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Scrutineering (tech inspection) for the 24 Heures du Mans is like nothing else race fans can experience. The race cars are brought by truck from the circuit to Centre Ville in the city of Le Mans and go through scrutineering and administration, with drivers checking in and having their equipment checked. Following this procedure, photographs are taken with the entire team and all the driving personnel.
It's quite an interesting affair and the fans truly adore it, coming out in droves to see their favorites. The exercise takes place on Sunday afternoon and most of the day on Monday before the race, which begins at 3PM the following Saturday afternoon.
This is the 80th year for the twice-around-the-clock contest, with the race beginning in 1923. For the pre-WWII events, scrutineering started in rue du Porc-Epic, which then became known as rue Victor Bonhomme, located at the corner of Place de la Republique some 2/10 of a mile from the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO)headquarters. It then moved to the Haile aux Toiles on the square of the same name in the town center.
In 1949 scrutineering took place in the caserne Cavignac (boulevard Paixhans) and after being held in the old tramway station on rue Paul Courboulay between 1951 and 1953, the ACO moved the exercise on the Quinconce des Jacobins behind the municipal theater, where scrutineering remained from 1954 to 1960.
The ACO again moved this tech inspection to the circuit on the left-hand side of the track before the grandstands and then on the right-hand side after the construction of the Ford chicane. In 1976 it returned to the Quinconce des Jacobins where it stayed through 2009.
For the past two years, Le Mans scrutineering has taken place on the Places des Jacobins; tramway construction forced the ACO to turn the wheel full circle and place this technical exercise and celebration of racing and race cars back on the Place de la Republique, the emblematic square of the center of Le Mans.
The ACO said it's delighted that scrutineering is returning to the Place de la Republique, the town square. "Beyond the sporting importance of this technical operation, it also provides free entertainment that the spectators love - starting with the Le Mans citizens who flock to the square in large numbers to see the cars and drivers entered for the famous endurance race."
There was much talk about where technical inspection would take place this year because of the tramway construction - and the tramway is one of the easiest ways to get to the Le Mans circuit. The agreement came about quite late, just announced less than a month in advance. Town planning engineers had to solve problems starting with the cramped nature of the square, together with loads placed on the central flagstones, the problems linked to security of spectators near the tramway stop, the circulation of vehicles and the public.