Le Mans 2013: Did You Know

June 20, 2013

With the world famous endurance race taking place at Le Mans this weekend we thought we would look at the races history and share some interesting facts that you may or may not have known. So, let us start at the beginning. Le Mans is the oldest active endurance sports car race in the world having been held since 1923, except for a ten year gap due to the Second World War. It is raced on the Circuit de la Sarthe which is made up of dedicated race track and public roads, which are closed for the duration of the race. Hailed as THE world endurance race, Le Man is a test of not only the cars mechanical ability to run for 24 hours without issue but also of the drivers. In the modern day incarnation of the race 3 drivers must share each vehicle for the extent of the 24 hours, carrying out driving ‘shifts’ while the others rest. This is mainly for safety reasons, such as preventing repeats of the events of 1955.


The most awful happening in Le Mans history was during the 1955 race in which driver Pierre Levegh crashed his Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR (pictured) into a grass mound on the pit straight. The resultant impact killed Pierre and sent his car, and debris, somersaulting towards the crowd. More than 80 spectators were killed whilst 120 more were injured. To this day it remains the most catastrophic event in motorsport history. In the shock following this disaster, many major and minor races were cancelled.  Mercedes-Benz_300_SLR_1955 attribute LSDSL new A slightly more recent, and ridiculous, spate of accidents occurred in 1999 when the Mercedes-Benz CLRs, being driven by Mark Webber on two occasions, suffered from a strange condition of taking flight. This happened first during the test day and once again during warm up, after Mercedes had claimed to have fixed the problem. The third, final and most spectacular occurrence came during the actual race when Peter Dumbreck’s CLR caught so much air that it managed to clear the safety fencing and land in the forest on the other side. You can see the insane footage here. Unsurprisingly Mercedes withdrew their remaining entry and ended their programme.


Here are a summary of the currently held Le Mans records. Do you think any will be broken this year? Most Wins – 1st Porsche with 16, 2nd Audi with 11 and 3rd Ferrari with 9 Most Wins By Constructor Nations – 1st Germany with 29, 2nd the UK with 17 and 3rd France with 15 Most Winning Drivers Per Nation – 1st the UK with 29, 2nd France with 28, 3rd Germany with 17 Total Wins By Nation – UK joint first with France with 40, 3rd Germany with 27 Fastest (In Race) Lap – 3min 18sec 40 by Jackie Oliver driving a Porsche 917 in 1971 Top Speed Achieved – 405 km/h by Roger Dorchy with a WM P88 in 1988 Youngest Driver To Start A Race – Ricardo Rodriguez in 1959 at the age of 17 years 4 months 4 days Oldest Driver To Start A Race – Horst Felbermayr Sr. (no pun intended) at the age of 66 years 3 months and 20 days in 2011 Longest distance travelled – 5, 410.71km by Dumas/Rockenfeller/Bernhard in 2010. To put that in perspective that is the distance from London to Moscow, and back again, with change… IN A DAY! The Most Time Spent In A Car During The 24 Hours – (An unbelievable) 23h 15mins 17 secs by Louis Rosier in 1950.


Here is something we didn’t know before embarking on the writing of this article. The tradition of race winners spraying champagne from atop the podium was started at Le Mans. In 1967 Dan Gurney won Le Mans alongside co-driver A.J. Foyt. When Gurney was handed a bottle ofchampagne in celebration he noticed Henry Ford the 2nd, Carroll Shelby, their wives and journalists in the crowd in front of him. All of these individuals had predicted that Gurney and Foyt would have a disastrous race so, in an act of defiance, Gurney popped the cork and sprayed them. Over 40 years later the tradition has continued to stick.

Image Attributions in order of appearance: Mike Roberts LSDSL Lothar Spurzem Written by Ryan Hill