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 Motorsport" which includes the race as well as the UsefulNotes/FormulaOne Monaco Grand Prix and the [[UsefulNotes/IndyCar Indianapolis 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 that can be categorized in two different ways depending on what the nature of the car and the drivers that will be racing it:
* LMP (Le Mans Prototype) cars are purpose-built for racing at Le Mans and other endurance races only. Although they aren't necessarily more powerful than [=GTs=] ([=LMP2=] cars can be ''less'' powerful than [=GT=] cars), [=LMPs=] produce much faster lap times because the high downforce they produce lets them corner faster and brake later.
** The [=LMP1=] class is where the factories (such as Audi and Toyota) and richer private teams compete. The factory cars are at least as technologically advanced as UsefulNotes/FormulaOne cars, as they both feature energy recovery systems and complex aerodynamics.
** The [=LMP2=] class is focused on privateer teams (that typically have backing from non-professional drivers), with cost-capped chassis and mandatory production-based engines. To reduce spending further, there are also limits on improvements that can be made to the cars' components and hybrid technology is banned.
* The two [=GT=] Endurance ([=GTE=]) 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.
** [=GTE=]-Pro cars are raced by teams of [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin all-professional drivers.]] As with [=LMP1=] this is the class where the factory teams compete, with their quickest and most reliable drivers showcasing the latest developments in [=GT=] racing.
** [=GTE=]-Am cars are supposed to be identical to their Pro counterparts even though they are fielded by privateers, although in practice the factory cars are faster because they get the latest parts. As with [=LMP2=] there are measures to prevent spending getting out of hand.
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.
** Jaguar XJR-9: the car that famously humiliated its turbocharged competition by winning the 1988 edition of the race.
* The Ford [=GT40=], which the modern Ford GT is based on. Designed by Carroll Shelby, better known for the Shelby brand of performance muscle cars, to compete with the Ferrari P cars (see below). Two one-two victories. [[{{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. The 1967 Ferrari P3/4 is often named as the prettiest racing car ever built, though it did not win the race and neither did it's successors. Ferrari's last overall win still stands as the 1965 race.
* Porsche 917/936/935/956/962: The cars that dominated the period between the Ford/Ferrari rivalry and the first half of the Group C era, winning 12 races from 1970-1987. The 917 was the ShortLivedBigImpact car, being the first car to break 240 mph on the Mulsanne straight and winning the race twice (though neither time for the "factory" team entry) before rule changes outlawed it and it's Ferrari 512 rival. The 936 was an open-top successor based around the 917 design and won the race twice. The concurrent 935 was a highly pumped-up variant of the 911 road car designed more for silhouette GT racing but it won overall in 1979. The Group C 956/962 won six straight (1982-1987), helped by a huge number of privateer entries racing the official Porsche team meaning the car dominated the starting grid.
** To demonstrate the strength in depth that Porsche had, [[ this is an advert that ran after the 1983 race.]]
** They have a SpiritualSuccessor in the 919 Hybrid, which debuted in 2014 and went on to win the race in 2015 (including setting the fastest lap since the chicanes were introduced) and 2016.
* Sauber Mercedes C9: The most successful of a series of cars comprised of advanced Sauber chassis/aerodynamics and powerful Mercedes engines. While it's predecessors [[FragileSpeedster weren't exactly reliable]], the C9 combined speed and reliability to win the 1989 race.
** Although 400+km/h speeds had been reached previously,[[note]]in the 1988 race a WM-Peugeot entered just to set a new top speed reached 407km/h before retiring due to cooling issues[[/note]] it was the C9 consistently reaching these speeds that finally forced the organizers to introduce chicanes on the Hunaudières to slow the cars down.
* Mazda [=787B=]: The only Japanese and rotary-engined car to win the race so far. Instantly recognizable with its green-orange livery and its ear-piercingly loud engine noise, it is seen as an object of national sport pride in Japan.
* [=McLaren F1=] GTR: the racing variant of what was at the time the fastest road car in the world, it famously won the 1995 edition of the race [[DavidVersusGoliath defeating actual purpose-built prototypes]].
* 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 [[ 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 "R" series: The {{Boring Invincible Hero}}, Audi won 13 races from 2000-2015, with only Bentley,[[note]]a sister company of Audi[[/note]] Peugeot and Porsche[[note]]a more recent sister company of Audi, after Volkswagen officially took over[[/note]] interrupting the streak in 2003, 2009 and 2015-16 respectively. Audi are also notable for being the first [=LMP1=] manufacturer to use BoringButPractical diesel engines. However, each car does have its own claim to fame:
** Audi R8: Although it was not [[OlderThanTheyThink the first car to feature quick-change sub-assemblies]], the way it was applied through the design coupled with great pace meant it won 5 Le Mans in 6 years, from 2000-2005.
** Audi R10: The first diesel car to win Le Mans overall, winning from 2006-2008.
** Audi R15: The current race-distance record holder, set in the 2010 race which saw all four Peugeot 908s succumb to mechanical issues despite lapping 3-4 seconds faster than the Audis
** Audi R18: The winner of the closest racing finish in 2011, finishing ''13.854 seconds'' ahead of the [[AlwaysSecondBest Peugeot 908]]
** Audi R18 e-tron: The first hybrid car to win overall in 2012; also won in 2013 and 2014.
* 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 [[HistoryRepeats came second in the 1992 race.]]
** The second-place streak was tragically continued in 2016, with the [=TS050=] leading the race comfortably with three minutes to go, only [[ to slow down and ultimately stop on the penultimate lap]] with a turbo failure, allowing Porsche to take the lead and the win.
!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 Creator/SteveMcQueenActor and Creator/PatrickDempsey.

!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.
* In the film ''Film/AManAndAWoman'', Jean-Louis is a race car driver who suffers a serious wreck at Le Mans.
* 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/{{Forza}} Forza Motorsport]]'' 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 installments 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.
* ''VideoGame/ProjectCARS'' features LMP 2 and LMP 1 both with real cars and {{OriginalCharacter}}s designed by the WMD Community underneath the fictional monikers of RWD and Marek. There is also a Prototype 1 and 2 class featuring cars such as such as the Radical SR-3/SR-8 or the Caterham SP/300.R, there are also historic classes such as the LMP 900 that features cars such as the Bentley Speed 8 or the GR.C class that features the Sauber C9 Mercedes-Benz as mentioned above. There is an actual UsefulNotes/TwentyFourHoursOfLeMans you can get invited to in the career but even at 1% time progression, it will take you upwards of ''two hours''. The game suggests streaming if you plan on a whole twenty four hour race.
%%!!Tropes as portrayed in fiction: