As many DSC readers will know, the Porsche Curves in Le Mans are a series of four corners beginning with a right-hand curve followed by a narrow double-left and ending with a right-hand corner.
Porsche Curves are considered by most drivers to be one of the best and most challenging sections of the Circuit de La Sarthe, due in part to the fast entry/exit speeds they allow. At the FIA’s request, the ACO and the Syndicat Mixte des 24 Heures du Mans (the public organisation in charge of managing large investments for the Circuit de la Sarthe) decided to improve safety standards in that section in 2014 after a series of accidents.
Gravel traps were created or expanded, SAFER Barriers were installed, and some protective walls were pushed back. The drivers greatly appreciated these improvements (The section is shown right as it is currently), and no significant accidents have occurred during the past two editions of the 24-hour race.
Despite the success of these initiatives, the ACO and the Syndicat Mixte have decided to carry on investing in additional safety measures for this area. Their current aim is to address the specific problem posed by the absence of run-off areas inside the final right-hand corner — the result of having an artificially elevated section of the track pass over two bridges above a a public road (the RD 92) and a river (the Roule-Crottes). Driving mistakes in that curve typically triggered contact with concrete walls, as it did, rather dramatically, for Marc Gené’s Peugeot 908 back in 2008 and for Loic Duval’s Audi R18 in 2014.
The project is a considerable one, as nearly 40,000 tons of soil will be required for the creation of a brand new 1.1-acre run-off area covered in abrasive bitumen. The artificial field located inside the Porsche curves’ final right-hand corner will bridge the Roule-Crottes River running under the track. There will also be a service lane for emergency vehicles and marshals. The track design will remain unchanged. Construction work should begin a few days after the 24 Hours of Le Mans 2017 and should last no longer than fourteen weeks.
With grateful thanks to Dan Hounsell