Lying on his back, eyes closed, as if asleep, the driver of the Honda N.333 Leandro Mercado confidently leaves his body in the hands of Louis Panet: the osteopath from the Honda Viltaïs Racing team is one of those who repair the riders in the heart of a long night at the 24 Hours of Le Mans motorcycles.
Leaning over the Argentinian, who is taking part in his first race in the Sarthe, Louis Panet multiplies the manipulations and the softer movements. The motorcycle, “it’s very demanding and the whole body is involved”, explains to AFP this osteopath who has worked for the team based in Moulins (Allier) for eight years.
At the back of the team’s “box”, care products are carefully organized in lockers and snacks ready to be distributed between each shift. In the middle of the night, the deafening noise of motorcycles almost gave way to a moment of calm and rest. Louis Panet and Leandro “Tati” Mercado hardly exchanged a word.
“There are times when stress is very present and when verbalizing is necessary. In the middle of the race they are more in zombie mode”, continues the professional.
It is 12:30 a.m., fatigue is beginning to be felt and the 31-year-old pilot, headphones in his ears, now seems elsewhere.
– Teamwork –
But Louis Panet knows him well. No need for words, he performs a light massage to allow his very special patient to digest faster and not be bothered by stomach problems on the bike.
A little later, he practices a gentle technique derived from “fascia therapy” – connective tissues present in the body “like a spider’s web” – to allow the body to relax and function better.
Next to the manipulation table, Thomas Catonnet, also an osteopath, cuts strips of “tapes”, which can be stuck on the hands to protect them.
“Given the effort that is required of them, the care must be in agreement”, continues Louis Panet, who praises “teamwork” in endurance and the ability “to trust others”.
His role: “anticipate and adapt” to meet the needs of athletes at the moment, who “all have their own way of driving”. And there is no question of “aggravating existing injuries”, he continues.
While the South African Steven Odendaal has put on his wetsuit and is back on track, the German Florian Alt has in turn come to settle down nearby, pampered by Thomas Catonnet who gives him massages.
“When we see them, we almost want to be a driver too,” says Louis Panet with a smile, who will still have several hours of work behind the scenes to lead the Honda N.333 to the final in his own way. arrival of the 24 Hours of Le Mans on Sunday afternoon.