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Probably the most famous of all Endurance Race Circuits

Part road, part dedicated track, Le Mans ‘Sarthe’ is managed by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO)

Le_Mans

The current overall distance of the complete circuit is 13.629 meters which has altered considerably over the years, with the Bugatti circuit being used predominantly for Motorcycle racing.

Two curves were placed on the Mulsanne Straight in the 1990’s in an attempt to slow down the overall speed that the cars were achieving at that time. This has had little effect on the current machines racing there nowadays.

Le Mans is held annually in June, and it’s the premier name in endurance racing. Taking place near the French town of Le Mans, it’s been around since 1923.

The objective is to complete the most laps within a 24-hour period. In order to be listed among the final standings, a car must be able to cross the finish line when the day-long time limit expires.

The race takes place on a combination of a permanent track and closed public roads. Currently, the course measures 13.629 km (8.5 miles).

In the early decades of the race, a car could be piloted by one driver for the duration of the event. This practice was eventually banned for safety reasons, and current teams are required to run with three drivers taking turns (with a four hour limit per turn).

Now that you know some of the basic details about the race, let’s look at a few interesting and unusual facts about the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Whether you’re a European viewer or a racing enthusiast from across the pond, throwing out a couple of these should make you seem like a longtime fan.

  • The Mulsanne Straight is a 6 km (3.7 mile) section of the racing circuit. The highest speed achieved there is 251 mph.
  • Winners of major sporting events often spray champagne to celebrate. The first to do this was American Le Mans winner Dan Gurney in 1967.
  • Danish driver Tom Kristensen has the most le Mans wins with nine. Seven of these victories have come while driving an Audi car.
  • While numerous fatalities have occurred over the years, the most lethal accident took place in 1955. The car of French driver Pierre Levegh flew into the air, struck a retaining wall, and exploded into pieces. The combination of fire and projectiles killed Levegh and 83 fans, as well as injuring another 100.
  • Porsche cars have finished both first and second in four races. This occurred in 1971, 1987, 1998, and 2015.
  • Porsche cars also hold the record for the most wins by a constructor. From 1970 to 2015, they’ve claimed victory on 17 occasions.
  • During its history, the race has been cancelled 10 times. The first came in 1936 due to a labor strike caused by the great depression, while 1940 through 1948 were because of the Second World War.
  • France’s Henri Pescarolo holds the record for the most starts in the event, racing 33 consecutive times from 1966 to 1999. During that period, he won the event four times.
  • The French tricolor flag is dropped to signify the start of the race. Like most auto racing events, a checkered flag is waved at the conclusion.
  • Perhaps the most accurate depiction of the event took place in the 1971 film titled Le Mans. The lead role was played by Steve McQueen, who was himself an avid racer (once winning the three-liter class at the 12 Hours of Sebring).

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