THE INSIDE STORY OF THE JOURNEY TO LE MANS
11th April 2016
The story of Jota Sport’s incredible 2014 season, when they won the iconic Le Mans 24-hour race for the first time, is being re-lived by audiences across the world.
Journey to Le Mans, the documentary of the season made by Charlotte Fantelli, was snapped up by Netflix and is now available in the USA, South America, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, as well as in the UK and across Europe. The film was shown three times by ITV4 and DVD sales here topped 60,000 within months of its release.
Fantelli, a first-time film-maker, could not have hoped for a better storyline. It was a season of endless drama: first there was Simon Dolan’s horror crash at Silverstone when, for an agonising thirty minutes, the team did not know if he was dead or alive; then, at Le Mans, the team lost driver Marc Gene when he was recalled by Audi just 48 hours before the race and had to summon Oliver Turvey as a last-minute replacement; yet they still pulled off a glorious, improbable maiden victory in motor sport’s toughest challenge.
“The choreography is amazing, it’s an intricate drama, everyone has their role and everything from eating and changing to showering and sleeping has to be choreographed to the minute.
“You don’t see the hardship, the challenges overcome, unless you experience it up close – you cannot believe the hard work that goes into it”.
Fantelli says this was crystallised by a moment at the climax of the 24-hour race when Turvey was leading by around 45 seconds but still had to make a final pit stop. “It all came down to Roland, the fuel guy, and in that moment his job was the most important – he would either win or lose Le Mans for his team. That’s what the sport is about: it’s all about the team and you are only as strong as the weakest link in the chain”.
A long-time motor sport fan, she was inspired to make the film after hearing Dolan, whom she has known for many years, give a talk at Silverstone. “He had just burned 4000 calories in his driving stint, his heart rate had not gone below 170, it made me realise how intensely physical the sport is. You don’t think about that and it’s what I wanted to convey in the film. It all comes down to the human element in the end”.
That came home to her with sickening reality when Dolan crashed at Silverstone.
“I’ll never forget being out on the track with my cameraman, waiting for him to finish his stint. We were in a squatting position waiting, waiting, waiting, then I got a tap on the shoulder and someone said: ‘Red flag’. In that moment, it went from being something that happens to other people to something that was happening to us”.
The scenes of the team waiting for news, unaware of Dolan’s fate, are the most memorable in the film – living alongside them, experiencing the highs and gut-wrenching lows of the season, Fantelli felt the emotion as keenly as them.
Making the film was a massive leap of faith – she raised more than £400,000 for the project, including £100,000 of her own money, and there were many times when it was close to falling apart. But, showing the same determination to see the job through that the Jota team showed at Le Mans, she pulled it off, producing a compelling narrative that delighted motor sport fans and has won Jota many new admirers.
She is still in touch with the team and is looking forward to the new season. “Simon has been driving out of his skin, he’s in the form of his life, and there’s plenty of new blood on board. It’s going to be a really exciting season and I can’t wait for it to start”.
To view on Netflix click here: https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/80063824