Believe it or not, dear reader, this is not the first time that I have sat down to write an article on this topic. However, I fell into something of a trap with that article, trying to get across every single nook, cranny and detail I could, along with a plethora of photographs. This may eventually have been released, but alas, I find myself rather short of time.
This left me with the problem of how to tell you, my dear and valued reader, about the greatest motor race on earth. It occurs to me that since the race begins this Saturday, I am running low on time, which means that this article you are reading right now must be delivered very soon.
What I eventually decided to do is to describe the race in terms of something which (hopefully) everyone can understand, something very simple indeed; numbers. Starting with…
No. of hours the race takes place over. This has generated some of the greatest drama in motor racing history, since a car that has a problem may still be fixed and come back to be competitive. Last year, for example, the car that came first had a shunt on the first lap.
No. of drivers for each car. You didn’t think that one person would be driving for the whole thing did you? Well, in the past people did, but these days, each car has 3 drivers assigned to it, who take turns (called stints) to get in the car and drive.
No. of cars on the entry list. The shear numbers mean that there is bound to be close racing somewhere throughout the race; it also means that the faster cars have interesting high-speed traffic to deal with, which is exacerbated by the fact the next number is conveying…
No. of “classes” of car in the race. There are two for Prototypes, that is, cars that are specifically designed for endurance racing (LMP1 and LMP2) and two for GTs, or Grand Tourers, that is, highly modified road cars (GTE Pro and GTE Am). To briefly explain these classes, from slowest to fastest:
- GTE Am: These are run by privateer teams, who don’t manufacture their own cars. The drivers are not professionals, and so although the cars are similar to the other GT category, they tend to be somewhat slower.
- GTE Pro: Similar cars to GTE Am, but cars are run by professional teams; mainly manufacturer-backed.
- LMP2: Cars here are procured by teams from one of three manufacturers, and then run by the team privately. Since all the machinery is similar, the competition is fierce.
- LMP1: The fastest category, teams here are allowed to develop their cars to go as fast as possible, within certain rules. Hybrids are also allowed (and we’re talking more like a Maclaren P1 than a Prius), although these days only Toyota are still using them.
No. of tyres allocated. Each class of car gets a slightly different allocation, but the cars are allocated around 50 – 60 tyres each for the race. Granted, not all of them will get used; one will not of course use wet weather tyres in the dry, for example, but it does give a good sense of scale.
No. of miles of track. The track itself, the Circuit de la Sarthe, is a circuit partly made up of converted roads, and partly specialist race track. It is steeped in history; almost every corner has become a famous motorsport name.
Largest no. of victories a driver has attained at Le Mans; this record was set by Danish driver Tom Kristensen, though he hasn’t raced here since 2013. He managed this over a 17 year period, which goes to show just how tough this race is.
Largest no. of overall victories for a single manufacturer; this record is held by Porsche, but again, they achieved this over around 50 years.
This years race begins, as I write this, in around 10 minutes. I would of course highly recommend that you give it a look, but other than that, all that is left is to wish you a pleasant and interesting day, until the next time.
– Featured Image: United Autosports via Wikimedia Commons (Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)