuit of Le Mans are synonymous with motor sport - having hosted two and four wheel races and endurance events for many years. Le Mans first held a motorcycle Grand Prix event in 1969, when the great Giacomo Agostini won the 500cc race, lapping all the other riders on his MV Augusta.

The modern circuit has been a permanent fixture on the MotoGP calendar since 2000. French riders of different eras and in different classes such as Johann Zarco, Christian Sarron, Olivier Jacque, Arnaud Vincent, Guy Bertin, Randy de Puniet and Mike Di Meglio have brought their country race wins and titles, adding to France's significant racing heritage.

The Circuit des 24 Heures du Mans is also known as Circuit de la Sarthe after the 1906 French Grand Prix triangle circuit. It is located just outside the city of Le Mans, Maine, France. It is chiefly known for the 24 Hours of Le Mans auto race. Comprising private, race specific sections of track in addition to public roads which remain accessible most of the year, its present configuration is 13.626 kilometres long, making it one of the longest circuits in the world, although the MotoGP race is held on the shorter Bugatti Circuit.

The 4,185m Bugatti Circuit is within the famous 24 hour track and uses a part of that legendary layout in conjunction with a purpose built facility to create a circuit with nine right hand and five left hand corners.

The stop go design of the track makes it less stressful on tyres than some other circuits, with late braking and drivability two determining factors that need to be mastered to give a good lap.

Up to 85% of the lap time is spent on full throttle, meaning immense stress on engine and drive train components. However, the times spent reaching maximum speed also mean tremendous wear on the brakes and suspension as the MotoGP bikes must slow down from over 200 mph (320 km/h) to around 65 mph (100 km/h) for the sharp corner at the village of Mulsanne.

The capacity of the race stadium, where the short Bugatti Circuit is situated, is 100,000.

A circuit that has lots of history, with the spectacular 24 hour, 8 hour races and MotoGP races. Many close races have been fought at the Bugatti circuit.

This is a track which has suited the Yamahas in the past, will it this year?

Exploring Le Mans City
Sarthe and area of the circuit

A visit to Le Mans - a city of just under 150,000 people on the Sarthe River - is also a real treat, with plenty to keep you entertained.

Located 200 kilometres south west of Paris, Le Mans itself is a charming and historic French city. It is the capital of Maine province and sits to the north of the Loire Valley - a large Unesco World Heritage Site - which offers excellent wines and is also home to interesting and pleasant cities such as Angers, Orleans, Saumur and Tours.

Le Mans also benefits from many large, open and agreeable green spaces, the beautiful Jardin des Plantes and the Parc de Tesse being two of the best. There are lots more smaller parks dotted around the centre. This is a well preserved medieval city that also offers plenty of gastronomic delights.

Places of interest
Things to do and see around Le Mans

The Musee des 24 Heures du Mans

Discover the exciting story of the 24 Heures du Mans and the legendary heroes. Through 120 vehicles, the Automobile Club de l'Ouest tells you the epic of the automobile in the Sarthe and the success of its international event. There is also a motorcycle display as well as Bentley, Ferrari, Jaguar, Ford, Porsche, Matra, Audi ... all the big names are represented by their legendary models that immerse the visitor in the world's greatest endurance race. Temporary exhibitions complete this themed route, which can be continued by visiting the famous 24 Heures du Mans circuit.

Le Mans' Roman Wall

The enclosure of Le Mans is the best preserved of all the old Roman Empire, with those of the two imperial capitals, Rome and Byzantium (Istanbul).

Enceinte Gallo Romaine du Mans - The Roman Church Of The Mans - City Plantagenêt

Built at the end of the 3rd century (280-295 A.D.), the Roman wall draws an irregular rectangle 450 metre long and 200 metre wide. Its 1,300 metre perimeter has encircled the heart of the city for more than 17 centuries. Vindunum (Le Mans) was described as a "red city" in reference to the colour of its walls. Its construction of bricks and russet stones linked by a pink mortar gives a characteristic hue. It was built to affirm imperial power: the exceptional richness of the facings, where geometric decorated friezes more than 8 metres high still survive. The wall remains standing yet without any real foundation. There are welve towers including the Vivier tower, the Madeleine tower, the Tuce tower, the Gorron tower, a door and three posterns.

Cite Plantagenêt

Le Mans is proud of its link to the House of Plantagenêt, which ruled England for more than 300 years, and in 2003 adopted the name for its old quarter.

Roughly following the outline of the Gallo-Roman walls, the Cite Plantagenêt has many streets of romantic old houses with timber frames, and renaissance palaces with elegantly carved walls.

La Nuit des Chimeres

Translating as the "The Night of Dreams", from Tuesday to Saturday in the summer Le Mans' seven main monuments are the canvas for artful light displays. The fairytale creations of Skertzo for the City of Le Mans.

The show La Nuit des Chimeres amazes people as soon as night falls. These are whimsical projections, which have historic themes to match their landmarks; On the cathedral are gothic style frescos with knights, signs of the zodiac, angels and mythical beasts.

At the Maison de la Reine Berengere, Richard the Lionheart's wife, Berengaria of Navarre is portrayed as a ghostly White Lady.

