Sunday 27th May 1923
The first Le Mans 24-Hour race concluded. Winners Andre Lagache and Renee Leonard covered 1,372.928 miles in a 3 litre Chenard et Walcker. All races since then have been held in June, with the exceptions of 1956 (July) and 1968 (September). Traditionally, the race starts at 16:00 on the Saturday, although in 1984 the race started at 15:00 due to the conflicting French General Election. The race has been held every year since then with the exceptions of 1936, and between 1940 and 1948, when the Second World War intervened. In the original configuration, the race track used was 10.73 miles (17.26 km) long, and has subsequently been shortened on several occasions.The race has always been dominated by European names like Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Mercedes, Jaguar, and Lotus. In recent years, BMW and Porsche have both posted fine results. Sadly, the race is most famous for the horrific crash that occurred there in 1955 when a Mercedes 300 SL flipped into the gallery, killing over 80 spectators. Since then, the danger of the race has made it a captivating subject for journalists and artists alike. The round-the-clock nature of the event makes it a unique experience for spectators and drivers alike. Two or three drivers normally race in four-hour shifts, and sleep is impossible. The course at Le Mans has changed gradually over the years, but some of its major landmarks have not changed. The three-mile Mulsanne straightaway that begins the race is perhaps most famous for its supreme length and, consequently, its speed. The straightaway ends in a gradual right-hand jog that, if driven at normal speeds, is nearly imperceptible. At over 200mph, the right-hand jog feels like a mine-bending curve. The course is dotted with various slow curves, s-turns, and high-speed turn sequences, all of which test the mettle of the car drivers. It’s no wonder that in Le Mans’ heyday in the ’50s and ’60s, the best drivers in the world raced there.