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24 Hours of Le Mans: History and Facts for Racing Fans by Theresa Houghton


About a month back we cleaned up an '08 Corvette that had an exterior racing pinstripe design in honor of the first Corvette raced in the Le Mans race back in 1960 (see pictures below). If you don't know much about the Le Mans race, here is a nice write up by Theresa Houghton to give you a little background.


24 Hours of Le Mans: History and Facts for Racing Fans

By Theresa Houghton

Can you imagine being a driver in a 24-hour race? That’s exactly what you’d do if you participated in Le Mans. This iconic French race has run almost every year since 1923 – and yes, it goes for a full 24 hours, usually during the second weekend in June.

Known as the 24 Hours of Les Mans (24 Heures du Mans in French), the race has a colorful history and some unique characteristics that make it unlike any other automotive event.

A Quick History of the Les Mans Race

Les Mans has run on the Circuit de la Sarthe near Les Mans, France almost every year since its inception. Originally dubbed the “Grand Prix of Speed and Endurance,” the race was established to test automobiles’ sturdiness, reliability and performance. It also serves as a test of human fortitude as teams of drivers compete to cover as much ground as possible during the course of the race.

The first 24 Hours of Les Mans took place on May 26, 1923. Of the 37 cars that entered, 33 finished the race, with the team of Andre Lagache and Rene Leonard coming out on top as the winners. The race has occurred on schedule since then, except for:

· 1936, due to strikes in France

· 1940 to 1948 during World War II

· A 1968 postponement in response to “political turmoil”

· A 2020 postponement due to health concerns relating to COVID-19

The track began as a series of local roads, which were joined together and updated over time to create the current 8.5-mile (13.6-kilometer) racing circuit. Additional safety measures were put in place to reduce speeds and protect spectators after a massive crash in 1955 that killed over 80 people.

Excitement and danger are hallmarks of Les Mans. The high demands of the racing environment reveal what cars can do and how design can be improved, which inspires manufacturers to create better vehicles. Throughout the years, the rate has spawned innovations in automobile construction, including better brakes, engines and aerodynamic features.

Fun 24 Hours of Les Mans Facts

What else makes Les Mans such a unique event? Here are a few interesting facts that set it apart from traditional automobile racing.

Speed and Distance

· Mike Conway set the current record for the fastest lap around the Les Mans circuit in 2019 while driving a Toyota TS050 hybrid. His total time? Three minutes, 17.297 seconds.

· The record for fastest speed goes to Roger Dorchy, who hit 405 kilometers an hour (just over 250 miles per hour) in 1998. Such speeds are no longer possible because two chicanes were added to the track in 1990.

· As of 2018, the longest distance covered during Les Mans was just over 5,410 kilometers, or 3,362 miles.

Participation and Victory

· Les Mans is part of the International Automobile Federation World Endurance Championship, which includes seven other races around the world.

· Each Les Mans race has about 60 competing teams.

· Porsche cars hold the record for the most wins – 17 total.

· Tom Kristensen, a.k.a. “Mr. Le Mans,” holds the record for the most wins by a single driver; he’s won the race nine times.

· Heri Pescarolo has entered the race as a driver 33 times, earning him the record for the highest number of participations.


· Until 1984, drivers could race in teams of two. Today, teams must have three drivers, none of which can handle more than 14 total hours of driving during the event.

· No single driver on a team can drive for more than 240 minutes in any six-hour period.

Les Mans Cars

· Four classes of cars race in Les Mans: LMP1, LMP2, GT Pro and GT Am.

· LMP is short for Les Mans Prototypes, high-end racing cars with unique technical specifications. They’re known for being the fastest closed-wheel cars in circuit racing.

· Today’s LMP1 vehicles may include hybrid models with electric motors.

· GT, or Grand Touring, cars are modified production-line cars from well-known manufacturers.

· In addition to the overall winner of the race, winning teams from each class of car are recognized.

You don’t have to go all the way to France to experience the excitement and history of the 24 Hours of Les Mans. The race is available to watch on the Les Mans website and through the official app. Follow the Les Mans Facebook and Twitter pages to share the experience with others.

Note: Due to the situation surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak, the 2020 Les Mans race has been postponed from June 13-14 to September 19-20.


About the Author Theresa “Sam” Houghton is a writer, speaker and health coach from Troy, NY. She’s a regular contributor to, and her work has appeared in the Honest Weight Food Co-Op Coop Scoop, Natural Awakenings Magazine and the 2017 Daily Dozen calendar. She has been a featured guest on Focus on Albany, WMAC’s Food Friday and the Just Ask David podcast. When she's not writing or cooking, Sam likes to read and study the Bible, cook tasty plant-based food and knit socks. You can find out more about Sam at


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