The Golden Season for Classic Sports: Le Mans 2018
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“Night, the beloved. Night, when words fade and things come alive. When the destructive analysis of day is done, and all that is truly important becomes whole and sound again. When man reassembles his fragmentary self and grows with the calm of a tree.” ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Antoine de Saint-Exupery was the author of the Novella “The Little Prince”, the book used for my class textbook when I first learned French and a classic of literature. Saint-Exupery was a brilliant writer, an early and expert aviator in the days when flying meant that every journey in an airplane was hazardous to your health because of the lack of instruments (and radios, and GPS, and almost every modern flight assistance aid we take for granted today). St.-Ex learned to fly in the Military, was convinced to abandon that career by his financee and her family, but ultimately, after a tedious year or two at a desk job in Paris, he was back in the air, free and confident and soaring. He became one of the pioneers of international postal flight, working for AEROPOSTALE on the treacherous route between Toulouse and Dakar.
Saint-Exupery was a complicated, multi-dimensional man of accomplishment, unquestioned bravery, and literary elegance. While his best known book in America is “The Little Prince”, his true genius as a writer can be found in his books on aviation. Vol de Nuit (Night Flight), which recounted his adventures in Aeropostale, won the Prix Femina, a prestigious French literary award. Terre Des Hommes (Wind, Sand and Stars) another book on aviation, is considered a classic in aviation literature.
Flying at night and driving at speed, at night, have similar qualities and challenges. The territory, as familiar as it may be in the day, is different at night. Focus is directed by the path in front; there is much less room for error because the ability to see clearly, definitively into the distance is diminished. If there is an error, and the car or airplane goes out of control—even for a second—the situation that aviators call “unusual attitude” is all the more difficult to recover from.
And yet, deep into the night there is a comforting rhythm enjoyed by drivers and pilots. The consistent, reassuring sound of the engine. The timed ritual of the gear change or throttle increase (or decrease); the beauty of the flashes of light that rush by; the peace of speed at night on the Mulsanne straight, when you are the only car on the road and your headlights beam your destiny.
At this time in the race, the Zen of existence makes it appearance. You must not live in the future, you dare not live in the past. You must realize, accept, and be in the present. There is only this moment in the dark, only the next curve, the next braking zone, the next shift up or down to deal with you. If you will ever bond with a racing car, you will do it at night, when it is just the two of you, alone, at speed, at Le Mans, in the middle of the night. And it is all working and the welcome relief of light to some is an interruption of a dream for others.
The dark of night is giving way to the light of day and still the distance yet to go is daunting for the cars running at the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans.
But the night has refreshed the course, the car, and the team.
And now the run for daylight begins.
The Fine Print: Image embed courtesy of our friends at GettyImages.com, who have the photographic history of the 20th and 21st century on file. This image has not been altered in any way. We thank them for sharing. Nightshift Sports is produced by Perception Engineering and The Media Bunker for The Nightshift, the World News Daily. Text copyright (c)2018, donald pierce.