Le Mans 3D: The closest thing to being in the cockpit

It’s the world’s most exciting and brutal endurance race – and now, it’s the subject of a searing documentary showing at Vue for one night only. Here are four reasons why Le Mans 3D absolutely has to be watched on the big screen.

By Simon Lewis

The crashes

Le Mans 3D is not for the faint-hearted. Thanks to dashboard-mounted 3D cameras, you will experience how it feels to crash at over 100mph. You will hear the panicked warnings in the racers’ earpieces as they bear down on an oil-slicked corner. You will feel the thrill of living on the edge, and see what happens when it all goes wrong.

The emotion

Right at the start of the film is a reminder of what’s at stake. Aston Martin driver Darren Turner holds his newborn son while his wife cries at the memory of their friend who died in a crash in the 2013 race. It makes watching 2015’s race from inside Darren’s car all the more powerful: how far should he push the car’s limits in order to win?

Then there’s 23 year-old first-timer Jann Mardenborough, selected by the Nissan GT Academy for his skills on the Gran Turismo PS4 game. As he waits in his suit and helmet for the start of his first real 24-hour race, all you can see is his boyish eyes, full of what looks very much like fear. Trackside, his parents wait and pray. It seems very real indeed.

The spectacle

“It’s brutal - I don’t think there’s ever been a race like it,” says Porsche’s Mark Webber of the super-fast, super-intense 2015 contest. There’s never been a racing film like this, either. From inside the cars, in high-definition 3D, you hear the whine and roar of the hybrid engines, the squeaking of the bodywork, the bumps in the track, the dirt and oil hitting the windscreen, the wind rushing past and the insane speed and danger of every corner.

And don’t forget, this all continues through the night. There’s a superb 3D helicopter shot that shows just how unique Le Mans really is: you see bonfires in the dark, drifting smoke, the whirling neon of funfair rides and 260,000 people partying through the night, while the headlights of 50 cars continue to chase each other round the course at 200mph.

Le Mans 3D: The closest thing to being in the cockpit

The tension

Only on this scale do you get a sense of the clash of wills going on in a 24-hour race. It’s gladiatorial. Doing the equivalent of 18 Grand Prix in a row uses up 600 calories per hour in sheer concentration, and you can see the strain on the Porsche, Audi, Nissan and Toyota drivers as the cameras catch them in foetal positions on garage floors, exhausted.

Le Mans 3D reveals an incredibly tense face-off between drivers, pit crews, established giants and plucky underdogs, and you’re right in among it. When one of the cars has to pull over at the race’s crisis point you’re there in the cockpit, in the sudden silence. You can hear the driver breathing. You can definitely hear him swear.

“I’ve lost friends behind the wheel but what are you going to do, stop?” says Mark Webber. And being in the car with him in 3D, you finally understand what drives him to take such risks. It’s pure adrenaline.

As Darren Turner says, “If you knew what your checkout time was, but you were having the best time of your life up to that point? I’d take that.” Watch this and you’ll see why.

Get times and tickets for Le Mans 3D, showing at Vue on 21st June for one night only.