Radio Le Mans was born out of the introduction during the mid 1980s of ‘Special Event Radio’. In 1984 and 1985 the commentary for the British Grand Prix and other major UK races was broadcast over a low-power transmitter on the medium wave band to enable people to follow the activity from the warmth of their cars or the comfort of hospitality suites.
Before long, the benefits of reaching spectators who maybe didn’t normally listen to commentary, or away from core ‘track-activity’ times, became clear. Appetites could be whetted by playing pre-recorded driver interviews early on raceday morning, and traffic news and other sports news round-ups could be provided at the end of the day as spectators made their way home.
In 1986, Le Mans followed the trend and broadcast the public address commentary on FM airwaves. This was pretty unadulterated stuff, with long periods of silence and the announcer often having to speak over background music.
In 1987, backed by Jaguar and produced by Studio 6 Marketing, a rather shabby caravan was brought from England and set up in the paddock with a radio transmitter and some dodgy phone lines to link the studio to the commentary booth in the tribune. Neville and Richard Hay provided the commentary assisted by Bob Constanduros from the pits, but during the night the whole show shut down while a music loop was played.
Autosport Magazine recognised the potential and provided some advertising for the station in 1988, which enabled significantly more personnel to be brought on board. Regular Silverstone double-act Ian Titchmarsh and Paul Truswell described the action from the ACO grandstand overlooking the pits, while the BBC’s Andy Smith and Janice Minton were in the pitlane with radio microphones.
These were not radio microphones as we know and love them today, but required a rucksack full of batteries and transmitters to make them work – the whole lot weighed about 30kg!
John Hindhaugh joined the crew in 1989, alongside Steve Ancsell in the studio, and by now coverage of the race itself was interrupted only by scheduled advertisement breaks and news bulletins.
In the years that followed, the format was enhanced – the ‘Mad Friday’ campsite tour, the Radio Le Mans debate, live phone-ins, etc.
In 1997, a major technological advance with far-reaching consequences was made as Radio Le Mans teamed up with web-providers, to enable listeners to tune in to the station through their PCs, wherever they were in the world. This expanded the audience from those with radio receivers in the physical vicinity of the transmitter at Le Mans, to the potential of the World Wide Web.
Backing from Chrysler between 1997 and 1999 and from GM from 2000 to 2002, along with the launch of the American Le Mans Series, enabled Radio Le Mans to consolidate its local fan base at the circuit and integrate a whole new generation of listeners as low-cost consumer broadband web access became available.
In 2005, for the first time, the transmission was also broadcast on digital radio, heralding the beginning of a new era of Radio Le Mans while in 2006 there was another first with the appearance of Radio Le Mans podcasts. By this point, commercial breaks had been dropped from the race coverage, enabling virtually uninterrupted coverage of the race, and as internet technology meant those watching trackside at the circuit had other sources of information, news bulletins were discontinued after 2008.
By this time the station, now run by Radio Show Ltd., was broadcasting 365 days a year on RadioLeMans.com, with coverage of the American Le Mans Series and Nürburgring 24 hour race augmenting the Le Mans 24 hours.
Over the years, more endurance races and championships were added to the schedule, including the Bathurst 12 hours, Spa 24 hours, 360 Motor Club’s 6 hours of Snetterton, the Race of Remembrance, the European Le Mans Series, FIA International Endurance Series, and FIA World Endurance Championship.
In 2015 Radio Show Ltd., the owners of RadioLeMans.com, launched IMSA Radio in conjunction with the International Motor Sports Association. This new station broadcasts all practice and qualifying sessions, and all races of the WeatherTech United Sports Car Championship, as well as support race action from Lamborghini, Ferrari, Porsche and the Prototype Lites series, and qualifying and the race from the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge.
The same year, RadioLeMans.com added coverage of the Japanese Super GT Series, Mazda MX5 Cup and Gulf 12 hours at Abu Dhabi.
2016 will see RadioLeMans.com covering at least nine 24 hour races, with live race action virtually every weekend.