For his whole life, McQueen permanently pushed himself to the limit. His motorcycles, his cars and airplanes were just a means of escape, a ticket to another, more beautiful world. For them, he invested not only a lot of time and money, but physical power and energy, as motorsport is very psychologically and physically demanding.
Behind the wheel of a race car requires a high level of concentration and awareness and you have to be in top physical shape. In the film Le Mans the racing scenes are an authentic impression of the race, the shots of adrenaline, the tension and the total exhaustion of drivers you can even hear the beating of hearts seconds before the start and riding with drivers in the passenger’s seat. What can’t be felt is the unimaginable heat. The cage made of metal and glass in which a race car driver is inside of is a like an incubator. In order to reduce the weight as much as possible, most of the interior trim is removed including the heat protection pads. The transmission and the Cardan tunnel that runs under the cockpit become hotter and hotter and when the suns is shining on the track, the temperatures can climb into the sixties or even seventies in Celsius (140-160 Fahrenheit).
At these hellish temperatures the nerves and the body are at their limits as well as hunger and thirst. The fireproof race suit, the helmet, hood, boots and gloves only makes it hotter and they offer little protection against fire or in a crash. In the night, driving at unbelievable speeds, drivers fight with other cars and their glaring lights. The strain on the eyes is overpowering and the eyes began to ache. Regardless of how the pilot finishes, one thing is certain, he will be totally exhausted.
For those who still reminisce about Steve McQueen and his machines, from the enticement of danger and the rush of speed, certainly there is a bit of nostalgia and longing fueling that fire. “Speed was always my only purpose in life, it was my savior and a girlfriend, that I could totally dedicate myself to without risking being cheated on.“ admitted the icon. The star, whose freedom meant more to him than anything else, would feel very restricted today, with all the hysterical media, hyper-protective agents and a public opinion that only approves of excess when it comes to special effects. Speed, in many ways is a forbidden fruit, in some cases a stimulating drug and at other times it can be a poison which can kill you. It is probably also an attraction to this kind of daring and defiance that Steve McQueen represented why, decades after his death, a generation who never experienced him on the silver screen is so still attracted to him. During his life he symbolized hope, freedom and rugged individualism and is thought of today as an iconic embodiment of the past and an unfulfilled promise. By refusing to accept rigid standards and narrow-minded values, Steve McQueen became the epitome of the true rebel.