The legend began on 26 May 1923, with the opening edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the most gruelling and glamorous World Endurance Championship race. It encapsulates a century of history and fifty years of waiting to see a Prancing Horse car back on track in the top class. Ferrari created the 499P for this challenge, to leave the past behind and write the future. This development project draws on the Maranello manufacturer’s sporting tradition and reinterprets it with cutting-edge innovation, creating a Hypercar with a hybrid powertrain.
The 13,626-metre Circuit de la Sarthe, near the French city of Le Mans, is one of the longest tracks in the world. It is also home to one of the world’s most renowned and captivating races: the 24 Hours.
The circuit’s main feature is its use of stretches of public county roads which remain closed to traffic during competitions. These are used in conjunction with other permanent sections of track.
The original Le Mans track harks back to 1923, when local roads around the French town were put into use for the 24 Hours, nowadays, the marquee event in endurance car racing.
Over the years, the Circuit de la Sarthe has undergone numerous changes before settling for its current 13.5-kilometre length. It is characterised by its infamous long straight known as the Ligne Droite des Hunaudieres. This, like the race’s other straights, is notorious for the mechanical fatigue that cars are subjected to: with lengthy stretches of full-throttle acceleration, endless gear changes and abrupt braking. Particularly of note is the decisive final section of the Hunaudieres straight, taken virtually flat-out. It is no coincidence that disc brakes made their first appearance here at the Le Mans circuit. Furthermore, it was on this very track, where the first testing was carried out into the cut-off system, which stops fuel-flow into the engine during braking, thus reducing consumption. Fuel management has always been a decisive strategical factor for anyone aiming to win an endurance race.
In 1990, in order to reduce speeds, two chicanes were introduced on the Hunaudieres straight, the first named Forza Motorsport, the second Michelin.
The Le Mans circuit, whose real name is 'Circuit de la Sarthe', is located near the city of Le Mans in the French county of Sarthe.
It is one of the longest tracks in the world. Most of the layout is made up of public roads normally open to traffic (the D338 and D139). Over 9 km of the existing 13.6-kilometre circuit remain closed to road traffic during the periods of racing. Since its 1923 inauguration, structural modifications have led to continual variations in the track length.
The landmark points on the circuit are the Dunlop, Esse de la Foret, Tertre Rouge, Mulsanne, Indianapolis and Arnage turns. Another renowned section is the Hunaudières straight: one of the stretches normally open to road traffic as part of the Route Nationale 158/D338, connecting Le Mans to the city of Tours. The 6.75-kilometre straight is the longest of any street circuit in the world.
The circuit is famous for holding the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the blue riband event of the World Endurance Championship, organised by the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO). The single-day race gets underway at 15:00 on Saturday and concludes 24 hours later. The competition is open to prototypes and Grand Touring vehicles.
Until 1969 the 24 Hours got underway with what became known as the 'Le Mans start', with cars lined up on one side of the track and drivers on the other. At the stroke of three o’clock, with the French flag unfurled, drivers would dash across the track, board their cars and set off. This procedure became particularly hazardous and was eventually replaced in 1970 with a standing start. The following year, the rolling start was first introduced and remains to this day.