On the weekend of the race widely referred to as being 'the toughest in the world', leading Formula 1 figures have belittled both the challenge and the appeal of the iconic Le Mans 24 Hours, describing it variously as 'no race' and 'a kind of different sport'.

The 2008 edition of the legendary French round-the-clock endurance classic may be a fraught Audi vs Peugeot affair, but despite no fewer than 30 former F1 aces amongst the 165 drivers entered, current members of the uppermost echelon seem to have little affection for La Sarthe.

"No comparison," bluntly stated McLaren team principal Ron Dennis - whose Woking-based concern developed the car that went on to win the 1995 race - in an interview with the International Herald Tribune. "You have to have phenomenal reliability, but also the drivers play such a key role, primarily in not falling off.

"It's rarely a race that's raced from beginning to end. You don't race for 24 hours; you compete for 24 hours, and it requires a different strategy.

"There's no race. They all suddenly realise that survival is the important thing. It is counter to the spirit of Formula 1; you very rarely slow down in Formula 1."

The 61-year-old's sentiments were echoed elsewhere in the grand prix paddock, with both Honda counterpart Ross Brawn and BMW-Sauber star - and new world championship leader - Robert Kubica backing up Dennis' views.

Brawn was heavily involved in the Le Mans success of Jaguar back in 1990, but he admitted it had not been an experience he entirely relished.

"It was not the sort of challenge that I like," the former Ferrari tactical genius reflected. "It's a very structured race over 24 hours; you're pacing yourself. It's quite a different event."

"Speed is secondary," agreed Kubica, a self-proclaimed rallying fan but a man who revealed he had never even watched the Le Mans 24 Hours on TV. "I'm the kind of person who likes to push. At Le Mans, you have to push less. It's a kind of different sport."

 

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