Why Le Mans proves good vision is vital to racing success

It may seem obvious that racing drivers need good vision to compete at their very best, but in the Le Mans 24 Hours, this most vital of motorsport senses gets tested to the very limit.

This year’s event threw competitors almost every icon on the weather map, starting with persistent rain then running through a glaring sunset, the darkness of night, early morning fog and sparking sunlight to finish.

The intensity of conditions, coupled with the fatigue delivered from racing over a 24-hour period with just two other team-mates to share the load, is why the race at La Sarthe is recognised as one of motorsport’s toughest.

Racing speeds accentuate the need for good vision, as drivers need to be able to accurately evaluate their approach speed and nail the apex spot on. Slightly before or slightly later, and they will lose lap time or lose control.

#8 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 - Hybrid Hypercar, Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima, Brendon Hartley

#8 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 - Hybrid Hypercar, Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima, Brendon Hartley

Photo by: TOYOTA GAZOO Racing

TAKING THE STRAIN

At Le Mans, vision comes under a huge amount of strain as drivers are faced with sun glare, night glare and a narrowing field of vision through fatigue. That makes visual endurance as vital as physical endurance.

An eye test is mandatory for many racing licenses and any visual impairment, through poor eyesight or tiredness, can make corners seem to arrive more quickly, reducing the time available to make basic driving decisions.

This is often forgotten within the demands of racing, and in this video Paul du Saillant, Deputy CEO of EssilorLuxottica, whose Essilor lens brand is Le Mans 24 Hours Official Partner, explains: “It’s an amplification of what many [road] drivers experience.

“Everything is amplified – the speed, the condition of driving, the complexity, the weather conditions because in the Le Mans 24 Hours you have rain, clear, sunset, all kinds of conditions, it is very complex to manage.

“We must keep in mind that 90% of the information going to the driver comes through the vision, so 90% of the decisions come from having good vision.”

Having better vision gives a performance advantage to any driver, racetrack or road, and EssilorLuxottica is working with the FIA and the United Nations to research and develop a road safety agenda for vision.

#47 Cetilar Racing Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE Am, Roberto Lacorte, Giorgio Sernagiotto, Antonio Fuoco

#47 Cetilar Racing Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE Am, Roberto Lacorte, Giorgio Sernagiotto, Antonio Fuoco

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

THE KEY TO SUCCESS

Racing drivers absorb far more detailed information from the circuit than everyday road drivers do, and the more aware they are of what is around them, the more indicators they can use to perfect their performance.

A first-time racer at Le Mans will typically have a short and narrow focus, while the more experienced drivers will generally look further ahead, enabling them to anticipate upcoming triggers and make driving decisions more accurately.

Experts also say that the ability to look further ahead provides a better sense of balance, as it helps a driver to become more centred and the body relies less on the balance-related senses provided by the inner ear.

The minimum eyesight standard for road driving in the UK is a visual acuity of at least 0.5 (6/12) measured on the Snellen scale, either naturally or with the help of glasses or contact lenses if necessary.

David Navarro, VP Vision on the Road Group Plan, Essilor International, says there is a “crucial link” between that visual acuity and reaction time, a fact that has been proven through scientific research on road driving.

Every move a driver makes is down to a visual trigger, and that is why accuracy of vision is key to learning a circuit, positioning a car and becoming fast and consistent around Le Mans, or indeed any track, whatever the conditions.

#28 JOTA ORECA 07 - Gibson LMP2, Sean Gelael, Stoffel Vandoorne, Tom Blomqvist

#28 JOTA ORECA 07 - Gibson LMP2, Sean Gelael, Stoffel Vandoorne, Tom Blomqvist

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

David Navarro explains: “Someone driving at 50kph with 0.5 visual acuity loss is going to perceive and read the information [in] three seconds’ more time than usual conditions. It is enormous.

“You are going to create as well the problems of tunnelling your vision, trying to see what is happening, so accurate vision is key. Of course, at 50kph, [but more so] when you are driving in the track at very high speed limits.”

