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24 Hours of Le Mans: All you need to know about this epic race

2018-05-11 09:47

Image: Rolex

Geneva – This past weekend the 14-month FIA World Endurance Championship began, marking an innovative period of transition for the Series.

Starting with the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, the eight-race ‘Super Season’ now features two editions of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with the twice-around-the-clock contest serving as the finale to the 2018 – 2019 FIA World Endurance Championship.

True test of strength and endurance

Regarded as the ultimate race against time, the 24 Hours of Le Mans tests human and technical performance in extreme conditions where every second counts.

This year's edition of Le Mans will take place from June 16 to 17 at the iconic 13.626km Circuit de la Sarthe, France.

When the Rolex clock strikes 3pm local time, the French Tricolour flag will drop and the sixty cars competing will embark on a journey towards motor sport history.

This season, the start line has moved 145 metres closer to the first corner, allowing all the competitors to line up on the pit straight before the starting orders are given, while, as part of a continued effort to improve safety, an asphalt run-off has been added to the Porsche curves.

                                                                                 Image: Rolex

To succeed at this 24-hour marathon, drivers and teams must find an intricate balance between speed and reliability.

A few familiar faces

The 86th edition of Le Mans will showcase first-class racing and a star-studded cast to motor sport enthusiasts across the globe.

The Le Mans Prototype 1 class (LMP1) will see eight privateer entries take up the two-car challenge of Toyota Gazoo Racing, who will be vying to secure the team’s first 24 Hours of Le Mans victory, having come exceptionally close in previous years.

Driving for Toyota on his maiden Le Mans appearance is two-time FIA Formula 1 Drivers’ World Champion, Fernando Alonso, who will go head-to-head with 2009 F1 World Champion Jenson Button – making his Le Mans debut for SMP Racing.

Alonso has attracted international attention in his mission to claim motor sport’s ultimate accolade, the Triple Crown: victory at the F1 Grand Prix in Monaco, 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500.

                                                                                 Image: Rolex

Another strong contender for this prestigious feat is Columbia’s Juan Pablo Montoya, racing for United Autosports in the 20-car strong LMP2 category.
As part of a renewed commitment to GT racing, BMW will return to the LM GTE-Pro class, marking its first appearance at Le Mans since 2011.

A strong list of competitors

The German manufacturer will compete alongside fellow marques Ferrari, Aston Martin, Porsche, Chevrolet Corvette and Ford, generating intense competition as the teams push the boundaries of engineering innovation.

This year’s elite field is made up of 30 prototype and 30 GTE cars, including 13 entries in the LM GTE-Am class.

                                                                                    Image: Rolex

As reward for travelling the furthest distance in 24 hours, the winners will receive the Le Mans trophy and a specially engraved Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona timepiece – the ultimate racing driver’s watch.

Nine-time winner of Le Mans and Rolex Testimonee, Tom Kristensen, said: "Le Mans is a legendary event, demanding the ultimate in reliability and both technical and human performance.

Returning to Circuit de la Sarthe as part of the Rolex family is always an honour, particularly given the brand’s close ties with motor sport and endurance racing. With two editions of Le Mans in one season and a rejuvenated calendar, it promises to be an enthralling Championship."

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