Last year, I found myself a couple hours south of Paris at the 24 Hour of Le Mans as a guest of Toyota. No joke, it was one of the most memorable experiences I've had as a car enthusiast, and that's without knowing a whole lot about each class and competitor. So without overwhelming you with the nitty-gritty about the race's specifics and history, here are five important things I took away that you should know, too:
1. The origins of 24 Hour of Le Mans date back to 1923 (95 years ago!). Since '12, the race has been part of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). For this coming season, Le Mans will be used twice in competition—June 16-17, 2018 and June 15-16, 2019.
2. Size-wise, Le Mans is on a whole 'nother level. Last year drew more than 250,000 spectators. It's bigger than a massive music festival like Coachella, and fans literally stay up all night eating and drinking. I slept but a couple hours during my stay.
3. The track uses a mix of public country roads of Le Mans and purpose-built track sections. It's 8.469 miles long and the famous Mulsanne Straight stretches 3.7 miles where prototype cars like Toyota's TS050 Hybrid reach more than 200 mph.
4. The TS050 is a race car developed under the '16 Prototype rules and is powered by a twin-turbo direct injection 2.4L V-6 mated to a 8MJ hybrid system. The powertrain was developed in Japan while the rest of the car designed and built in Germany.
5. Le Mans is the ultimate test for a race car and its team. Last year, 60 cars started and only 49 finished! In '16, Toyota experienced a last-minute failure, which made them forfeit the race on the final lap. In '17, the three competing Toyotas fell short of expectations; only one finished. For '18, the only other manufacturer in its class, Porsche, has pulled out of contention. Toyota will only be facing privateers in the LMP1 class; however, that doesn't mean all is lost. It truly takes balls for any manufacturer or team to put in all the money and effort required of Le Mans. It's an unpredictable race as Toyota has experienced, but we'll be cheering for them in the next two races as they continue to strive for their for overall championship in one of motorsport's most iconic spectacles.