Useful Notes: Twenty Four Hours Of Le Mans
The 24 Hours of Le Mans (French: 24 Heures du Mans) is a twenty-four-hour 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 Formula One
Grand Prix of Monaco and the Indy 500
The Circuit de la Sarthe is very old, having been 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 very 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.
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. 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.
- 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!
To do even remotely well at Le Mans, you have to be very Badass
. While you'll have to take numerous 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 you have to get back out on track. Most Le Mans drivers are from other series, with few dedicated Le Mans racers. Some other celebrities have appeared, including Steve McQueen
The race itself
The race is held non-stop over two days at the height of the European summer. Cars from all four classes are on the track simultaneously.
Le Mans in fiction:
- The film Le Mans, obviously.
- Sega made an arcade game based on the race for the arcades, featuring six top Le Mans racers, dubbed Le Mans 24. Konami previously made another video game based on the race, WEC Le Mans 24.
- The Gran Turismo games feature Le Mans cars as some of the top-tier racers, and the circuit itself plus the race are in it from 4 onwards.
- 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:
- Anyone Can Die: 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.
- Arch-Enemy: 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.
- Finally today, it's Audi against Peugeot or Toyota.
- Badass Driver: A must-have quality for any winning driver.
- Battle in the Rain
- Boring Invincible Hero: Audi have won all but two of the Le Mans 24 Hour races outright since 2000.
- Cool Car: 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.
- Character Tiers: Enforced. This is especially true in the modern GT-Endurance classes, which are explicitly divided into Pro and Amateur groups.
- Fragile Speedster: The Peugeot 908s that competed against Audi for overall victory suffered from this problem.
- The Mercedes-Benz 300SLR is also this in the 1950s.
- Golden Snitch: Played straight, as it is a double-points round for the FIA World Endurance Championship.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: Justified, since the 56-car strong grid usually has three or four drivers assigned to each car.
- Marathon Level: 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.
- No One Could Survive That: 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 CL Rs performed in the 1999 Le Mans 24 Hours race weekend were terrifying wrecks to watch, yet no one was injured in either case.
- Palette Swap: 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.
- Power Limiter: Used in the form of "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.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Despite running silver and red cars, Audi Sport as a whole are the Blue Oni, while Peugeot and Toyota are the Red Oni, even though these two teams run blue paint schemes.
- Spanner in the Works: If a safety car isn't what causes these for the teams, the weather can throw one.
- Time Trial: These are used to determine the starting order for the race.