Le Mans 24 Hours 2023, Celebrating the 100th Anniversary

The race of the century! The biggest and best endurance event in the world is back. 2023 marks the Centenary of the Le Mans 24 hours.

Ferrari Le Mans

For a century, motorsport enthusiasts from around the world have been captivated by the exhilarating spectacle known as the Le Mans 24 Hour Race. As the world’s oldest active endurance race, it has become an iconic event that pushes drivers, teams, and machinery to their limits. Le Mans 2023 marks a momentous occasion as the legendary race celebrates its 100th anniversary. Join us as we embark on a journey through time from what’s happening in this year’s race, to exploring the enduring legacy of the Le Mans 24 Hour Race and how we are getting involved at Demon Tweeks!

The Centenary of Le Mans

This year’s race is set to be a big one, with the introduction of the Hypercar class in 2021, which now sits as the premier class in the World Endurance Championship. As of the 2023 season, 7 manufacturers are competing in the top class for the 100th anniversary race. From last year’s winners Toyota and Glickenhaus to the return of several legendary brands from Porsche and Peugeot to Cadillac and Ferrari. Plus Vanwall (previously known as ByKolles Racing) with their own car, the Vanwall Vandervell 680.

The Hypercars replaced the old ‘LMP1’ category, and was introduced to attract more manufacturers back into the championship as it was considerably cheaper than the previous LMP1 class. 

62 cars in total will compete in 2023. 16 cars competing in the Hypercar category, which is the most since 2011. Within the LMP2 class there will be 24 cars and then 21 GT cars. There is also an experimental NASCAR being entered, driven by 2009 F1 champion Jensen Button, 7 time NASCAR Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson and 2010 Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller.

Compared to the 2022 race, where there were just 3 manufacturers in the top class, Le Mans 2023 will not be one to miss!

Alpine Le Mans

A Brief History

The Le Mans 24 Hour Race traces its roots back to 1923 when the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) organised the first edition of the event. Located in the picturesque town of Le Mans, France, the race took place on a circuit that combined closed public roads with dedicated sections built specifically for racing.

Since its inception, Le Mans has captivated both drivers and spectators with its unique format. The race demands a combination of speed, endurance, and strategy as teams battle to cover the greatest distance within 24 hours. It has witnessed epic duels, heart-stopping crashes, and heroic triumphs, making it a symbol of motorsport’s grandeur.

Toyota Le Mans Pit Crew

Iconic Moments and Legendary Drivers

Throughout its century-long history, Le Mans has witnessed numerous iconic moments that have shaped the race’s lore. From battles between automotive giants to heroic feats of endurance, the 24 hour challenge has brought out the best in drivers and machines alike.

One of the most memorable chapters in Le Mans history is the rivalry between Ford and Ferrari during the 1960s. Ford’s quest to defeat the reigning champions at Ferrari resulted in the creation of the Ford GT40, a car that would go on to claim four consecutive victories from 1966 to 1969. This period stands as a testament to the fierce competition and relentless pursuit of glory that defines Le Mans.

The race has also seen its fair share of legendary drivers etch their names into the annals of motorsport. Drivers like Tom Kristensen, who holds the record for the most overall wins with nine victories, and Jacky Ickx, with six overall victories, have become synonymous with Le Mans. The race is also no stranger to F1 drivers like Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber to celebrities like Michael Fassbender and Sir Chris Hoy. These drivers and many others have left an indelible mark on the race’s history, showcasing the unparalleled skill and determination required to conquer the Circuit de la Sarthe.

Alonso Le Mans

Evolution and Innovation

Over the past century, the Le Mans 24 Hour Race has been at the forefront of technological advancements in motorsport. The race has provided a platform for manufacturers to showcase their engineering prowess and push the boundaries of automotive innovation.

From the early days of powerful yet mechanically basic machines to the introduction of hybrid and electric powertrains in recent years, Le Mans has been a catalyst for change. The race has served as a testing ground for cutting-edge technologies, leading to advancements in aerodynamics, fuel efficiency, overall performance and safety, from lighter but stronger vehicles to the racewear worn from the likes of OMP, Sparco and Alpinestars. The constant pursuit of speed, reliability, and sustainability has made Le Mans a driving force behind automotive progress.

Alpine Pits

The evolution of the Le Mans 24 Hour Race wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging the transformations that have taken place on the track itself. Over the course of a century, the Circuit de la Sarthe has undergone significant modifications to enhance safety, accommodate increasing speeds, and provide a more thrilling experience for both drivers and spectators. One of the most significant changes has been the addition of chicanes on the famous Mulsanne Straight. Originally a high-speed, flat-out section that allowed cars to reach incredible speeds, safety concerns prompted the introduction of 2 chicanes before the 1990 race, to reduce speeds and enhance driver safety. 

These chicanes drastically altered the character of the race, transforming the once blistering straight into a series of challenging turns that demand precision and braking finesse. The addition of chicanes not only addressed safety considerations but also introduced a new strategic element to the race, as drivers and teams had to optimise their setup and approach to maximise performance through these technical sections.

Action and Drama

Despite these modifications there was no less action and drama on track, which was no more apparent than the 1999 running where Peter Dumbreck survived a crazy crash driving the Mercedes-Benz CLR prototype. Dumbreck’s car became airborne while on the Mulsanne Straight. Spectators and viewers watched in shock as the car flipped into the air and somersaulted multiple times before crashing into the trees. 

