The 24 Hours of Le Mans (French: 24 Heures du Mans) is a twenty-four-hour [[MarathonLevel endurance race]] held at the Circuit de la Sarthe, better known as Le Mans. Currently part of the FIA World Endurance Championship, it is part of the "Triple Crown of Racing" with the UsefulNotes/FormulaOne Grand Prix of Monaco and the [[UsefulNotes/IndyCar Indy 500]].
!The Circuit
The Circuit de la Sarthe is very old, having been [[OlderThanTelevision opened in 1923]]. It is also very long, at 13.629KM or 8.469 miles. Notable features include large sections held on closed-off public roads and the 6 kilometre long Ligne Droite des Hunaudières, which is the straight with the two chicanes. The chicanes are a relatively recent addition, to stop the cars from flipping over or worse from the sheer speed.
!The Cars
There are four main classes.
* LMP (Le Mans Prototype) 1 and 2, where the seriously cool Le Mans Prototype cars race. The P1 class is where the factories (Such as Audi and Toyota) and richer private teams compete, whereas most private teams stick to P2. While [=LMP1=] is almost unrestricted in terms of costs and technology, [=LMP2=] is cost-capped and production-based engines are mandatory.
* The two [=GT=] Endurance classes, which use modified production supercars, ranging from the Porsche 997 over the Ferrari F458 to the Chevrolet Corvette. While the [=GTs=] are not in contention for overall victories , they still provide a good show at Le Mans.
** The [=GTs=] not being in overall contention wasn't always the way, with [=GTs=] winning 3 times in the 1990s, back when [=GTs=] were much faster than they are today. In 1994 the overall honours went to a Porsche 962, entered through a loophole in the [=GT=] class, an impressive feat for what was effectively a 12 year old car. The year after, 1995, 1st place went to a [=McLaren=] F1, the only victory for a true [=GT=] car, while 1998 saw a Porsche [=GT1=] take victory, but by then things had gotten a bit silly in [=GT1=], with manufactures exploiting loopholes such as building one road car after the race and other peculiar practices which resulted in the [=GT1=] class being full of over performing freak machines.

!Notable cars include:
* Jaguar [=D-Type=], which won the late 1950s Le Mans in four consecutive years, and one of them was won by Mike Hawthorn during 1955, when Le Mans Disaster occured.
* The Ford [=GT40=], which the modern Ford GT is based on. Designed by Carrol Shelby to compete with the Ferraris. Two one-two victories. Designed by recently-deceased Carrol Shelby, who is better known for the Shelby brand of performance muscle cars. [[{{Zeerust}} The Mk1 still looks pretty futuristic for a 1960s car, even for today, ]] while the other three versions look more generic.
* Ferrari P cars: The cars which the [=GT40=] was developed to compete against.
* Mazda [=787B=]: The only Japanese and rotary-engined car to win the race so far.
* Mercedes CLR: {{The Alleged Car}} of recent Le Mans history, because it flew off the track in front of a world-wide television audience.
** Saying the [[SoBeautifulItsACurse Mercedes-Benz CLR]] flew off the track in front of a worldwide television audience would be an understatement. Saying it [[http://youtu.be/KqGq9OnHLHs?t=2m49s took off of its own accord on a high speed kink in the track before flipping through the air multiple times before crash landing on the other side of the trees, fortunately in an area where no one was standing, and with the driver unhurt]], would be accurate.
* Audi R8/R10/R15/R18: The {{Boring Invincible Hero}} ever since Audi won its first race in 2000. Audi won almost all races from 2000-2014, with only Bentley (a sister company of Audi) and Peugeot interrupting the streak in 2003 and 2009 respectively.
* Toyota [=TS030/TS040=]: The only other LMP who's been able to remotely match Audi in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the last few years. The latter stripped the World Endurance Championship title away from the German team in 2014!
** They are a SpiritualSuccessor to the Toyota GT-One ([=TS020=]), whom [[Series/BestMotoring Keiichi]] [[Manga/InitialD Tsuchiya]] and his teammates got the second place in the 1999 season. The [=TS020=] was itself a SpiritualSuccessor to the [=TS010=] which also came second in the 1992 race.

