The 84th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours gets under way on Saturday. And, as you read this we may well know which of the hi-tech LMP1 prototypes from Audi, Porsche and Toyota will be starting from pole position – the reward for nailing the fastest lap in any one of the four qualifying sessions that take place across the Wednesday and Thursday evenings.
JUN 15th 2016
15 Fast Facts… Le Mans 24 Hours
You may think the polesitter has struck an early psychological blow, but it doesn’t mean as much as it does in a sprint race. Photos of your car starting at the front for the legendary, twice-round-the-clock, 3,000-mile enduro may look good in the family album but only on nine occasions in the past 50 years – 1974, 1975, 1981, 1982, 1997, 2003, 2011-2013 – has the polesitting car gone on to win the race.
And that little factlette got us recalling other random trivia from the great race that you might want to share with your Le Mans-loving friends. Or, maybe, just keep to yourself…
1. Qualifying in the traditional sense didn’t start until 1963, when the Pedro Rodriguez/Roger Penske Ferrari 330 TRI set fastest time to take pole position. Prior to that, cars lined up at the start according to engine size – largest to smallest.
2. Mazda is the only Japanese manufacturer to win, its 787B triumphing in 1991 with Johnny Herbert/Bertrand Gachot/Volker Weidler. The car is also the only one with a rotary engine to win.
3. The last two-man crew to win was Klaus Ludwig and Henri Pescarolo, who took victory for Porsche in 1984. It’s now compulsory for each car to have three drivers, none of which must do more than 14 hours’ driving in total.
4. The last Formula 1 World Championship Grand Prix winner to triumph at Le Mans was Michele Alboreto, for Joest Porsche in 1997.
5. The first time a driver sprayed champagne on a motorsport podium came at Le Mans in 1967 when Ford winner Dan Gurney performed the now-customary celebration.
6. The furthest distance covered by a winning car is 3,362 miles by the 2010-winning Audi R15-plus of Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas and Mike Rockenfeller. The trio broke a record that had stood since 1971.
7. No driver has started the Le Mans 24 Hours more times than Frenchman Henri Pescarolo. He took part in the race 33 times between 1966 and 2009, winning in 1972, ’73 and ’74 for Matra and ’84 for Porsche. The greatest number of victories is held by Dane Tom Kristensen, who won nine times between 1997 and 2013.
8. The last time a crew made up entirely of British drivers won was back in 1957, Ivor Bueb and Ron Flockhart with the Ecurie Ecosse Jaguar D-type.
9. The famous ‘Le Mans start’, where drivers ran across the track to their waiting cars, last occurred in 1969. For 1970, drivers were strapped into the cars at right angles to the track, and for 1971 the conventional, forward-facing method was used.
11. The 1968 edition of the race was postponed until September due to the French workers’ strike.
12. The most successful marque is Porsche, with 17 wins. Its first came in 1970 with the 917K, its 17th last year with the 919 Hybrid. Audi currently sits second with 13 wins.
13. Jean Rondeau is the only driver to win the race in a car bearing his own name. He took victory in his Rondeau M379B with Jean-Pierre Jaussaud in 1980.
14. Appropriately, 24 manufacturers have won the Le Mans 24 Hours. They are Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Audi, Bentley, BMW, Bugatti, Chenard & Walcker, Delahaye, Ferrari, Ford, Jaguar, Lagonda, La Lorraine, Matra, Mazda, McLaren, Mercedes, Mirage, Peugeot, Porsche, Renault, Rondeau, Sauber-Mercedes and Talbot.
15. Anne-Charlotte Verney is the most-capped lady racer at Le Mans. The Frenchwoman did the race 10 times between 1974 and 1983, with a best result of sixth in 1981 aboard a Porsche 935 with Americans Ralph Kent-Cooke and Bob Garretson.
Audi image courtesy of Russell Trow via Creative Commons
Porsche image courtest of Brian Snelson via Creative Commons
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