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Auto-Racing: The Legendary LeMans Race

The Le Mans race takes place in France each year and was started in 1923 when racing was very popular in Europe. The purpose of the race is unique in that it is an endurance race as well as a speed race. The race takes place over a twenty-four hour period, but drivers usually drive for about two hours before they are rotated out and given a chance to rest. For the safety of all the drivers and to prevent fatigue during the race, which can lead to accidents, the requirement is to have three drivers per team.

The original concept of the race was to test the average sports car and not have specialized cars compete in the race. This has changed over time, but the innovations of the car manufacturers to win the races has affected the way cars are designed today including the aerodynamics, braking system and fuel economy of the engines. The cars are designed differently than traditional racecars, because they need to be able to drive for a long distance with no real stopping points for the car.

The race has run almost continuously since 1923. It was not held in 1936 due to the Great Depression and it was cancelled from 1940-1948 due to World War II. The race itself has evolved over the years with changes in the circuit, the way that the cars start and the rules regarding finishing the race. Most of the changes were made to keep spectators safer. In 1955 there was an accident where a car slammed into the stands and eighty people along with the driver were killed. The track no longer goes through the city and some of the curves were changed to protect people. The changes to the start moved from a mad dash beginning with a flag drop to a rolling start like you see in many races today. A rolling start allows the drives to start in waves, which is safer for the drivers.

Car companies use this race to work on innovative car designs and to build up the reputation of their companies. There are specific race teams for car companies in addition to sponsored teams like you see in Nascar racing. In addition to the traditional Le Mans race, you can now watch classic cars compete in the Le Mans race. These races allow cars built in years past compete against each other. These cars compete against other cars from the same time period, usually five year segments as well as against all the cars in the race for the top prize.

Today Le Mans is still a respected race. Many companies compete in it and try out new innovations such as hybrid or diesel cars to see if they have the ability to work long-term. The race in 2011 had two serious accidents and it brought to the forefront the safety concerns that were mentioned after the accidents in 1955. Endurance races based on the Le Mans race have been introduced in Europe, Asia and America as well.

Learn more about the Le Mans Race.

  • New York Times: Le Mans Race News: Read this article about the faceoff between Audi and Peugeot in the Le Mans race.
  • This is the official website of the race. It provides up to date information about upcoming races, and the results of the most recent race.
  • American This site talks about the American Le Mans Race. It provides video footage as well as details on the racing circuit.
  • Le Mans de Grand Prix Endurance: This site talks briefly about the first race and then lists the winners of all the races to date.
  • 24 Hours of Le Mans: This site provides the rosters and the winners of the races from 1950 to 2010, as well as summary of who the best drivers of the race are. 
  • 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans – Race Profile: This article compares the events of the 1955 race to the events that happened in the recent 2011 race.
  • Le Mans a Brief History: This article provides a brief history of the race, and highlights some of the best races and most significant changes to the race.
  • This Day in History: This entry discusses the tragedy of the 1955 Le Mans race, and how it affected the sport.
  • Le Mans Legend: This provides information on entering a race that is related to the traditional Le Mans race, but with older era cars. You can find entry information on the site as well.
  • Le Mans and Hybrid: This article talks about the first hybrid car to compete in the race, and how it hopes to do in the race. 
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