Data trace: Le Mans 24 Hours

It’s a French institution with international appeal and the 84th running is nigh…     
Writer Peter Higham

Le Mans holds a unique place in motor racing history. Scene of the first Grand Prix de l’Automobile Club de France in 1906, the Route Nationale that is now the Mulsanne straight formed part of the circuit that was used for the rival Grand Prix de France from 1911 to 1913. The basis of the current circuit was then used for the 1921 GP de l’ACF, which Jimmy Murphy won for Duesenberg and America.

The Le Mans 24 Hours was introduced two years later, originally as the triennial Rudge-Whitworth Cup for 1923, ’24 and ’25. It was a biennial competition from 1924, and an outright winner of each race was officially declared only from 1928.

Bentley held sway by that time and the event has always attracted teams and spectators from across the English Channel. Last year’s victory was Porsche’s 17th success – including the 1994 victory for a Jochen Dauer-built 962 replica – although Audi has won 13 of the 16 races since the turn of the century. With five victories, the Audi R8 is now the most successful car type in the history of the race – one more than the Porsche 956.

Tom Kristensen has won on nine occasions – five of which were in succession, another record. Phil Hill is the only driver to win both the world championship and 24 Hours in the same season. Father and son Louis and Jean-Louis Rosier won in 1950 with the latter only behind the wheel for two laps – the shortest distance for a winning driver.