Motorsport racing despite its best efforts failed to make it big in India. The Indian Grand Prix didn’t go on for as long as planned and the Buddh International Circuit remains used only for small events. However, there are enough enthusiasts that still follow Formula One to date and are excited about the prospects of Mercedes versus Ferrari, Lewis Hamilton versus Sebastian Vettel or the new blood in Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc. For them, Le Mans 24 Hours might not be a new name but for people who are not as deep into the sport may note that Le Mans 24 Hours is considered to be one of the greatest races and perhaps the most taxing one at that.
But, how did Le Mans suddenly come in news in India? Well! Racing Team India under Narain Karthikeyan’s leadership is set to compete in the race and fans want to know what it is all about.
To simplify things, if Formula One (F1) is like a sprint, Le Mans 24 Hours is a marathon. While F1 demands about 3 hours of intense driving skills and concentration from the driver and equal amount of hard work behind the car from the constructor, Le Mans takes it to a day. It pushes the driver physically, mentally and of course the constructors — technologically.
The format of the race goes like this — A team can have three drivers who take turns to drive a car over a span of 24 hours straight with the objective of driving the highest number of laps possible. However, a single driver cannot drive for more than 14 hours in total. This is why Le Mans is one of the oldest endurance races in the world and features as Round 3 in the World Endurance Championship.
The race is held in the Circuit de la Sarthe, which is located in between the northern French towns of Le Mans and Mulsanne. The circuit is 8.47 miles long along with the public roads outside the towns but is adjusted and built properly to support high-speed racing. The first-ever race took place in 1923 featuring 33 cars from 17 companies, which included Bentley and Bugatti.
Le Mans sees the most hi-tech cars and cutting edge technology and pushes the car’s endurance to the limits. Along with the Indianapolis 500 (Indy 500) and the Monaco Grand Prix — Le Mans 24 Hours is considered to complete the holy trinity of racing. And till date, only England’s Graham Hill has managed to win all three of them across different years. He won the Indy500 in 1966 and the Le Mans in 1972 while he has won the Monaco Grand Prix five times. Other people have competed but never won all three till date.
The most recent person to win the Le Mans was Spain’s Fernando Alonso, who won the race back to back in 2018 and 2019. Alonso also won the Monaco GP in 2006 and 2007. However, he has never won the Indy500 and the ‘triple crown’ continues to elude him.
Porsche has the most wins at 19 as a manufacturer while Joest Racing (13) has the most wins as a team. Denmark’s Tom Kristensen has the most number of wins as a driver at 9.
This year’s Le Mans has been postponed because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and is scheduled to take place from August 21 to August 22.