24 Hour Le Mans: 17th & 18th June 2017
Track: Circuit de la Sarthe
The most famous endurance sports car race in the world, the Le Mans 24 Hours, will be running for the 93rd time during June 2017. Every year hundreds and thousands of people from all over the world flock to a few fields on the outskirts of this quaint French town, bringing their flags, horns and stickered up cars to revel in the sights and sounds of the ninety plus year old 24 Hours of Le Mans motor race. VIP Tour Upgrade Available
- Economy class return flights
- Airport Taxes
- Return train transfers from Paris to Le Mans
- 4 nights’ accommodation package in a 2* hotel
- Breakfast daily
- T19 Lagache covered start / finish line with pit garages views
- Guided weekedn circuit transfers by tram
- Representative on hand to guide and assist you for the duration of your stay
- Meals unless stipulated above
- Travel insurance
Le Mans Tour Hotel
This hotel is situated in Le Mans, just 500 m from the University of Maine, 10 km from Le Mans Circuit and 5 km from the A11 motorway. It offers free Wi-Fi internet access and free parking. Each of the air-conditioned guest rooms include a TV. The rooms are simply decorated and feature en suite bathroom facilities. Breakfast can be enjoyed every morning in Premiere Classe Le Mans Ouest Université’s breakfast room. The city centre is 3.3 km from the hotel and the Le Mans Train Station is 5.6 km away. The hotel is an 11-minute drive from the Le Mans Cathedral.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans (French: 24 Heures du Mans) is the world’s oldest active sports car race in endurance racing, held annually since 1923 near the town of Le Mans, France. It is one of the most prestigious automobile races in the world and is often called the “Grand Prix of Endurance and Efficiency”. The event represents one leg of the Triple Crown of Motorsport; other events being the Indianapolis 500, and the Monaco Grand Prix.
The race is organized by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) and runs on the Circuit de la Sarthe, which contains a mix of closed public roads and a specialist racing circuit, in which racing teams have to balance speed with the cars’ ability to race for 24 hours without sustaining mechanical damage.
Since 2012, the 24 Hours of Le Mans has been a part of the FIA World Endurance Championship. In 2017, it will be the third round of the season.
The race has over the years inspired imitating races all over the globe, popularizing the 24-hour format at places like Daytona, Nürburgring, Spa-Francorchamps, and Bathurst. The American Le Mans Series and Europe’s Le Mans Series of multi-event sports car championships were spun off from 24 Hours of Le Mans regulations. Other races include the Le Mans Classic, a race for historic Le Mans race cars of years past held on the Circuit de la Sarthe, a motorcycle version of the race which is held on the shortened Bugatti version of the same circuit, a kart race (24 Heures Karting), a truck race (24 Heures Camions), and a parody race 24 Hours of LeMons.
The race is held in June, leading at times to very hot conditions for drivers, particularly in closed vehicles with poor ventilation; rain is commonly seen. The race begins in mid-afternoon and finishes the following day at the same hour the race started the previous day. Over the 24 hours, modern competitors often cover distances well over 5,000 km (3,110 mi). The record is 2010’s 5,410 km (3,360 mi), six times the length of the Indianapolis 500, or approximately 18 times longer than a Formula One Grand Prix. Drivers and racing teams strive for speed and avoiding mechanical damage, as well as managing the cars’ consumables, primarily fuel, tires, and braking materials. It also tests endurance, with drivers frequently racing for over two hours before a relief driver can take over during a pit stop while they eat and rest. Current regulations mandate that three drivers share each competing vehicle.
Competing teams race in groups called “classes”, or cars of similar specification, while also competing simultaneously for outright placing amongst all classes. Originally, the race showcased cars as they were sold to the general public, then called “Sports Cars”, in contrast with the specialized racing cars used in Grand Prix motor racing. Over time, the competing vehicles evolved away from their publicly available road car roots, and today the race is made of two overall classes: prototypes, and Grand Touring cars (similar to sports cars sold to the public). These are further broken down into 2 sub-classes each, constructors’ prototypes, privateer prototypes and 2 subclasses of GT cars.
Competing teams have had a wide variety of organization, ranging from competition departments of road car manufacturers (eager to prove the supremacy of their products) to professional motor racing teams (representing their commercial backers, some of which are also car manufacturers who want to win without paying for their own teams) to amateur teams (racing as much to compete in the famous race as to claim victory for their commercial partners).
