The 24 hours of Le Mans: Legendary Motorsport Event
A battle for the race honours, a test of performance and endurance for both man and machine, the 24 hours of Le Mans has all the elements of a sports drama.
The Circuit de la Sarthe, the only one of its kind, is the longest race course in the world. Charged with emotions, joy and tears, the endurance competition reveals all-conquering and fallen heroes after 24 hours. Every year, since 1923, the 24 Hours of Le Mans* marks a new chapter in the history of automobile.
The race follows a sacrosanct schedule: on Saturday, at 3 p. m., on the dot, the French flag is lowered releasing 60 powerful engines. All bets are off in a mythical race where only two pilots per team relay each other for 24 hours.
Stress, short periods of sleep, players on the alert, true physical and technical challenges, complete with roaring engines: the rush of adrenaline is 100% guaranteed.
Porsche, Audi, Ferrari, Toyota...
Covered by 2400 journalists from over 160 countries, the 24 Hours of Le Mans is the biggest media event in France along with Festival de Cannes. Here, the world watches on as automakers like Porsche, Audi, Ferrari, or Toyota, hit the track full throttle.
Some 260, 000 fans witness the sporting spectacle on site. The Circuit de Sarthe is a cross between a traditional race-track and a city route. The 13, 629 km (8.468 mi.) hybrid course, both fast and selective, plays a key role in providing all kinds of suspense.
Fun facts about the circuit:
- the average speed on the track is 219 km/h;
- race cars reach 400 km/h on the Hunaudières straight;
- some sections of the course include public roads (the Bugatti Circuit), a unique feature of the Circuit de Sarthe.
When the Jet Set Gets Involved
Once a year, the city of Le Mans becomes THE jet set’s destination. For one weekend, stars can be spotted rushing in the paddocks, making headlines, and sometimes, they can be found on the track.
The American actor, Paul Newman lived memorable moments in Le Mans, placing second in 1979. Steve McQueen starred in Le Mans (1971), a classic epic about the legendary race. Fabien Barthez, the renowned French soccer goalkeeper, recently made his debuts on Le Mans track driving a Ferrari.
A Week-Long Event
The 24-hours race begins at 3 p. m. on Saturday, but beforehand a series of other exhibitions and activities allow for a week of entertainment. Organizers from the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) keep the fans on their toes with concerts, access to pits, vintage cars exhibitions, and qualifying practice sessions.
On Saturday, the racing machines are released, parading surprises, achievements, disappointments, and tragedies. Blood, sweat and tears are shed for a chance to pass into the legend of motorsports.
* The 24 hours of Le Mans inspired the creation of Rolex 24 Daytona in the US, Nürburgring in Germany, and the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.