Did you know? Ten facts about Le Mans!
The 87th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans takes place in only ten days’ time and to mark the occasion, below are ten facts about the legendary race which also forms this year’s WEC Super Finale.
1. WHY A 24-HOUR RACE?
The original aim of the 24 Hours of Le Mans was to create an endurance race for cars, the automobile industry still being in its relative infancy, which would prove their durability, reliability, quality and performance. A 24-hour race would be the ultimate test for man and machine.
2. DRIVERS COUNT IN THEIR HEADS
During the night and at speeds of over 300km/h, sometimes in wet weather, visibility inside the cockpit can be poor. Aside from the marker boards at the side of the track, to help them know when to brake, some drivers count in their heads along the straights in order to know when a corner is approaching.
3. THE BIGGEST WINNING MARGIN WAS 350KM
Well, 349.808 km to be precise. This biggest gap between the winner and the runner-up was back in 1927 when the winners streaked ahead in a Bentley and left the runners-up almost 350 km behind in a Salmson.
4. ESPORTS JOINS LE MANS PODIUM
It’s no secret that e-gaming is here to stay, and this year’s Le Mans podium will also feature the victors of the first-ever Le Mans Esports Series (LMES). Gamers have been battling it out throughout the WEC season and the overall LMES winners will share a $100,000 prize fund as well as joining the 2019 race winners on the official Le Mans podium. How cool is that?!
5. A RECORD SPEED OF AROUND 405KM/H
Before two chicanes were added (first used for the 1990 race), the famous Hunaudières straight measured 5.8 km in length. In 1988, Frenchman Roger Dorchy, was recorded driving at speeds of over 400km/h. The fastest ever lap of Le Mans was set more recently in 2017, when Kamui Kobayashi took his Toyota TS050 HYBRID around the track in a time of 3:14.791!
6. ANOTHER HOLLYWOOD FILM
Steve McQueen starred in the 1971 “Le Mans” and Hollywood is set to release another film this Autumn about the 24-hour race. Detailing the memorable struggle between Ford and Ferrari leading up to and during the 1966 race, the film will star Hollywood A-listers Matt Damon and Christian Bale.
7. LE MANS CANCELLATIONS
Since the 24 Hours of Le Mans was born back in 1923, the race has taken place nearly every year. The first cancellation was in 1936 due to strikes in France as a result of the poltical situation and it did not run from 1940 until 1948 due to the Second World War. Finally, in 1968, Le Mans was postponed and held later in the year due to political turmoil in France at that time.
8. THREE SAFETY CARS
Normally there is only one safety car at a WEC race but, for Le Mans, three safety cars are needed to cover the full 13.62 km length of the circuit. They are coordinated to be permanently equidistant and to ensure fairness when the race resumes.
9. THE CHAMPAGNE SHOWER WAS BORN AT LE MANS
American driver Dan Gurney, winner of the 1697 Le Mans, is the man responsible for starting the podium champagne shower tradition. He was keen to recreate a scene from the previous year when the cork accidentally shot out and sprayed the crowd. The following year, Dan shook his own bottle and the tradition has stuck.
10. BIGGEST EVER ENTRY
2019 will go into the record books as the biggest ever Le Mans entry. A staggering 62 teams and 186 drivers are entered for this year’s race. But who will win the most coveted trophy in endurance racing? We’ve only got 10 more days to wait and see!