The 24 Hours of LeMans is the world’s oldest endurance race for sports cars, held every year since 1923 near the town of Le Mans in France. Also known as the “Grand Prix of Endurance and Efficiency”, it is one of the most prestigious car races in the planet and is one the “Triple Crown of Motorsport” along with the Daytona 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix. Since 2012, the 24 Hours of LeMans has been a part of the FIA World Endurance Championship
The race is held every June at the Circuit de la Sarthe which is composed of a closed circuit track and public roads that are closed temporarily during the race. As its name suggests, the race lasts for 24 hours on the estimate. It starts in the afternoon and ends the following day at around the same time it started during the previous day. Over the 24 hours of racing, the distance covered is more than 5,000 km. The current race length record for the 24 Hours of LeMans was 5,410 in 2010 which is approximately six times the length of the Indianapolis 500 or 18 times longer than an average F1 Grand Prix.
The current track is 13.626 km long with 38 turns. It has been shortened from its original length, mostly for safety reasons. This was the reason behind the creation of the Dunlop curve and the Tertre Rouge corners before rejoining the previous circuit on the Mulsanne. In 1990, the FIA declared that it would no longer sanction a race track which had a straight that was longer than 2 km. Because of that, the Mulsanne was modified by adding two chicanes to its 6 km straight. Now that the straights are shorter, the top speeds at the LeMans are usually around 330 km/h.
Former Winners of LeMans
Porsche is the most successful car manufacturer in the 24 Hours of LeMans with a total of 19 victories overall including seven straight from 1981 to 1987. Audi is second with 13 wins and it has been the most dominant car manufacturer in the race since the turn of the century with 13 wins in 15 races joined. Ferrari is third with nine wins including six in a row from 1960 to 1965. Jaguar is next with a total of seven wins while Bentley, Alfa Romeo and Ford each have four triumphs in the race. Last year, Japan became only the second Japanese manufacturer to win after Mazda who accomplished the feat in 1991.
Tom Kristensen has the most victories in the 24 Hours of LeMans with nine wins between 1997 and 2013 including six in a row from 2000 to 2005. Kristensen is considered the greatest driver in the race and is even dubbed as “Mr. LeMans”. Prior to Kristensen, Jacky Ickx was the winningest driver with six victories between 1969 to 1982 which earned him honorary citizenship to the town of LeMans. Woolf Barnato (1928-1930) and Fernando Alonso (2018-19) are the only drivers to win every LeMans race which they joined.
Alonso, Sebastien Buemi and Kazumi Nakajima of Toyota Gazoo Racing team have won the last two installments of the 24 Hours of LeMans using their Toyota TS050 Hybrid car. Their win in 2018 snapped Porsche’s three-year winning run from 2015-2017.
Next year’s race will be the 88th installment of the race and will take place on June 13-14, 2020 at its usual venue. As of now, the racing betting odds for the 2020 24 Hours of LeMans haven’t been released yet but we’re keeping our eyes on some teams.
The last two installments of the 24 Hours of LeMans has been won by Toyota Gazoo Racing’s car #8 which had Sebastien Bumi, Fernando Alonso, and Kazuki Nakajima as its three drivers. In 2016 and 2017, Buemi and Nakajima raced with British driver Anthony Davidson. They were not classified in 2016 after failing to complete the last lap under six minutes. In 2017, the trio finished 8th but with Alonso’s arrival in 2018, the team has won two LeMans in a row.
Interestingly, the runners-up in the last two years have also been the same car and from the same team. Toyota Gazoo Racing’s car #7 has finished second behind its sister Toyota in two consecutive LeMan races. Driven by Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, and Jose Maria Lopez, the car was leading the 2019 race when it suffered a tire puncture that enabled #8 to take the lead and eventually win the race. Given their performance in the past two years, this entry should be among the favorites in the LMP1 class race along with its sister Toyota.
Rebellion Racing’s #1 and #3 have also figured prominently in the last two installments of the 24 Hours of LeMans. Rebellion Racing #3 finished 3rd in 2018 and 5th in 2019 while the Rebellion Racing #1 was 4th in the LMP1 class race in both 2018 and 2019. In 2019, #3 was driven by Thomas Laurent, Gustavo Menezes, and Nathanael Berthon, who took over from Mathias Beche who was the third driver in 2018. #1 was driven by Bruno Senna, Andre Lotterer and Neel Jani in both 2018 and 2019.
We’re still 11 months from the 2020 24 Hours of LeMans and a lot of things can happen. We don’t even know yet if the same teams will race again next year. Or if a driver from a team will be replaced. But I think that the 2018 and 2019 winners will be back in 2020 to defend their title and they will be considered as the favorites to win again. Fernando Alonso, the two-time Formula One champion, has made a difference in that team and he is 2-2 in his LeMans career. We’ll give our predictions for this race when the odds are out.