Le Mans series - Le Mans history

LE MANS HISTORY - Le Mans was actually the home of the first French Grand Prix - not at the current circuit, but on a 103km road circuit to the east of the city. - The first Le Mans 24 Hour was staged in 1923. At the time there was ...

LE MANS HISTORY

- Le Mans was actually the home of the first French Grand Prix - not at the current circuit, but on a 103km road circuit to the east of the city.

- The first Le Mans 24 Hour was staged in 1923. At the time there was no official winner because officials had decided the event would triennial event, with finishes invited back for next two years to race to decided the winner.

- That idea was eventually abandoned with the fastest finisher from the first race, Andre Lagache and Rene Leonard acknowledged as the winner.

- Located in the Sarthe region of French, the surrounding district is renowned for its wine and agriculture.

- Le Mans is also famous for flight. Wilbur Wright, the famous American aviation pioneer, established a biplane factory in the region in 1907 ­ using the Mulsanne straight as his airstrip.

- The race is now acknowledged as one of the three premier motorsport events in the world, joining the Monte Carlo Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500 as the events that racers throughout the world dream of winning.

- These days all teams contest the event with three drivers, however this is a relatively new trend. In 1952, Frenchman Pierre Levegh attempted to complete the race solo. He came close to completing the feat, only to fall out of the race with mechanical problems after 22 hours and 30 minutes.

- Louis Rosier had almost gone non-stop in 1950, letting his co-driver complete only two laps

- Le Mans used to be renowned for its amazing top speeds on the 3km long Mulsanne Straight. However, motorsport¹s world controlling body, the FIA, decreed in 1990 that no straight in world motorsport should be more than 1km long. The Mulsanne Straight now features two chicanes to slow the cars.

- Prior to the installation of the chicanes, the WM Peugeot topped the speed charts eclipsing 405km/h (251.65mph) on the Mulsanne Straight with Roger Dorchy at the wheel. Powered by a V6 turbo engine, the car had little downforce and was entered with the sole goal of breaking the 250mph mark.

- Le Mans was also made famous by the ³Le Mans Start² where drivers would line up on the opposite side of the track and run to climb aboard their cars on the dropping of the green flag. This format was abandoned in 1970 on safety grounds.

- Belgium¹s Jacky Ickx holds the record for the most Le Mans victories, six - 1969, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1981, 1982.

- Le Mans is also the location for one of the world¹s most famous racing movies - imaginatively titled ³Le Mans.² The movie was filmed on location at the 1970 Le Mans 24 Hour. Camera cars were actually entered in the race as competitors.

- The movie features some of the best motorsport action footage ever seen on film.

- Starring Steve McQueen, the almost documentary style movie depicts the story of driver Michael Delaney who returns to Le Mans after a dramatic crash the previous year in which one of his fellow competitors is killed. With the driver¹s widow (actress Elga Anderson) in the pits, Delaney again crashes in the event but is asked to climb aboard one of his team-mate¹s cars in the final hour of the event.

- ³Life is racing, everything else is just waiting² Steve McQueen¹s famous motorsport quote from the movie.

- To prepare for the event, McQueen competed in the 1970 Daytona 24 Hour and Sebring 12 Hour. At one stage, he allegedly considered taking on racing on a full-time basis.

- The ³real² 1970 Le Mans winner¹s Richard Attwood and Hans Hermann earned Porsche¹s first ever victory with a privateer Porsche 917.

- He is not the only movie star to contest the event, Paul Newman, finished 2nd in the 1979 24 hour aboard a Porsche 935.

- The Le Mans 24 Hour is a huge carnival event with up to 250,000 spectators enthralled in a huge party atmosphere including fireworks, sideshows, ferris wheel, camping, restaurants and festivals.

- Thousands of fanatical British race fans make the trip across the channel for the event.

- Adelaide¹s Le Mans event at the end of the year will enjoy the same party atmosphere.

- The two lead Panoz cars will race at Le Mans with the ³Adelaide Race of a Thousand Years² across the nose of the cars.

- In 1999 at the Le Mans 24 Hour some 2628 reporters representing 825 titles from 36 countries covered the race. 1401 French, 256 British, 105 Japanese, 227 German, 83 Belgian, 87 American, 145 Dutch and 37 Italian. 160 countries around the world broadcast the race, and Eurosport covered 12 hours live and broadcast a total of 20 hours of the race in 37 countries.

- Launched in 1999, the Le Mans series mirrors the same rules as the Le Mans 24 Hour. Races are staged in the U.S., Canada, UK and Germany with the Grand Finale being held on the streets of Adelaide on New Year¹s Eve.

- The Le Mans 24 Hour itself, is does not count for points in the Le Mans Series - it exist as a stand-alone blue ribbon event.

Paul ryan ryan@panoz.com.au

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About this article
Series Le Mans
Drivers Paul Newman , Jacky Ickx , Roger Dorchy , Richard Attwood , Hans Herrmann