Here’s just a sampling of some noteworthy – and sometimes offbeat – happenings across the globe over the next couple of months.
EUROPE By tradition a wave of the French tricolour launches this legendary Le Mans 24-Hour Race, known as the Grand Prix of Endurance, which has been run since 1923. Every year approximately 50 competitors draw huge crowds of spectators (the record attendance was 258,500 in 2008) as they race around the 13.65-km track. This year the race takes place 11 – 12 June.
Always conceived by the motoring industry as a real-life test laboratory for innovations and developments, the emphasis at Le Mans 24 has been on the ability of manufacturers to produce sporty, yet reliable and safe, cars. These technological innovations have had a trickle-down effect, with technology used at Le Mans finding its way into production cars several years later.
In the 1990s new regulations were introduced to increase the safety of this daunting test of endurance. Drivers are not allowed to drive for more than four hours consecutively, and no one driver can run for more than fourteen hours in total. This has reduced driver fatigue during the races. A rule that is unique to Le Mans is the requirement that the cars shut down when they are being re-fuelled in the pits. This reduces the fire hazard, but it also tests the ability of the cars to restart many times under race conditions.
The race is run on the Circuit of the Sarthe, which consists of both permanent, dedicated track and public roads that are temporarily closed for the race. Originally the track actually entered the town of Le Mans, but was cut short because of fears about spectator safety, leading to the creation of the Dunlop Curve and Tertre Rouge. The sections of the track that are on public roads are not as smooth or well maintained as the dedicated racetrack, and offer less grip to the racing cars. This is a challenging race that has entered motor sport folklore. If you are an enthusiast, go to Le Mans 2011 – there can be few more exciting spectating opportunities.
EUROPE The military parade and march-past known as Trooping the Colour, takes place on 11 June, and marks the official birthday of the Sovereign. It is a colourful event, replete with pageantry and tradition, and is a great favourite with visitors to London.
The troops taking place in the parade are fully trained, operational troops from the Household Division. The Queen’s Colour of a battalion of Foot Guards is ‘trooped’ (carried) through the ranks in front of the Sovereign. One colour is trooped each year, and five Household regiments – Grenadier, Coldstream, Scots, Irish and Welsh rotate each year.
Over 1,400 officers and men take part in the parade, along with over 200 horses. There are over 400 musicians from ten bands and corps of drums. Some 113 words of command are spoken by the Officer in Command of the Parade. The ceremony has a long tradition, dating back to the 18th century when guards and sentries of the Royal Palaces were mounted daily on the Parade Ground by the Horse Guards building. The colours of the battalion were carried slowly through the ranks, so that the soldiers would learn to recognise the colours of their own regiment. In 1748 it was decreed that this parade would also mark the official birthday of the Sovereign.