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How Eurosport captures the spectacle of the world’s best-known motor race

Capturing the sights, sounds and sensation of the Le Mans 24 Hour motor race places unique demands on the team behind the TV production. Ahead of this year’s event, TVBEurope talks to WBD’s Eurosport’s Will Brooks about the challenges they have to overcome

For motor racing fans around the world, the name Le Mans is special. Alongside Monaco and Indianapolis, the event is steeped in history and romance, bearing witness to some of the most spectacular performances ever seen on a race track over more than a century of top level automotive competition.

(Photo by James Moy Photography/Getty Images)

This weekend, upwards of a quarter of million eager fans will make their pilgrimage, descending en masse on the Sarthe circuit in the north of the lush Loire region. But millions more will watch at home, following the action as the race-worn pack charges on through the night.

For the Eurosport team, there are obvious comparisons to be drawn with the teams who are lining up to contest this 92nd iteration of the 24 Heures du Mans. In every pit lane garage, the men and women behind the cars that will be heading out on track started their preparations as soon as last June’s race finished. So, too, did the TV production crew.

“It’s an ongoing planning operation,” Will Brooks, senior producer at Warner Bros Discovery, tells TVBEurope. “The team works across a lot of different productions. This weekend, we have Le Mans but we also have World Superbikes at Misano, British Superbikes at Knockhill and Speedway Grand Prix in Malilla, but this is Le Mans. It’s something we think about right from the beginning of the season.”

The intensity of broadcasting a dynamic, fast-moving event necessitates a pattern of rotating shifts for the production crew, explains Brooks, similar to the stints pulled by the drivers and pit crews. A team of around 30, including the presentation team, five camera operators and audio engineers are on site with an equivalent number in support at WBD’s London facility.

At 4:00pm CET, when the waving tricolour signals the start of the race, the rolling pack will begin the charge in earnest. As many as 62 cars will start this year’s race, with entrants split into three different categories. The sheer size of the grid makes capturing the spectacle in all its sound and fury a challenge all of its own. 

“A Le Mans grid is rather large,” says Brooks, with amusing understatement. “To cover it with two cameras is tricky, so we have three RFs for the start and then we go down to two for the remainder of the race. One camera has full grid plus pit lane coverage and the other has wider paddock coverage to get a bit of the colour of the event.”

(Photo by Alessio Morgese/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

RF cameras are used, with audio provided by specialists from Tall Audio. On site, the host broadcasters use AMP Visual TV, which WBD is able to tap into. Feeds are brought back by Evertz encoders connected to the Globecast backbone that feeds WBD’s colocation based in Paris and London.

In order to minimise delay, the cameras come back using J2K compression. This year the onboards, seven timing pages and heli-cam will be fed back to London using a mixture of Haivision SRT and AMP Let’s See Cloud. 

In contrast to many other motorsport formats, endurance racing demands the highest performance over a long period of time. Teams must be resilient, able to withstand adverse conditions for hours on end. Once again, stark comparisons can be found in the approach taken by the broadcast operation. To ensure reliability, WBD is adopting a “tried and tested” methodology, as Brooks explains, “Because of the duration we’ve gone for a robust set up rather than an innovative one. Sony RF cameras, Wisycom audio and AMP handle all the frequencies in conjunction with ANFR. All Intercom on site is provided using a Digigram Iqoya Servlink on direct RTP or SIP.”

Further complicating matters, the Le Mans 24 Hour race takes place in part on closed public roads. The infamous Mulsanne Straight, for example, is actually part of the route départementale RD 338. Overcoming these difficulties is a key consideration for the team.

“If we want to go and film anything trackside, we have two options,” says Brooks. “If we want to go out of range all our RF cameras will record to card and then we can feed whatever we have recorded down the line to London when they’re back in range. We also have an ENG kit with us and in the past, we’ve gone and filmed at night time in the woods, at the back of the circuit. In that scenario, we have a system called Woody which lets us do our ingest over internet. We can ingest to our Grass Valley Framelight MAM and then push to our LiveTouches that we’re using for replays and inserts in the gallery.”

As the sun slips beneath the horizon, light begins to fade and the unlit sections of the track soon fall into complete darkness. Racing on through the night, the attrition rate grows as the teams battle mechanical failure, an inevitable weariness and the myriad unforeseen problems that can arise when least expected. Even finishing the race is a huge achievement, but those aiming to win understand only too well the nature of metronomic precision, unswerving dedication and absolute reliability.

(Photo by James Moy Photography/Getty Images)

This understanding is shared by the Eurosport crew. Every member has a vital role to play in ensuring success, every technological innovation must be completely reliable, with fail-safes built in to cover every conceivable eventuality. And on Sunday afternoon, when the clock runs down on this year’s 24 Heures du Mans, they will already be thinking about 2025.

Host Lesly Boitrelle will be joined by experts Tom Kristensen and Alex Brundle for Eurosport’s coverage of the Le Mans 24-hour race. Jethro Bovingdon, Guenaelle Longy and Laura Winter will provide additional reporting.