One of the world’s most prestigious motor races hit the streets of Le Mans, a quiet French town two hours outside of Paris. The 24 Hours of Le Mans race is in its 85th year, and fans and race teams alike fly in from all over the globe to take part in this special piece of history. Teams flock to the legendary Circuit de la Sarthe to snag a podium spot, but at Le Mans, finishing at all is an accomplishment—hence the name.
While the race itself is enough of a challenge, just getting there takes plenty of effort for most international teams.
For example, in order to compete in Le Mans, the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing – US team has to travel across the ocean from its home base in the United States via air freight. Annually, the team clocks in about 300,000 miles of domestic travel, and 100,000 miles internationally. Preparation for this year’s race began immediately after last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, where the Ford team took home an overall victory in its LMGTE Pro series with the No. 68 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT driven by Joey Hand, Dirk Muller and Sebastien Bourdais.
After nearly a year of preparation, last month the CGR Team began shipping a couple of their Ford GT race cars overseas. At Chicago O’Hare International Airport, two race cars were loaded onto a Boeing 747-8 freighter chartered by Cargolux, a company known for handling high-value, precious cargo. The cars then took an overnight flight to London’s Heathrow Airport, and eventually made the 7.5-hour journey to Le Mans inside a tractor trailer—fortunately, cars don’t really deal with jet lag.
Since they’re facing both day and night time driving, race teams have to prepare for a variety of conditions. So, in addition to the two race cars, CGR Team had to load an extensive packing list that includes tools, 29 pieces of spare bodywork, four extra twin-turbo Ford EcoBoost V6 engines, 20 sets of rims (that’s a whopping 80 total), a custom built mobile fabrication unit—virtually acting as a moving machine shop—and all of the support equipment for the race cars. We did the math, and all of these extra supplies come to a total of about 13 tons of cargo, not including the weight of the two cars.
When the race is finished, the CGR Team will pack up once again and ship everything back to Chicago via air freight. But there’s no vacation until next year’s race: Once the cars land back stateside, the team will have three days to rebuild them before they’re back on the road to finish out their jam-packed race calendar. Next race will be at Watkins Glen, July 1st – 2nd, 2017.
*Reference Conde Nast Travler