Famous Drives

Famous Drives:
the 24 Hours of Le Mans

Does “Circuit de la Sarthe” mean anything to you? If not, that’s the name of the racetrack in Le Mans, officially the Circuit des 24 Heures, a mix of public roads and permanent sections of track. The name is a reference to the nearby river Sarthe as well as the department of the same name. 

  • Text
    Michael Petersen & Martin Trockner
  • Photo
    © SOLENE BAILLY (ACO)

Does “Circuit de la Sarthe” mean anything to you? If not, that’s the name of the racetrack in Le Mans, officially the Circuit des 24 Heures, a mix of public roads and permanent sections of track. The name is a reference to the nearby river Sarthe as well as the department of the same name. Though just saying “Le Mans” is enough – everyone will know what you mean: one of the most legendary circuits in the world, celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. The green flag for the 24-hour race is set to drop on June 10. On June 11 the checkered flag will determine the winner. Reason enough to go there for a lap ourselves. At least in our imagination.

Just saying “Le Mans” is enough – everyone will know what you mean: one of the most legendary circuits in the world, celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. The green flag for the 24-hour race is set to drop on June 10.

First, the good news. We’ll be accelerating more than braking: In total, a pro makes only eleven braking maneuvers on the 13.629-kilometer track. But first, full throttle. Up to the Dunlop corner, we accelerate to almost 300 km/h, jump from fifth to second gear, push through the curve, accelerate again to the Chapelle corner, from where we can see the legendary Tertre Rouge right-hander. Now it’s time to squeeze everything we can out of the car as we enter the Hunaudières, or Mulsanne Straight in English. Originally, the public road known as Ligne Droite des Hunaudières was a six-kilometer-long straight that made top speeds of more than 400 km/h possible. But when FIA ruled in 1990 that no straight could be longer than two kilometers, the circuit was modified to include two chicanes.

At the end of the straight, a battle with g-forces is in the cards as we brake from 316 km/h down to 87 km/h. This scenario is repeated as we approach the Indianapolis and Arnage corners – the slowest part of the circuit, where we maneuver the bends at 80 kilometers per hour. We’re almost at the end now. The last big test is the Ford chicane just before the start/finish straight, installed in 1968 to slow the cars down. Finally, the checkered flag. If you didn’t make a mistake, the whole thing took around 3:25 minutes.

© Alexis GOURE (ACO)
© Alexis GOURE (ACO)

→ Read these and other stories exclusively in ramp #61 & the Porsche Le Mans Special.

ramp #61 Love Is in the Air + Porsche LeMans-Special

ramp #61 Love Is in the Air + Porsche LeMans-Special

Ein blauer Himmel, der Duft des frischen Grases, Sonne und die Wärme des Augenblicks, vor allem Licht. Das Licht der Sonnenstrahlen, erklären die Wissenschaftler, ist der entscheidende Faktor, wenn uns zu Beginn der warmen Jahreszeit ein flotter Gute-Laune-Mix aus Glückshormonen energisch in den Sommer lockt.

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