24 Hours of Le Mans: What is it?

What is 24 Hours of Le Mans?

24 Hours of Le Mans is the world’s most famous sports car race for endurance. This automobile race is held in Le Mans once a year, the team of drivers is made up of either three professional drivers or four amateurs. The purpose of the race is not to see who can drive the fastest for a certain distance but instead to see who can drive the longest distance over the course in a 24-hour period time in the fastest time. The endurance of the equipment and the drivers is put to the test in this race.

When is it held?

The 74th annual Le Mans race will be held on June 17/18th, 2006 with preliminary testing held on June 4th, 2006.

Background information of the 24 Hour Le Mans

The first race was held on May 26/27th, 1923. The only times the race has ever been cancelled was in 1936 due to the bad state of the economy and from 1940 to 1948 because of World War 2.

The race is setup on a semi-permanent track that is approximately 8.482 miles long. Course is mainly on country roads that are open to the public throughout most of the year, several purpose-built sections have been added to the course for safety purposes.

In this race, 50 cars race simultaneously in different categories. The cars range from prototypes to streetcars and the ultimate winner is the team that has covered the most distance in a period of 24 hours of continuous racing. The designs of the cars used in the 24 Hours of Lemans are different from those of other races. In other races, the speed on the curves is more important than top speed, therefore a car has to be designed to hit top speeds on the curves. In the 24 Hour of Lemans race, hitting top speeds is critical in order to be in the competition and do well.

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The 24 hour race is known for some of the worst accidents in motor racing history. One such accident happened in 1955, 80 people were killed and as a result, many minor as well as major races were cancelled.

Porsche has made a marque in history at the 24 hours race with 16 overall victories followed by Ferrari with nine. The turn of the century saw a new power emerge in the Audi V8 powered R8 that had wins from 2000 – 2004 & 2005, the Bentley speed 8 took the win in 2003. Ford won the race four times from 1966 – 1969 with the GT40 that was built for the specific purpose of beating the Ferrari after a spat between the two company’s owners. The only Japanese company to win the race so far has been Mazda in 1991.

Fans of the 24 Hours of Le Mans race eagerly await the identity of the latest victor in this unique race of endurance.