The race has also spent long periods as a round of the World Sportscar Championship, although Le Mans has always had a stronger reputation than the World Championship, and is a round of the FIA World Endurance Championship. The race is also known as a leg of the informal Triple Crown of Motorsport which links Formula One, IndyCar, and sports car racing to represent a career achievement for drivers. Additionally, it is seen as a leg of the Triple Crown of endurance racing, which links the three largest sports car races together, with 12 Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Daytona forming the other legs. Since 1998, the American Le Mans Series held a second endurance race along with the 12 hours of Sebring every year called “Petit Le Mans”, as a 10-hour or 1,000-mile American version. In 2014, the Tudor Sports Car Championship (a merger of the races at Sebring; Petit Le Mans in Braselton, Georgia; the 6 Hours of Watkins Glen in Watkins Glen, New York; and the Rolex Sports Car Series’ 24 Hours of Daytona) held all four major American endurance classics in preparation for teams to race at Le Mans.
The race has approximately 60 competitors. Each car was required to have at least two seats, but recently cars only need the ability to accommodate a second seat in the cockpit rather than the seat itself. No more than two doors are allowed; open cockpit cars do not require doors. Beginning in 2014, all cars in the premier LMP1 category were required to have a roof due to safety concerns, with open-cockpit cars only permitted in the slightly slower LMP2 category. From 2017, all prototype cars, LMP1 or LMP2, must have closed cockpits.
Although all cars compete at the same time, there are separate classes. A prize is awarded to the winner of each class, and to the overall winner. The number of classes has varied over the years, but there are now four. Custom-built Le Mans Prototypes (LMP) are the top two classes, LMP1 and LMP2, divided by speed, weight, and power output. From 2011, the next two classes are production-based grand tourer (GT) classes, GT Endurance Pro and GT Endurance AM. Both of these classes utilize the LM GTE, or “Le Mans Grand Touring Endurance” regulations. Although the top class is the most likely to be the overall winner, lower classes have won on occasion due to better reliability.
Originally, there were no rules on the number of drivers of a car, or how long they could drive. Although almost all teams used two drivers in the early decades, some Le Mans drivers such as Pierre Levegh and Eddie Hall attempted to run the race solo, hoping to save time by not having to change drivers. This practice was later banned. Until the 1980s, there were teams in which only two drivers competed, but by the end of the decade, the rules were changed to stipulate that at least three drivers must drive each car.
By the 1990s, due to the speeds of the cars and the strain it puts on drivers, additional rules to reduce driver fatigue mandated that drivers could not drive for more than four hours consecutively over a six hours period, and that no one driver could run for more than fourteen hours total. With careful management of driver stints, this makes it possible to complete the race with only two drivers (as Jeroen Bleekemolen and Cooper MacNeil did in 2014), although the vast majority of teams still continue to use three drivers
The circuit on which the 24 Hours of Le Mans is run is named the Circuit de la Sarthe, after the department that Le Mans is within. It consists of both permanent track and public roads that are temporarily closed for the race. Since 1923, the track has been extensively modified, mostly for safety reasons, and now is 13.629 km in length. Although it initially entered the town of Le Mans, the track was cut short in order to better protect spectators. This led to the creation of the Dunlop Curve and Tertre Rouge corners before rejoining the old circuit on the Mulsanne. Another major change was on the Mulsanne itself in 1990, when the FIA decreed that it would no longer sanction any circuit that had a straight longer than 2 km. This led to the addition of two chicanes, reducing the time that the cars spent travelling at very high speeds on the old 6 km long straight. The addition of the chicanes was another safety precaution after the WM P88-Peugeot of French driver Roger Dorchy had been timed at 405 km/h (252 mph) during the 1988 race.
Due to the shorter length of the straights, top speeds at Le Mans are now generally around 205 mph (330 km/h).
The public sections of the track differ from the permanent circuit, especially in comparison with the Bugatti Circuit which is inside the Circuit de la Sarthe. Due to heavy traffic in the area, the public roads are not as smooth or well kept. They also offer less grip because of the lack of soft-tyre rubber laid down from racing cars, though this only affects the first few laps of the race. The roads are closed only within a few hours of the practice sessions and the race, before being opened again almost as soon as the race is finished. Workers have to assemble and dismantle safety barriers every year for the public sections.