Miraculously, Dumbreck emerged from the wreckage unharmed. The incident raised significant concerns about the aerodynamics and stability of high-speed prototypes, leading to a reassessment of design principles in endurance racing. The Peter Dumbreck crash serves as a stark reminder of the risks involved in motorsport and the continuous efforts to enhance safety in pursuit of the ultimate racing experience.

These alterations to the track have not only shaped the racing experience but have also contributed to the ongoing legacy of Le Mans as a demanding and iconic endurance race.

Toyota Sunset

Le Mans at Demon Tweeks

Demon Tweeks love everything racing, so much so we have had the Audi Super Touring Car driven by Hans Stuck  in our Wrexham showroom, as we love the era and want to show this monster off to anyone who visited our headquarters.

For Le Mans 2023 we are changing out the Audi for 2 classics. The Trust livery Porsche 956 Group C car and 1977 Le Mans 935 as a celebration for the 100 years of Le Mans and the 75 years of Porsche sports cars. As in 1948 Ferry Porsche realised his dream of creating a sports car and we are glad he did as the rest is history!

Porsche 956

Less than 30 Porsche 956 were made, the car won Le Mans a staggering 4 times in 1982, ‘83, ‘84 and ‘85! The example we have is chassis 108. It was raced by Vern Schuppan with different co-drivers, exclusively in Japan. This car was bought originally by Nova Engineering to compete in the Japanese Sports Car Championship in 1983, Co-driven by Naohiro Fugita. This particular season Vern and Naohiro won 5 races and easily took home the championship. Vern also raced with a number of other drivers in Japan, including Yoshimi Katayama, where they won the Fuji 500 mile race in 1984 and then with Keiichi Suzuki, who were victorious in the 1985 Fuji 1000 km. 

Porsche 956 Trust Livery Goodwood 79 MM

See it in action from when we took it to Goodwood’s 79th Members Meeting.

Porsche 935 / K2

The other Le Mans car we have is the 1977 Porsche 935 / K2, chassis number 930 770 0903. Our example was supplied to the Kremer Brothers and was the first factory built 935. The main driver was Bob Wollek and it competed in many prestigious events, from the Daytona 24 Hours in 1977 where it finished a very respectable 3rd. It also raced in Le Mans in 1977, 1978 and managed to finish 3rd in 1979. A podium finish in a 24 hour race is seriously impressive!

Porsche 935

Its an impressive piece of kit, it is mid engined with approximately 600bhp. It has supported a number of liveries over the years and has now been restored to its classic livery.

Come on down and visit us to see them for yourself and celebrate both Le Mans 2023 and Porsche!

The Future of Le Mans

As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Le Mans 24 Hour Race, we also look toward the future of this legendary event. With the rise of electric and autonomous vehicles, Le Mans stands at a crossroads, presenting new challenges and opportunities.

In recent years, the ACO has introduced a separate category for hybrid and electric vehicles, highlighting its commitment to embracing sustainable technologies. This move reflects the race’s adaptability and its continued relevance in an ever-changing world. As we move forward, Le Mans will continue to inspire manufacturers, engineers, and drivers to push the boundaries of what is possible in motorsport.

The advent of electric vehicles brings a new era of performance and efficiency. With their instant torque and zero-emission capabilities, electric prototypes are poised to redefine the limits of speed and endurance. The Le Mans 24 Hour Race serves as a platform for manufacturers to showcase the advancements in battery technology, charging infrastructure, and sustainable mobility solutions.

Nico Lapierre

Furthermore, the rise of autonomous driving technology opens up new avenues for innovation in endurance racing. While the idea of fully autonomous vehicles competing in the race may not be our cup of tea, Le Mans can become a testing ground for semi-autonomous features that enhance safety and performance. The integration of AI-driven systems and driver-assist technologies can revolutionise the race, providing new levels of precision and efficiency.

Beyond technological advancements, Le Mans will continue to captivate fans with its rich heritage, intense competition, and extraordinary human stories. The race’s ability to unite people from different corners of the world, celebrating a shared passion for speed and endurance, will endure for generations to come.

Iron Lynx Team Le Mans

The Race of the Century

As the Le Mans 24 Hour Race reaches its 100th running, it stands as a testament to the indomitable spirit of motorsport. Throughout the years, this iconic race has pushed the boundaries of human and technological achievement, captivating fans with its drama, speed, and enduring legacy.

The Le Mans 24 Hour has served as a platform for manufacturers to showcase their engineering prowess and a stage for drivers to showcase their skills and courage. It has witnessed legendary rivalries, heroic triumphs, and ground breaking innovations, making it a cornerstone of motorsport history.

As we celebrate this momentous milestone, we also look forward to the future of Le Mans. With the advent of electric and autonomous vehicles, the race is poised to embrace new technologies, pushing the boundaries of performance, sustainability, and safety.

As the world continues to evolve, one thing remains certain: the Le Mans 24 Hour Race will continue to captivate our hearts and minds, symbolising the relentless pursuit of speed and endurance. Here’s to another century of thrilling races, unforgettable moments, and the perpetual quest for victory at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

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