Saturday, June 16, 2012

Le Mans 24 Hours

You probably wouldn't know it but the 80th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is going on right now.  That's right--24 hours straight.  You thought NASCAR was boring?  Try watching this.

If you don't know jack about Le Mans, allow me to explain.  It's the first prominent endurance race which began back in 1923 (and also one of the Triple Crown of Motorsport along with the Indy 500 and Monaco GP).  This race takes place at the infamous Circuit de la Sarthe, primarily made up of narrow roads along the French countryside.  This course is prominent in many racing games such as Forza and Gran Turismo.  Because of the race's immense success, other endurance races of similar nature have began on other popular tracks such as Daytona, Sebring, Spa-Francorchamps, and Nurburgring.

Approximately 50 cars enter the race in one of four classes divided by power and weight--two LeMans (LMP) classes and two Grand Tourer (GT) classes.  Each car has at least three drivers which swap in and out over the course of the race.  The car in each class to finish the most laps in 24 hours wins.  Manufacturers from all over the world participate.  You can see many of these cars in Forza (R1 and R2 cars). 

Since the race happens non-stop, a good half of the race is run at night.  It's surreal to see race cars with lights nowadays.  Most night races are held in well-lit tracks but in Le Mans, this is not the case.  It's also surreal cause after playing Forza for so long in the sunlight you're not used to driving in the dark :D

Not so fast, champ.  If there's a real-life racing event, Sega WILL make a racing game off of it.  This is Le Mans 24 the 1997 arcade game presented by Sega AM3 (Sega Rally team) and AM4 (Amusement Vision).

It's a Model3 game that shares some similarities with Scud Race.  There's a McLaren, Porsche, and F40 in the game as well as a Skyline, a Sauber, and a 787b.  Handling is loose as usual as you can swerve in and out of turns in usual Sega fashion.

While it's a great effort, the game doesn't look all that great. The texturing and polygons look like that of a crap Ridge Racer game.  Lighting is bland but that may improve with future emulator iterations.  Not to mention that the font/interface looks rather plain.  Compare it to Scud Race and there's a world of difference.  Doesn't mean the game isn't fun, of course.  It's another rugged Sega arcade racer...nothing wrong with that.

The game features the famous le Sarthe track as well as some other fictional French course.  You can race Le Mans in a theoretical 24 Hour mode in that over the course of 10 or so laps, the game fades from day to night to day again.  Bad weather can also obstruct your vision.  Or you can run a 3 lap sprint if you aren't enamored with this endurance race nonsense but where's the fun in that?  Play endurance mode, be a man, it's cool.

Needless to say, the Sarthe track in the game is greatly embellished.  It takes about 1:20 to complete a lap in the game and 3:30 to complete a lap in real life--a big difference.  The environments are also a lot more festive, including amusement parks, fields of grass instead of sand, wider lanes with easier turns, Sonic signs, and a giant inflatable Bibendum (the Michelin Man).

Here's another look at the game which demonstrates the game's 24 Hour mode.  Unfortunately, the guy is playing with a keyboard so it's twitch fest to say the least...

Believe it or else, there was another Le Mans game for the Dreamcast.  However, this one was published by Infogrames.  It's more realistic than the arcade version and has more cars & tracks too.  Occasionally this game will have the phrase "Test Drive" tacked on to its title.  It has very little to do with Sega's Le Mans game.  It got great reviews but it's not made by Sega's just not as good, I'm sorry.

Anyway, here's the Le Mans girl.  Pixelated race girls...ripped right out of a Ridge Racer game.  Go download the ROM and play it on the Supermodel emulator if you like.  It's worth a shot so tell me what you think.

1 comment:

  1. I mentioned "Le Mans 24" in my own blog. Just a shame the United States got a chance to see this arcade game. "Le Mans 24 Hours" is one of my favorite racing games on the PS2. As for this year's race, congratulations to all the winners, overall and in the various classes.