As far as motor races go, Le Mans 24 hour race is up there with the most prestigious and famous of the lot. Any professional driver grows up dreaming of winning it and any fan grows up dreaming of going to see and hear it to fully appreciate its charm.
It’s considered as the ultimate test of man and machine, challenging mental and physical fitness, as well as every ounce of the car’s mechanics.
Every year the huge 8 mile long track is padded out with around 300,000 spectators, the loudest of which are usually British, and many camp out for the full weekend to enjoy the racing as well as an entertainment village, making it a great atmosphere. You could almost say this is Motorsport’s Glastonbury!
56 cars make up the field, of which there are a total of four categories and 168 racing drivers making up teams of three to swap stints at various stages of the race.
The idea is pretty straightforward: Teams of three drivers will take turns to drive one car and tally up the most laps in 24 hours. There is no set length on how long each driver’s stint has to be, but they can’t do more than 14 hours. Averaging at 8 hours each, the non-stop adrenaline fuelled speed makes it one of the toughest races of any.
Because of this reputation, car manufacturers from around the globe spend millions developing cars and teams worthy of winning the race. Currently the most successful team is Porshe, followed by Audi and then Ferrari.
Another thing that makes the race totally unique is the way the cars race through the night and the darkness. You’d think it would be a bit of a disappointment for spectators but in fact it is said to be one of the highlights as you can hear the cars before seeing them, and when you do it is a fascinating stream of headlights weaving around the course.
The 83rd 24 hour endurance race in Le Mans, the small French town, begins at 3pm UK time on Saturday afternoon, finishing at the same time on Sunday.
The four categories within the race are:
LMP1 (Le Mans Prototype 1)
The quickest and most powerful cras, developed especially for competition and subjected to the most regulations.
This is like a lower budget version of the top class, full of hopeful drivers and private teams, constructors or engine suppliers hoping to progress to the top.
Grand Turismo cars are a cross between road cars and track racing cars, so vehicles in this category must be based on road cars but they are raced by professional drivers.
These cars are similar to the pro ones but they are privately owned teams as opposed to manufacturers, the drivers are also amateur but they can still be quite well-known sometimes.
Heading to Le Mans?
Anyone with a passion for motorsport will no doubt favour brands like Barbour International and Belstaff who have the sport firmly ingrained into their heritage. Jackets by either brand are ideal for travelling with on the weekend away.