The Gallo-Roman walls are lit up with the imagery you'd see on a Roman mosaic, with monsters from mythology and builders and architects constructing ancient Vindunum.

A path punctuated with chimeras, grins and little monsters invites you to get lost in the maze of streets and alleys of the old town, as you travel between each illuminated site in an imaginary world of des Chimeres.

Eglise Notre Dame de la Couture
St Julian's Cathedral

Walking through the old town, the cathedral kind of creeps up on you once you turn onto Place du Cardinal Grente. The cathedral of Notre Dame de la Couture, formerly the abbey church of the Benedictine monastery of Saint Pierre Saint Paul de la Couture founded in the 6th Century by Bishop Saint Bertrand. This Gothic style religious edifice harbours lovely examples of 17th, 18th and 19th century altarpieces. In the nave is a super marble statue of the Virgin and Child sculpted by Germain Pilon as well as paintings by Parrocel.

The formidable 1,000 year old St Julian's Cathedral is one of France's elite religious monuments. England's King Henry II was baptised here, while Berengaria, the abandoned wife of Richard the Lionheart, is buried here. Key features include the mid 13th Century stained glass windows and a recently restored 14th century fresco depicting 47 angelic musicians.

The most striking thing to see on the outside is the sequence of flying buttresses that encircle the apse, best admired from Place des Huguenots.

There's also an odd curiosity on the building's southwest corner: A stone age menhir was placed here in the 1770s and many centuries of weathering have given it strange layered contours.

In the interior are models showing the evolution of this building, which dates from the year 500 and took its present form in the 13th and 14th centuries.

Also worth finding are the Romanesque capitals in the nave and the profusion of original stained glass windows.

Further afield

Not far away is Paris, the powerful and enchanting capital city. You can take in its trendy wide tree lined boulevards. The River Seine, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame cathedral, Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees, and countless charming cafes, exquisite restaurants and designer boutiques along the Rue du Faubourg Saint Honore.

Also close by are the cities, Marseille, Lyon, Toulouse, Nice, Nantes, and Montpellier which have rich histories, cuisine and local cultures.

While you're there you can explore the beautiful regions of Rhone Alpes, Provence Alpes Cote d'Azur, Languedoc Roussillon, Midi Pyrenees, Burgundy and Champagne Ardenne.

Fancy something to eat?

History, style, fine dining and wine are abundant in the Loire Valley. Little wonder then that it is sometimes referred to as the 'Garden of France', given the plethora of orchards, farms and vineyards here.

In the city of Le Mans, there's no shortage of nice cafes, wine bars and excellent restaurants.

Le Mans is a serious carnivore city, with a reputation for the quality of its meat that goes back to the middle ages. That goes for pork and beef, but especially poultry such as capons and guinea fowl, duck, goose and in most dishes they're prepared with potatoes and mushrooms, which are also plentiful in the Sarthe countryside.

There are some excellent restaurants, all serving delicious meals made with local produce, such as artichoke and asparagus. Rillettes pork pate which you will find in many Le Mans bars, restaurants or butchers shops, tastes excellent on a fresh French baguette.

Among the French dishes are very popular coq-au-vin, ratatouille and galantine. Coq-au-vin, a very traditional dish, means a cock in wine, a Le Mans speciality. Preparation of the dish is a real ritual; you need to use the whole cock body and wine which will be served at the table. The dish is served with French baguette. Ratatouille is prepared from fresh squash, eggplants, and tomatoes and is seasoned with classic Provencal spices. Galantine is a jellied dish made up of forcemeat and minced chicken with the addition of eggs and spices. Another famous French dish is foie-gras: pate made of goose's liver with spices, local truffles and cognac.

Freshwater fish are a regular on the menu in the Pays-de-la-Loire region and the famous beurre blanc sauce is the perfect accompaniment. Try mussels raised in the Baie de l'Aigullon and the Vendee Atlantic oysters. Another of the region's famous specialities is fleur de sel, a fine or sometimes coarse salt that is harvested from the salt marches of the west coast.

The delicacy most famous for Le Mans is Rillettes. This is chopped, salted pork cooked very slowly in fat for up to ten hours until it becomes a pate smooth enough to spread on baguettes. Rillettes are sold in glass pots and there are duck, chicken and fish varieties.

All delicious and you must try them on your visit to Le Mans!

And to accompany your meal - a fine drink!

You can get some very nice lagers brewed not far from Le Mans. However, the Loire Valley is serious wine territory with other wine regions close by, including Sancerre and Pouilly Fume, Anjou Saumur, Vouvray and Touraine, Chinon and Muscadet, from which Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc wines are produced in great quantity and excellent quality. It would be a crime not to try some produce of local vineyards!

There may be no better place to enjoy a glass of French wine than an elegant chateau. Naturally, this area of France features some of the country's most extravagant fortresses, including Le Lude which is perhaps the easiest to reach from Le Mans - just 45 kilometres away from the city.

Interesting to know

The Bugatti Circuit is a permanent race track located within the Circuit des 24 Heures of Le Mans and is named after Italian born French automobile designer and manufacturer Ettore Arco Isidoro Bugatti

The world's first public aeroplane flight took place in Le Mans in 1908

- Roland Potter