!The drivers
A 4-tier system is used to classify drivers based on skill and results, which are based on definitions of "professional" and "amateur" drivers:
* Platinum drivers are considered the [[BadassDriver best of the best]] - previous Le Mans winners, former/current UsefulNotes/FormulaOne or UsefulNotes/IndyCar drivers, "factory" drivers (who drive for one manufacturer only) and other drivers that have consistently done well in high profile racing series.
* Gold drivers, while not quite reaching the heights of their platinum counterparts, are professional drivers who still produce good performances regularly in a variety of races and cars.
* Silver drivers are the top amateur class, consisting of young talents starting out in sportscars and "gentleman" drivers (who fit in driving around work or other commitments) who may have the speed to match the pros, if not the consistency.
* Bronze drivers are slower gentleman drivers, ''very'' old former professionals or other amateur drivers that have little to no prior experience of endurance races to call on.
Because of the length of Le Mans, drivers are put in 3-man teams, with some classes ([=LMP2=] and [=GTE-Am=]) requiring at least one Silver or Bronze driver who also has to spend a certain amount of time in the car. This extra demand results in drivers being drafted in from other series just for Le Mans to compliment the drivers who regularly take part in endurance races. Regardless of which ranking a driver is given or whether they are regular endurance racers or not, to do even remotely well at Le Mans, they have to be very {{Badass}}. While all drivers have to take mandated breaks (you're only allowed to be in the car for four hours every six and 14 hours total due to concerns about driver fatigue), there is still the fact that it won't be long before they have to get back out on track. Amongst the amateur drivers some celebrities have appeared, including SteveMcQueen and [[Series/GreysAnatomy Patrick Dempsey]].

!The race itself
The race is held non-stop from Saturday afternoon to Sunday afternoon on the third weekend of June ([[FridgeBrilliance the 24th weekend of the year]]). As in other multi-class endurance races, cars from all four classes are on the track simultaneously. While blue flags are shown to slower cars to warn them of faster cars approaching, unlike in other series the slower cars are ''not'' required to move out of the way - the onus is on the faster car to get past quickly and safely. This can lead to situations where a prototype is held up behind two or more [=GT=] cars battling for position who don't want to let the prototype past in case they lose time to each other, and navigating slower traffic without losing too much time is a key aspect of doing well in the race. During the race it is almost expected for a car to encounter problems, either due to mechanical failure or driver error. As long as the car isn't totally wrecked or immobile (and doesn't present an immediate danger to other entrants), the driver is allowed to bring the car to the pits so the pit crew can attempt to fix it and get the car back out as soon as possible. With so much time spent in the pits (both for regular pit stops and to make repairs), Le Mans can be won or lost as much in the pit lane as it can be on track, so efficient pit crew and an astute [[MissionControl engineering crew]] are just as important as good drivers and a fast, reliable car. At the end of the 24th hour, the lap the leading car is on becomes the last lap of the race, and every car that has completed 70% of the class leader's distance and completes a lap at the same time as the leader's last lap is classified as having finished the race.

Le Mans in fiction:
* The film ''Film/LeMans'', obviously.
* Sega made an arcade game based on the race for the arcades, featuring six top Le Mans racers, dubbed ''[[VideoGame/LeMans24 Le Mans 24]]''. Konami previously made another video game based on the race, ''WEC Le Mans 24''.
* Both the ''VideoGame/GranTurismo'' and ''VideoGame/ForzaMotorsport'' games contain [=LMP=] and [=GT=] cars, with the former being the fastest cars in the games (barring formula cars and high-end concepts like the Red Bull [=X2010=]). The Circuit de la Sarthe features in later instalments of both series.
* VideoGame/GRiD allows you to race the Le Mans 24 Hours at the end of every season. If you feel like it you can also set up an actual 24 hour race on the Circuit de La Sarthe.

