The six best cars to drive to Le Mans

07th June 2023
Bob Murray

It’s the world’s greatest motor race this weekend, if you hadn’t heard. And for 2023 it’s not just another 24 Heures du Mans but a nice round 100 years since the very first. So a bit special, even without a strong line-up in the new Hypercar class to get excited about. So are you going to La Sarthe in the next day or so? 

Brits do, in huge numbers, and for many it’s as much about getting to Le Mans as it is about being there; the annual exodus by British enthusiasts is famous, and not only with the French traffic police. So what’s best for the drive down in this special centenary year? Here’s our wish-list for the coolest ways to get to Le Mans…


1. Alpine A110R 

What better than a hardcore new version of France’s best car? Not for the autoroute to Le Mans obviously, but the pretty way (all cross country from Rouen). There’s even a limited-edition Le Mans model, due to be unveiled today. But it doesn’t have to be that one, just the R version will do us, French racing blue with a black bonnet s’il vous plait. 

The R has the same 300PS (224kW) as other 110s but is lighter, lower and stiffer with more downforce, Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres and grippier seats – all spot on for a cross country blast. And because it’s French, you might just get away with it when pulled over by the French cops. On reflection probably not. 


2. Bentley 3-Litre Sports

Okay so it doesn’t have to be this exact model – any Bentley, old or new, would make a fine way of driving to Le Mans. But to arrive in a 3-Litre Sports 100 years after it flew the Union flag as Britain’s sole entrant in the very first Grand Prix d'Endurance de 24 Heures would be special indeed. 

Driven by Bentley’s London agent and Brooklands record-setter John Duff with co-driver Frank Clement, the Bentley took on cars from 20 manufacturers (all French or Belgian) with great distinction, setting the fastest lap and coming home fourth on distance behind the leading pair of Chenard-Walckers. And that despite a few problems over the 91 laps including running out of fuel when a stone punched a hole in the tank. They literally put a cork in it. 

And the following year? The first of Bentley’s six Le Mans titles (five between 1924-30 and then again in 2003). How cool this year to drive down in a Bentley and park up in the road the town has renamed Rue des Bentley Boys.


3. Lucid Air

So you want to drive to Le Mans in an EV? Possible of course, but without stopping in France for a top-up? That would be tricky in any car – Calais to Le Mans the most direct way is 263 miles so a round trip of 526 miles – and that rules out all battery-electric cars…apart from one (in theory at least). 

The Lucid Air has a mega 112kWh battery and a claimed range of 550 miles. But probably not if you indulge in the 1000-plus PS of power and 173mph top speed, so plenty of right-foot restraint would be needed. The American-made Air had its debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed presented by Mastercard in 2022 and is tipped to go on sale soon.


4. Any Porsche

Not just because it’s consistently made great drivers’ cars for the past 75 years but because it has done so through competition and at Le Mans more than anywhere else. Porsche is synonymous with La Sarthe, cars like the 917 and 956 and drivers like Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell legends of motorsport.

With 19 overall victories Porsche is the winningest of all the car makers at Le Mans, first taking part in 1951 when a 356 scored a class win, and in with a big chance of notching up its 20th victory this year with the new 963 Hypercar. Such a win would make driving down there all the more special – whether you make the trip in a 944 or Boxster, 911 GT3 RS or 918 Spyder.


5. Koenigsegg Regera

What else to drive to Le Mans than the same sort of car that will be competing for overall honours this year? But a car with – wait for it – more than twice the power that the new LMP1-replacing Hypercar racers are allowed to run with. They are restricted to 670PS (500kW) but using the same petrol-electric combo the Regera claims 1,500PS (1,118kW). 

The Regera is a few years old now but still the daddy of street-legal hybrid hypercars. 250mph down the Mulsanne Straight anyone? 


6. First-gen Honda CR-V

The late ‘90s CR-V is not an obvious choice, and no one is saying the drive through France would be anything but pedestrian. But – stay with us on this – find the right CR-V and you will be the envy of the Le Mans campsite. 

For not only was this early example of the recreational SUV available with picnic table and umbrella – useful enough of course – but it also came with the one option anyone who has stayed up all night at Le Mans craves. A shower…

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