“Optimal vision is a key factor to enhance race drivers' performance and to be safe on the road, for everyone,” Pierre Fillon, ACO President, said.

“The 24 hours of Le Mans is a unique innovations laboratory that puts the drivers in front of all the 24 hours-vision challenges that one could experience on the road; sun glare, night driving, visual fatigue. There is a lot we can do. As 24 Hours of Le Mans and Mission H24, we are proud of this important partnership and the fantastic start in 2021.”

shares
comments

Related video

Touring car ace and Le Mans class winner Gordon Spice dies
Previous article

Touring car ace and Le Mans class winner Gordon Spice dies

Next article

Le Mans winner and Targa Florio hero Nino Vaccarella dies aged 88

Le Mans winner and Targa Florio hero Nino Vaccarella dies aged 88
Load comments
The remarkable fixes Toyota used to avert another Le Mans disaster Plus

The remarkable fixes Toyota used to avert another Le Mans disaster

The 1-2 finish achieved by Toyota at this year's Le Mans 24 Hours was a result that will have surprised few, given its status as pre-event favourite. But the result was anything but straightforward, as worsening fuel pressure concerns required the team's drivers and engineers to pursue "creative fixes" on the fly. Here is the full story of how it reached the end without a lengthy pit visit

Le Mans
Nov 3, 2021
Inside the Le Mans finish too barmy for Hollywood Plus

Inside the Le Mans finish too barmy for Hollywood

Team WRT has been at the forefront of GT racing for years and made a successful move to prototypes for 2021, capped by an LMP2 win on its Le Mans debut. It could've been even better had the race been one lap shorter, when its cars ran 1-2, but the stranger-than-fiction reality has spurred the team to reach greater heights

Le Mans
Oct 16, 2021
The standout memories of Le Mans 2021 Plus

The standout memories of Le Mans 2021

OPINION: With four of the five Hypercar entries unproven in a 24-hour race, it would not have been unexpected for at least one of them to suffer serious reliability trouble. That they all managed to make it through the race relatively unscathed, says GARY WATKINS, was something of a surprise.

Le Mans
Aug 24, 2021
Why Toyota's Le Mans victory was not as simple as it looked Plus

Why Toyota's Le Mans victory was not as simple as it looked

Toyota scored its fourth Le Mans 24 Hours victory and a 1-2, with the #7 car of Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez beating the #8. But although it looked straightforward from the outside, Toyota faced serious problem that had to be solved with some quick-thinking and ingenuity

Le Mans
Aug 24, 2021
10 things we've learned from the 2021 Le Mans 24 Hours so far Plus

10 things we've learned from the 2021 Le Mans 24 Hours so far

The new dawn for the World Endurance Championship has arrived at Le Mans, as Hypercars prepare to duel for victory in the world's oldest endurance race. Autosport picks out the 10 things we have learned in the build up to the race.

Le Mans
Aug 21, 2021
Le Mans 2021: The team by team guide Plus

Le Mans 2021: The team by team guide

After a two-month delay due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 Le Mans 24 Hours is set to get underway with the start of the Hypercar era at the Circuit de la Sarthe

Le Mans
Aug 21, 2021
The ex-F1 drivers making a name for themselves in Le Mans' underrated class Plus

The ex-F1 drivers making a name for themselves in Le Mans' underrated class

Kevin Magnussen will make his Le Mans 24 Hours debut this weekend alongside father Jan in LMP2. But the Danes won't be the only ex-F1 drivers to appear in the hotly contested category this year.

Le Mans
Aug 20, 2021
Can Toyota's #7 crew break its Le Mans curse? Plus

Can Toyota's #7 crew break its Le Mans curse?

One Toyota, normally with the number 7 on the side, always seems to attract the bad luck in the Le Mans 24 Hours. Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez are hoping for a change in fortune this time around, but face significantly more unknowns than in recent years

Le Mans
Aug 19, 2021