This Friday (26/5), the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans race celebrates 100 years of existence, establishing itself as an iconic event in the world of motorsport, along with the Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix and the 500 Miles from Indianapolis.
Since 1906, Le Mans has hosted the GP organized by the Automobile Club de France (ACF) on a circuit of 103 kilometers. In 1922, the idea of a 24-hour race on a short circuit came up. On May 26, 1923, 33 cars braved the rain on the dirt track.
Despite the adverse conditions, only three cars left the race, which was won by Chenard-Walcker, driven by French André Lagache and René Léonard. They traveled 2,209 km, an average of 92 km per hour, on a circuit of 17,262 km.
Over the years, the race has gone through many changes and memorable moments. Some of the dates that marked the 24 Hours of Le Mans include:
– 1924: The first victory of Bentley, which won the test five times until 1930, with a team that included mechanics and millionaires like Woolf Barnato, based on the story of the “Bentley Boys”.
– 1930: French Odette Siko and Marguerite Mareuse reach seventh place in a Bugatti, the best result so far for an all-female team.
– 1931: The winning British team of Tim Birkin and Lord Howe traveled more than 3,000 km in 24 Hours, with the current distance record being 5,410 km, set in 2010.
– 1940 to 1948: The 24 Hours of Le Mans stopped because of World War II, and the circuit was partially destroyed and rebuilt after the war.
– 1949: The young Italian Ferrari takes its first victory at Le Mans, followed by eight more victories until 1965.
– 1955: The tragedy involving the French driver Pierre Levegh and his Mercedes caused the death of 80 spectators and the driver himself.
Over the years, brands such as Jaguar, Mercedes, Porsche and Audi have also made history in the race, with Toyota claiming five consecutive victories between 2018 and 2022.
In 2023, the 100th anniversary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans (91st edition) attracts the biggest names in motorsport such as Porsche, Ferrari, Toyota, Peugeot and Cadillac, on a circuit of 13,626 kilometers. For the first time, the race will be held at a maximum public capacity, estimated at 300,000 spectators.