24 hour of Le Mans is an amazing sports car race that was started long back in 1923 near a town named Le Mans in France. This is the world’s oldest car race that is packed with all the elements of the sports drama. Both the performance and endurance of man and machines are tested in 24 hours of Le Man that goes on for 24 hours and each year a new chapter is added in the automobile history.
Before 24 hours of Le Man got popularity in France, Grand Pix racing was the most popular form of Motorsports and the 24 hours of Le Man was mainly introduced to bring a different test in the race. So, the manufacturers concentrated on building the race cars that are not only speedy but also sporty, reliable and fuel efficient. Along with all these, the track required to introduce cars that have better aerodynamics and are stable at higher speed as well.
Reliability was mainly important because the public road is not made for the racing cars as a result the parts need to bear more strain which increased the need of reliability. Also the oil crisis in 1970 forced the companies to follow a fuel economy formula. Another reason of fuel efficient car is that, this enduring racing requires the car to spend as little time as possible in the pits. And all these technology was used in the consumer cars.
Image credit: “Le Mans 2008 Rolling start” by Wonker
This race generally takes place in hot weather of June when rain is very common. The race is started at the mid-afternoon and lasts for long 24 hours. That means the race is ended on the next day. During that long 24 hours the competitors travel as long distance as possible. The modern competitors travel approximately 5000 km distances. The record is 5410 km that was made in 2010. The drivers are required to avoid mechanical damages while striving for speed. Also the primary car consumable such as fuel, tire and braking materials should be managed well.
There are 50 competitors in the game. And each car should have two seats. But now a car with the ability to put up a seat in the cockpit is good to go in the racing. The car should not have more than two doors but the open cockpit cars will not require any doors. In 2014, all the cars of LMP1 category were instructed to have roofs to maintain safety.
There are different classes in the race and the overall winner and winner of each class is rewarded. The number of classes varies each year.
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26 and 27th May in 1923 were the day when 24 hours of Le Man was first ran on the public road of Le Mans. Primarily it was planned as a three-year-event and the winner was awarded with the Rude-Whitworth Triennial cup. But it continued and the races were dominated in the beginning by French, Italian, British drivers while the top brands cars such as Bugatti, Alfa Romeo, and Bentley were used in the game. The race was cancelled in 1936 due to a strike in France. But the Second World War II brought a long 10 years gap in the game.
The race again resumed in 1949 and with time various changes have come to the game. The major automobile manufacturers have incorporated various innovative technologies in the cars to make them more reliable and efficient.
Different manufacturers have won each year and as of 2015, Porsche is the most successful winner by a record of 17 victories.
24 hours of Le Man has witnessed various fatal accidents but the worse case is the 1955’s accident that took life of 80 spectators and the driver Pierre Levegh.
In 1972, another accident took place when Joakim Bonnier was thrown in a forest and he died immediately.
In 1985, Briton Dudley Wood faced an accident during a practice with a Porsche 962, but fortunately he survived when the engine block was cracked.
Two major accidents took place in 2011 where the no.3 car driven by Allan McNish collided with another car and it was smashed into the tyre wall followed by which it was thrown into the air. In the eleventh hour another accident took place with the no.1 car that was driven by Mike Rockenfeller. The car collided with another car and his car was thrown outside the barrier at 170mph.
In 2012, Anthony Davidson’s car collided with a Ferrari GT2 as a result the car became airborne and it got crashed into the tire barrier of Mulsanne corner.
In 2013, another accident took life of the driver Allan Simonsen when his car was crashed into the barrier of Tartre Rouge.
Tom Kristensen-won 9 races
Jacky Ickx-won 6 races
Derek Bell, Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro- won 5 races
Olivier Gendebien, Henri Pescarolo and Yannick Dalmas- won 4 races.
24 hours of Le Mans is a very popular game that carries a tradition of French. The race has been running smoothly since the inception except in 1936 and during World War II. Every year new technology incorporated into the car mechanism has brought new excitement and there are many other things to enjoy in the coming year as well.
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Header image credit: “Audi R10 1” by Fabrice Pluchet – photo taken by Fabrice Pluchet.
Background image credit: “Andy Prialux Dirk Muller Joey Hand BMW Motorsport LMGTE Pro BMW M3 Le Mans 2011” by David Merrett