In the world of motorsport, this is the one race that has proven again and again that it is truly one of the greats.
On June 18th, 60 cars will compete in the most famous sportscar race in the world – 24 Hours of Le Mans. This year’s incredible endurance event is the 84th running of the race, which is made up of a specialist racing circuit and public roads that are being closed for this special occasion. Each team of three drivers will drive a combined 8,469 miles in total through the ancient town in South West France, reaching a top speed of approximately 205mph on the straights.
This event offers drivers new challenges and top speed is considered the key to winning, along with fuel economy; new fuel sources mean cars spend less time in the pit and more time actually racing. Part of the FIA World Endurance Championship, Le Mans 24 Hours started back in 1923 and has been running (almost) annually every June, attracting huge crowds each year. The original idea was to crown whichever car went the furthest, the winner, however since the rolling start was introduced it is now the goal of every driver to complete as many laps as possible to beat their opponents.
The 13.629km track has had many modifications over the years to ensure the safety of competitors, but something that has remained unchanged is the flag waving; a French tricolour marks the beginning of the race and then during the final lap, it is the track marshals’ job to wave safety flags in celebration of the winners and finishers. One of Le Mans’ unique rules is that a car must be off when stopping in the pit to refuel; clearly this helps reduce the chance of a fire, but it also serves as a way to test reliability as cars need to restart more often under tough racing conditions.
We’ve all seen people spraying champagne to celebrate a victory, but did you know that Le Mans was where it all started? That’s right, the winners of 1967’s race decided against drinking from the magnum of champagne they were handed and in that moment a new tradition was born. Not only has the Le Mans race popularised the 24-hour format, it also shifts focus onto reliable sporty cars, rather than simply building them for speed alone. This year’s race is all the more exciting because the last time we saw a 60-car grid was way back in 1955; although the original 2016 plan was for just two garages, new ones have since been constructed to expand the grid capacity and now Le Mans is sure to be more thrilling than ever!
For more articles like this, receive our weekly e-newsletter, including partner deals and all things motoring, register your email below.