24 Hours Vision, at Le Mans

The Le Mans 24 Hours is widely regarded as the most gruelling endurance race in the world, pushing drivers to the very limits of human performance, and sometimes beyond. The challenge extends to much more than just the physicality of the event.

Sure, handling some of the world’s fastest sportscars at speeds of 200mph and above when exposed to all types of weather conditions, temperatures and times of day takes its toll on the human body and mind, but also on the eyes.

This is why the Essilor brand – the #1 in spectacle lenses worldwide* – has partnered with the Le Mans 24 Hours. Essilor has conducted extensive research into the effects of impaired or uncorrected eyesight when driving on the roads, the effects of which are rammed home when compared to the extreme conditions Le Mans drivers will face.

Up to 90% of the information needed to make good decisions on the road comes from our eyes, therefore it’s imperative to have an optimal vision to enjoy the road safely, 24 hours a day.

As Le Mans 24 Hours Official Partner, the Essilor brand will offer its expertise to correct, protect and enhance the vision of both road-going drivers, and racing drivers competing in the world’s biggest endurance race. The Essilor brand aims to improve drivers’ precision and field of vision, aid their adjustment to different brightness levels and weather conditions, reduce fatigue and better adapt to night driving – all factors that significantly influence drivers’ reaction times.

 

Photo by: Eric Le Galliot

For example, according to a 2013 Essilor study, any driver with poor or impaired vision can take an additional three seconds to identify and read a road sign when travelling at just 30mph (50kph). Imagine how that statistic changes when you’re required to spot a pit board at 3am, travelling at over four times that. That could easily be a race-losing scenario.

Martin Plowman knows a thing or two about racing successfully at Le Mans, having been part of the LMP2-winning Oak Racing team in 2013. He says accurate vision is imperative for success at La Sarthe: “Your eyes go through a lot at Le Mans, especially with the changes from daytime to night. Personally, I never struggled at night. I was always quite comfortable in low-light, but it’s when the sun comes back up that you get the ache and the glare and things start to catch up with you. Usually, the pure adrenaline gets you through a stint, and you’ll only notice how tired your eyes are once you’re out of the car and winding down.

"But I do remember one instance where we had a long safety car and we were pootling round at 37mph (60kph) and my eyes were getting so heavy as the adrenaline wore off. That was quite scary as your field of vision narrows and good peripheral vision is so important at Le Mans.”

 

Photo by: Rainer W. Schlegelmilch

In fact, 22% of drivers on the road today complain that visual fatigue when driving can be a key point of discomfort**. And when night-time driving comes into play the stats are even more telling. Glare is by far the most complained about visual discomfort on European roads at night***, and that’s just with regular road-going headlights, not the ultra-bright LED headlamps used on many racing prototypes.

When driving on the road, a driver blinded by oncoming headlights will travel approximately 538 metres with limited vision if doing 80mph (130kph)****. Now think about the limitation placed on a GT driver doing 190mph (300kph) on the Mulsanne Straight, blinded by the glare of approaching LMP cars in their mirrors. 

Whoever you are, from an occasional driver to a fully-fledged racing driver, your first thoughts before hitting the road shouldn’t be limited to simply adjusting your rear-view mirror, but to also to go and get your vision checked at your nearest eye care professional. Across the course of the three-year partnership with the Le Mans 24 Hours and its organising club, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, the Essilor brand will undertake numerous joint initiatives on the topic of 24 Hours Vision through both trackside events and public awareness campaigns as both parties strive for the common goal of sustainable and safe mobility for the future.

*Source: Euromonitor, eyewear 2021 edition, Essilor International Company; worldwide Retail value sales at RSP.

**Source: Eyewear Usage and Attitudes 2019 – June Marketing Brazil, China, India, France and US, wearers and non wearers aged 15 to 65 yo – N= 14276.

***Source: 2017, Harris interactive Driving study for Essilor, 4500 persons, US-Germany-China, statements evaluation.

****Source: 1991, Patorgis Cj. At al Photostress recovery testing in: Clinical Procedures in Optometry, Eskridge J.B., Amos J.F., Bartlett J.D.

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