Exactly 100 years ago, the first edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans brought together 33 cars. The centenary race, this weekend of June 10 and 11, 2023, with in particular the young Amiens Lilou Wadoux among the favorites in the GT category, must be a real party in front of 300,000 spectators.
In 1923, when Georges Durand had the crazy idea of setting up a 24-hour race, with the industrialist Jules Coquille and the journalist Charles Faroux, it was not yet called « 24 hours of Le Mans ». The « 24-hour endurance competition » brings together 33 teams of two drivers with production cars and it is a Chenard-et-Walker that wins by covering 2,209 kilometers. Since then, Le Mans has entered the legend of motorsport and well beyond. The 24 hours is also the round of numbers.
Only one driver in history has won the triple crown, which consists of winning at Le Mans, the Indianapolis 500 and, according to sources, the Monaco Grand Prix or the F1 world championship. This is the Briton Graham Hill, titled in the Sarthe in 1972. The drivers being less versatile than at that time, only Fernando Alonso seems one day able to imitate him if he were to win at Indianapolis.
Apart from Roger Dorchy in the 70s and 80s and Lilou Wadoux in the last two seasons, few Picard drivers have competed in the 24 Hours. This is the case of Julien Briché in 2006 and Renaud Derlot in 2004. Without success since they had both given up on a mechanical problem.
Holder of the absolute record for victories, the Dane Tom Kristensen won 9 times in the Sarthe between 1997 and 2014. He is particularly associated with the successes of Audi since eight of his nine successes were acquired with the brand with the rings.
Back this year as an official manufacturer in Hypercar, Porsche holds the record for victories with 19 wins. The German brand is ahead of its cousin Audi (13) and Ferrari (9). Favorite of the race, Toyota posted five successes in a row before this centenary edition.
Another true Mr. Le Mans, which he won four times, Henri Pescarolo holds the record for participations: 33 between 1966 and 1999. The driver historically linked to Matra, a native of Paris and loving until a few years, coming to the Baie de Somme, also has 12 participations to his credit as director of his own stable. At 80, health problems prevent him from going to Le Mans this year.
Only 64 women took the start of at least one edition of the 24 hours. Including the Amiens Lilou Wadoux (22 years old). For her first participation, in 2022, the young driver of the Richard Mille team finished 13th overall and 9th in the LMP2 category with Charles Milesi and world rally champion Sébastien Ogier. Having become an official Ferrari GT driver, she arrived at Le Mans crowned with her victory at the 6 Hours of Spa (Belgium) in May 2023. The first success for a woman in the world championship.
The prize for the longest distance traveled in 24 hours has belonged to Audi since 2010, with 5,410.7 km, or more than 225 km/hour on average, pit stops included! A record whose future remains linked to the various racing incidents likely to lead to the exit of the safety car.