Ever heard about racers running towards their cars to start their race? Well, that’s Le Mans or rather it was Le Mans until late 1960s until it was deemed too dangerous. We all know about Le Mans today thanks to the Ford Vs Ferrari movie that showed us one of the many fierce rivalries in the sport. Automobile Club de l’Ouest was the first group that put together the first Le Mans back in 1923. And since then, more than 100 years later, this race has been one of the major races in the automobile industry. France was at the forefront of the automobile sector back then and it was no surprise that the French came up with the idea of Le Mans.
Le Mans has never been about only speed, it is an endurance race and one of the world’s toughest endurance race. It is a race where for 24 hours, you and your car are performing at its maximum and in all types of conditions. The only break the car gets is when it is being refueled or the driver is being changed. Le Mans is a place where manufacturers come to test the endurance of their cars and later use the technology tested in the race in the automobile market. If you keep the cars out of the picture, Le Mans also tests the sheer mental strength of the drivers participating in the race. Day and night, foggy and clear, all types of weather conditions test the driver to his limits. Calling Le Mans a tough race is an understatement at best.
Steve McQueen was one such guy who was so mesmerized by the beauty of Le Mans that he begged the directors of his movie, Le Mans(1971), to complete the race. But, unfortunately, was denied to do so due to safety reasons. Le Mans is beautiful, no doubt about that. Ford Vs Ferrari has shown us the beauty of Le Mans and all that it stands for. Henry Ford II was the one to flag off the ‘66 Le Mans and what an iconic moment that was in the whole of motorsports. The 1-2-3 finish for Ford and the controversial 2nd position for Ken Miles was one of the most pivotal points in all of motorsport. Yes, there was huge tension amongst the Ford team as we have seen in the movie and you can read about it in articles too on the web. But, was the 2nd position justified for Ken Miles who started the race with a door that would not close at all?
If you thought this was all the controversy in Le Mans, it isn’t. Apart from controversy and fabulous finishes, Le Mans has witnessed its fair share of brutal accidents and the most recent crash that proved to be fatal to the driver was in 2013 when Allan Simonsen from Aston Martin Racing crashed into the Armco barrier on the exit of Tertre Rouge where it joins the Mulsanne Straight. Mulsanne straight is also the most charming of all as it is where the drivers and the cars give it their all and max out their cars. Surprisingly, the fastest anyone has gone through the Mulsanne Straight was in 1988 by Roger Dorchy in a WM Peugeot P88. Any guesses on the speed? Well, it was a whopping 405 km/h!!!!
Le Mans has different categories of cars that take part in it, namely, LMP1, LMP2. LMP3 LM GTE and LMGTE AM. LMP stands for Le Mans Prototype and GTE is an abbreviation for Grand Touring Endurance. Cars entering the LM GTE have to be production-based to enter into the competition, whereas LMP1 cars have to have a design which is more road-focused to save production costs. The LMP2 cars need to be under 2050 pounds and also have a passenger seat. The LMP3 cars are more beginner-focused or for the racers who have entered the competition for the first time.
Audi has dominated Le Mans from 2000 to 2010 by winning 8 out of the 10 races. Porsche has won in 2015, 2016 and 2017 with the 919 Hybrid and man does the car look so mesmerizing, Toyota is the reigning champion at Le Mans after bagging a third consecutive title. Even the pandemic could not stop Toyota from getting their hands on the Le Mans trophy. All in all, Le Mans is hands down the pinnacle in motorsport racing and no other race comes close to the danger, the preparations needed and the satisfaction of a victory that Le Mans needs and gives.