I am getting increasingly annoyed by the appearance of Steve McQueen’s pictures on various Le Mans ‘history’ websites. Even the ACO’s own website now has his picture alongside a caption “L’Histoire d’une course légendaire”. Without wanting to go into a review of the movie – although I might – the plain fact of the matter is that Steve McQueen was a movie actor, who never participated in the race, and apart from the film, has no connection with it. If you’re going to show the picture of a movie legend associated with the race, then show Paul Newman’s face – at least he finished on the podium.
The twenty-first century is dominated by icons – I have them all over my computer, for goodness’ sake; and the beauty of an icon is that in a single (hopefully simple) image, you can convey a whole lot of meaning. Steve McQueen may be iconic, but I would rather see the “Legend of Le Mans” meaning conveyed by a more appropriate image. The Le Mans start, for example, wasn’t only used at Le Mans, but was something very special to the race, and conveys very well the historic era.
Other Le Mans images would be the old Dunlop Bridge and the descent to the esses –somewhat easier to depict, perhaps, than drivers running across the track to their cars, or one that does it for me, a picture of a car, any car, rounding the old Mulsanne Corner, hugging the wall on the inside, with a marshal – or better yet, a gendarme – standing atop like a beacon.
Surely these would be more suitable images than a McQueen’s V-sign?
There is a tendency for movies, based on truth, but not accurate reflections of the truth, to become accepted - in particular, I am thinking of various Hollywood war movies which have americanised British war heroes - and anything that dilutes truth is a bad thing, in my book.
By all means let us rejoice in the history of Le Mans, in the legend that the race has become, but please let us use some more suitable iconic images than Gulf 917s and movie actors!