Back in the 1980s, a small team of endurance racing enthusiasts from England set out to bring the 24 Hours of Le Mans to an audience that spoke their native tongue. Some four decades later, they couldn’t have known how Radio Le Mans would become such an iconic centerpiece within the race.
Woven together through local airwaves in France and connected to the world through its online streaming service, Radio Le Mans is the 24 Hour’s global campfire where fans from every nation come together to hear the event’s story told in ways that transcend moving pictures.
“Any fan of sports car racing has to be a fan of Radio Le Mans,” IMSA president Scott Atherton told RACER. “Over the years they endeared themselves into the rich fabric of the sport, its iconic races such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Rolex 24 At Daytona, and is a must listen for anyone that is following races from around the planet.”
Led by Eve Hewitt, who runs the Radio Show Limited company behind the Radio Le Mans and IMSA Radio properties, and John Hindhaugh, whose talents earned the reverential “voice of sports car racing” title long ago, the RSL collective is comprised of 21 broadcasters and technical staff responsible for the production from France.
Together, the mostly British group, which also includes an American voice or two, has achieved the rare cultural distinction of feeling like family despite the many miles – or hemispheres – that stand between the radio crew and its steadfast audience.
“Fans have numerous choices to follow our sport live, but they are missing out if they don’t spend all or part of, any race listening to Radio Le Mans,” Atherton continued. “John [Hindhaugh] has a peerless ability to create a ‘theater of the mind’ experience for his legions of listeners around the world and we are grateful for our partnership with them and the passion they provide our sport.”
Where Radio Le Mans has found its voice is in the immediate sharing of information and analysis. Deep relationships with hundreds of teams and thousands of drivers over the decades has opened pipelines to the right people in pit lane, and when something’s gone wrong – or incredibly right – a voice is soon heard with answers to pressing questions.
And in the booth, insights on fuel strategy, stint lengths, lap time differentials, and all the minutia that springs forth is presented with authority. The one constant – the one common bond – found among most reporters at the event is the sound of Radio Le Mans playing through headsets and ear buds to capture a complete portrait of the race.
Many will forego sleep during the race, but the same cannot be said of the event’s vital radio resource.
Radio Le Mans has also become a cultural institution outside of its target audience. Envisioned as a complementary service to the French-language commentary that took care of domestic patrons, the large contingent of European fans who flock to Le Mans have also come to rely on Hindhaugh, Shea Adam, Nick Daman, Joe Bradley, and the rest of the broadcast team for their listening enjoyment.
“There are thousands of Danish fans who come to Le Mans every year, but despite the fact English isn’t their first language, Radio Le Mans is always playing in the campsites around the circuit,” said Le Mans winner Jan Magnussen, Corvette Racing’s Danish hero.
“The radio commentary has really become a key part of the race for the fans. Keeping tabs on an entire 24-hour race isn’t easy – especially at circuit so large like Le Mans. The guys do a great job in keeping everyone informed as to what is going on.”
On-track activities are already under way. Time to join old friends and new around the Radio Le Mans campfire.