The glories tell their memories of Le Mans


On the occasion of the 100th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, EBRA reunited with three former winners: Christophe Bouchut, Eric Helary and Laurent Aiello. Time to come back to the mythical emotion of a victory on the Bugatti circuit.

By Oscar Bertrand
June 10, 2023 at 10:00 am

100 years. A century of history, exploits, terrible accidents and unforgettable emotions. Le Mans celebrates a unique anniversary: ​​that of a 24-hour endurance race which has won the respect of the world thanks to its charm, its difficulty and its Bugatti circuit which has become a reference. Its winners have never forgotten the indescribable feeling of triumph and celebration on the podium.

“When I get on the podium, perched at the top, I contemplate the whole straight line filled with spectators up to the Dunlop panel. Never had I seen so many people on a track. Below the podium is the anthill, I am the king of the world”. Eric Hélary’s history with the 24 Hours of Le Mans is worthy of a success story. A victory in 1993 from his first participation in a French team, Peugeot and managed by the brilliant Jean Todt. “He had asked that all the members of the Peugeot Sport team get on the podium, but the organization had refused for fear that the podium would collapse (laughs)…”


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“My life has been turned upside down since my victory”

At 27, the driver from Paris won the best victory of his career. Asked to compete in the Indianapolis 500 at the same time, he preferred France and Peugeot’s proposal, which was more ambitious than ever. “I chose Le Mans and I think I did well (laughs). To have this kind of proposals is rare. But I was recruited to win, so that made the difference”. Alongside Christophe Bouchut (also 27), another talented young driver and the experienced Australian Geoff Brabham (41), Hélary leads the French team to the top of a historic treble.

“It’s the best victory of my career, confirms Bouchut. I have won several 24 hour races, but this one stands apart. At that time, the vehicles were not as reliable as they were then. Our cars, we were surprised when they didn’t break. We did about ten simulations with Peugeot, we never finished one. We arrived at Le Mans, we didn’t even think we’d finish the race”.

30 years already that the two friends raised their arms on the mythical Bugatti circuit and always an emotion when recounting these imperishable memories. “I came home, I turn on my radio and I hear people talking about me, but also when I turn on the TV, Hélary remembers. Jean Pierre Pernaut pronounces my name and calls me a hero. It was crazy! We had answering machines with tapes. mine was packed with 200 messages. I say to myself: wow, that’s not possible (laughs). It was 30 years ago, and I feel that my life has been turned upside down since my victory”. So overwhelming that Christophe Bouchut left his Isère for a day to be received in person by the President of the Republic Jacques Chirac to celebrate this victory.

Ferrari to dethrone Toyota?

The return of great historic manufacturers, two Ferraris in the front row, ever-ambitious Toyotas and an ardent public: the centenary edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans has everything to spark sparks for this 2023 edition.

In the queen Hypercar category, the Japanese manufacturer, ultra-dominant over the last five editions, sees the return of competition from Porsche, Cadillac, Peugeot and above all Ferrari, absent for 50 years. The Scuderia placed its two cars on pole, leaving Toyota on the 2nd and 3rd rows, one of the Porsches having even inserted itself between the N.7 and N.8 who had been fighting for victory for five years. In all, 62 cars are entered. Kick off at 4 p.m. with a start given by NBA superstar Lebron James.

Aiello and the improbable triumph of 1998

Laurent Aiello’s story with the queen of endurance racing has its share of emotions. In 1998, he was chosen at the last minute by Porsche to remedy Yannick Dabas’ package. « I wasn’t a big fan of endurance racing but more of sprinting, so I hesitated, » he says. I called my friend Eric Hélary, I told him about this proposal, he told me it was Porsche anyway. I took the time to reflect and I went for it”.

The best decision of his life without a doubt. With another Frenchman, Stéphane Ortelli, he triumphs, achieving a double in front of another Porsche car. “When the car crosses the line, I admit that I had it a little bad because the marshals are coming to get me so that we can reach the podium. We don’t even have the opportunity to celebrate on the low wall. The organizers want to bring us to the podium. We don’t have this euphoria to hug each other, on the podium, when we see the crowd, we realize that we have done something extraordinary. Another life changed forever…


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