Le Mans Enters Final Countdown

The 73rd Le Mans 24 Hours is almost upon us, with the race start set for 16:00 local (14:00 GMT)

Le Mans Enters Final Countdown

The mood in the grandstands is very much one of anticipation, especially if you're French as the two Pescarolo Sport entries have qualified first and second, the Oreca-entered Audi is fifth up, with the faster of the works Courages sixth, offering French teams and drivers their best opportunity for victory in years, something that they will need to grab this year before the arrival of the all-new Audi R10s in 2006.

With the terracing at the foot of the grandstand opposite the pits filling up as the cars are wheeled out onto the grid in blazing sun and temperatures of up to 33 degrees Celsius, the atmosphere is building.

This will step up a couple of gears when the drivers come to the grid to be presented to the crowds, three at a time, by an interviewer who will join them in an open-top car that will parade them along the start/finish straight. These interviews will run through until Emmanuel Collard, Erik Comas and Jean-Christophe Boullion - who are sharing the pole-sitting Pescarolo - are introduced at 14:45 local.

Flags are already being waved, pledging allegiance to all sorts of teams and drivers, with swathes of orange marking out the Racing for Holland fans, Danish flags for those rooting for a record seventh Le Mans win for Tom Kristensen and, of course, plenty of Aston Martin flags waved by the British fans alongside some for their fierce rivals Corvette Racing.

The full crescendo will come at 16:00 local, though, when the race gets underway and then we'll get to see who is serious, who has been flattering to deceive and even if any team has been sandbagging to disguise their potential.

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