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Le Mans: An Innovative Race in Its Centennial Appearance

First time watching Le Mans? No problem, here’s what you need to know.


If it is your first time watching this race surely there are many things you need to know, in this article you can find much of what you need. If you come from Formula 1 you should definitely know that 3 different categories of cars run in this championship: GTE, LMP2 and Hypercar (but no, they are not 3 separate races as Formula 1, 2 and 3 can be in a single race weekend) here they all run together at the same time, finishing however with 3 podiums that differ by category and an overall classification (which generally coincides with the Hypercar one as they are more performing cars).

They don’t use thermal blankets here, although they do return at Le Mans for safety reasons, they use a fuel made from vineyard waste, and if a car ends up in gravel it doesn’t mean its race is over. Want to find out more? Read on for this centennial guide to the most famous, and innovative, car race.

24h of le mans what is it – the race of evolution

The winner at Le Mans is the person who covers the longest distance in a grueling 24-hour race; this can be described as the pinnacle of automotive race: an endurance race that was created for the development of road cars but today is so much more.

Over the years this race has undergone numerous transformations; it is constantly evolving, both in terms of the cars that participate and the regulations. Let’s see what has changed and what these evolutions have been about the world’s most famous car race.

It was born in May 1923 and merely 3 years later, a groundbreaking innovation emerged: fog lights. In 1949 it came the rear engine. In 1967 there is the breakthrough of aerodynamics, although we had already seen innovations in 1925 with body aerodynamics. It was also in the same year that slick tires made their grand entrance. The introduction of hybrid engines marked yet another milestone, following the earlier arrival of turbo engines in 1963 and kinetic engines (turbine engines) in 1974. In 2021 it hai been the era of Hypercars: a new category replacing LMP1 prototypes. And in 2023, this category experienced a revival, with esteemed brands such as Ferrari and Peugeot making a triumphant return.

But that’s not the end of the evolution of this iconic race, which in 2022 saw the introduction of biofuel, a 100% renewable fuel: Excellium racing 100from viticulture to the track.
This innovative fuel has successfully reduced CO2 emissions by a staggering 65 percent.

Le Mans is known as the race of innovation precisely because it never stops introducing something new; there is, in fact, already a plan for 2025: zero emissions and the introduction of hydrogen cars.

The circuit

24 Hours of Le Mans has been held now for a century, right in Le Mans, France on the La Sarthe track. This circuit’s distinctive characteristic lies in its fusion with parts of public roads. It is 13.629 km long and has 33 corners.

The fastest time recorded to date is 3.14.791 minutes recorded by driver Kamui Kobayashi in the Toyota TS050 HYBRID LMP1 in 2017 during qualifying.
However, we must remember that it is not possible to compare data from all 90 editions, as both the cars and the circuit have undergone many changes over time.

So this year we are celebrating 100 years of history of this race, considering the substantial evolution witnessed by both the cars and the circuit over time.

The centenary of Le Mans will be celebrated with a brand-new trophy, redesigned and created by the French national mint together with the ACO and stands an impressive 150 centimeters tall.

The categories

Hypercar category, which replaced Le Mans Prototype 1 from 2021, includes two types of cars: LMH and LMDh. These cars can be prototypes or cars inspired by road vehicles. Le Mans Hypercar (LMH) cars involve a car made from 0 by a manufacturer (as, for example, Ferrari and Toyota are doing). The other division is called Le Mans Daytona h: here we find the chassis provided by 4 manufacturers which are Oreca, Dallara, Liger and Multimatic and the hybrid system provided by Bosh, Williams Advanced Engineering and X-Trac. As the name implies, the lmdh cars can also participate in the American 24 hours.

LMP2 involves cars with the same chassis and engine a Gibson07. Here there is a maximum imposed cost (engine and homologated electronic parts excluded) of maximum €483.00. In Le Mans Prototipe 2 only teams independent of manufacturers or engine suppliers are allowed.

Last category, not least, is GTE (Grand Touring), until last year this category included Pro and Am divisions, this year you have only the latter. In GTE Aml the crew consists of 3 drivers including a bronze driver and a bronze or silver.

A NASCAR at Le Mans? ACO and FIA have said yes

Innovation, innovation and innovation, this is the most important thing at Le Mans and this year ACO and FIA have decided to create a new category for one car: Innovative Car. But what is this Innovative Car that is about to take on 24h of racing together with the most experienced brands in the endurance industry? A NASCAR. Well yes a real Chevrolet Stock Car is ready to hit the track this weekend to bring more innovation to Le Mans.

Car in the gravel? No problem restarts the race

You know when in Formula 1 a car ends up in gravel and is forced to retire? Well, unless the car sustains serious damage, in the WEC this does not happen. In fact, if a car ends up in the gravel, it can be towed out of it and can rejoin the race.

Another thing that can be seen during Le Mans, are time-consuming pit repairs: it is not uncommon, in fact, to see a car spend many laps inside the pit while mechanics work on the damage.
The scoring for cars entered in the WEC.

The championship

Scoring at Le Mans applies only to cars entered in all WEC races, so 34 of the 62 cars on track at La Sarthe will see this weekend as a very important stage for the final standings. Scoring at Le Mans is worth double, in fact, you double the points for the top 10 in each category. The innovative car will obviously not take part in any standings other than the overall.

The list of replacement cars

Le Mans is the most anticipated race of the year, and this year, with the centennial, it is even more so. There are as many as 62 cars entered, as we have already mentioned, but behind them lies a queue of waiting cars yearning for their chance on the prestigious grid. These vehicles, known as replacement cars, eagerly await any opportunity that may arise. In the event of a withdrawal, for any reason, prior to the commencement of practice on the illustrious La Sarthe circuit, the top car on this list automatically earns its place among the elite grid for the exhilarating 24-hour marathon.

Camilla Coletta

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