!Tropes associated with the Le Mans 24 Hours race:
* ActionGirl: The 24 Hours of Le Mans has some few female drivers. There are also [[AmazonBrigade a few all-women teams]]. Doubles as SamusIsAGirl moments since most women wear helmets during races.
* AnyoneCanDie: This is auto racing so it's to be expected, but The Circuit de La Sarthe is the fourth deadliest track in the world with 25 driver deaths in its long history. The most recent being Allan Simonsen in 2013, on the third lap of the race. And then there's the Le Mans Disaster, where one driver and 83 spectators were killed in one accident.
* ArchEnemy: Many, especially among cars.
** The Jaguar [=D-Type=] is this to Mercedes-Benz [=300SLR=].
** Ford [=GT40=] is this to Ferrari P series as well.
** Many Group C cars, like Porsche 962 and Mazda [=787B=], are this to each other.
** Audi against Peugeot was this until the latter stopped racing at Le Mans. More recently Toyota and Porsche have taken up the rivalry with Audi.
* BadassDriver: A must-have quality for any winning driver.
* BattleInTheRain: [[Film/TruthIn24 It always rains at Le Mans.]]
* BoomTown: Le Mans was never really as popular as Paris, but the race helps popularize this city.
* BoringInvincibleHero: Audi have won all but two of the Le Mans 24 Hour races outright since 2000, and one of those losses was to Bentley, a sister company in the VW Group.
* TheCameo: {{NASCAR}} racing cars made a {{crossover}} appearance in the 1976 as contestants, [[AwesomeButImpractical with no success]].
* CoolCar: Any of the cars mentioned previously as notable.
** The whole point of the GTE class is taking an already cool flagship sports car, and then building it from the ground up to be a racer capable of taking on the rigors of endurance racing.
** The Porsche 956 Group C prototype, and its successor, the 962. Combined, these two cars won the Le Mans 24 Hours race six times back-to-back.
* CharacterTiers: Enforced. This is especially true in the modern GT-Endurance classes, which are explicitly divided into Pro and Amateur groups.
* EarlyInstallmentWeirdness: Until 1928, there was no individual winner for each race - the car that covered the longest distance over three consecutive races would win the Rudge-Whitworth [[MeaningfulName Triennial]] Cup.
%%* FragileSpeedster: The Peugeot 908s that competed against Audi for overall victory suffered from this problem.
%%** The Mercedes-Benz 300SLR is also this in the 1950s.
* GoldenSnitch: Played straight, as it is a double-points round for the FIA World Endurance Championship.
* LoadsAndLoadsOfCharacters: Justified, since the 56-car strong grid usually has three or four drivers assigned to each car.
* [[LegoGenetics Lego Car Parts]]: Despite the sheer speed of the Audi R8, this was it's most crucial innovation. The car was designed to be able to change parts very quickly so drivers could push hard for the whole race rather than having to drive conservatively to make sure nothing breaks.
* MarathonLevel: At just over eight and a half miles long, it's certainly no match for the Nurburgring, but the Circuit de la Sarthe is still longer than most modern circuits. And considering that they're racing on it for 24 hours straight.
** At 6 kilometres (3.7 miles) long, the Ligne Droite des Hunaudières itself is longer than almost all F1 circuits.
* NoOneCouldSurviveThat: Allan Mcnish's sideways slam into the barriers in 2011 resulted in his Audi being shattered into bits, with basically only the chassis and cockpit remaining. ''He walked away from the wreck with just a cut on his arm.''
** Speaking of 2011 and Audi, Mike Rockenfeller's run-in with a GTE Ferrari during the night would result in his car also sliding sideways into the barrier. He also walked away.
** The two flips that the Mercedes-Benz CLRs performed in the 1999 Le Mans 24 Hours race weekend were terrifying wrecks to watch, yet no one was injured in either case.
* PaletteSwap: Occasionally used in the case of teams entering multiple cars; the most common being different accenting colors for each car's livery.
** Flying Lizard Motorsports, a GTE team that runs Porsches, did this with their cars for the 2011 race.
* PowerLimiter: As of 2014, two methods are used to keep the cars' power in check:
** [=LMP1=] cars can only use a certain amount of fuel per lap (averaged over three laps) to limit the amount of energy they can use and therefore the power the engines can produce.
** The other classes use air restrictors in order to balance the various engines and cars competing in the race. This is especially prominent in the GTE class cars, which are actually ''less'' powerful than their production counterparts.
* RedOniBlueOni: Many.
** In 1960s, Ford is [[ExactlyWhatitsaysOntheTin Blue Oval]] to Ferrari's [[LawofChromaticSuperiority Rosso Corsa]].
** Nissan was blue to Toyota's red in late 1990s.
** Despite running silver and red cars, Audi Sport as a whole are the BlueOni, while Peugeot and Toyota are the RedOni, even though these two teams run blue paint schemes.
* SpannerInTheWorks: If a safety car isn't what causes these for the teams, the weather can throw one.
* TimeTrial: These are used to determine the starting order for the race.