24 HOURS OF LE MANS

5 THINGS I LEARNED AT THE WORLD’S MOST ICONIC EN­DURANCE RACE

Super Street - - Contents - WORDS Sam Du

Last year, I found my­self a cou­ple hours south of Paris at 24 Hour of Le Mans as a guest of Toy­ota. No joke, it was one of the most mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ences I’ve had as a car en­thu­si­ast, and that’s with­out know­ing a whole lot about each class and com­peti­tor. So with­out over­whelm­ing you with the nitty-gritty about the race specifics and his­tory, here are five im­por­tant things I took away that you should know, too:

1. The ori­gins of 24 Hour of Le Mans date back to 1923 (95 years ago!). Since ’12, the race has been part of the FIA World En­durance Cham­pi­onship (WEC). For this com­ing sea­son, Le Mans will be used twice in com­pe­ti­tion—june 16-17, 2018 and June 15-16, 2019.

2. Size-wise, Le Mans is on a whole ’nother level. Last year drew more than 250,000 spec­ta­tors. It’s big­ger than a mas­sive mu­sic fes­ti­val like Coachella, and fans lit­er­ally stay up all night eat­ing and drink­ing. I slept but a cou­ple hours dur­ing my stay.

3. The track uses a mix of pub­lic coun­try roads of Le Mans and pur­pose­built track sec­tions. It’s 8.469 miles long and the fa­mous Mul­sanne Straight stretches 3.7 miles where pro­to­type cars like Toy­ota’s TS050 Hy­brid reach more than 200 mph.

4. The TS050 is a race car de­vel­oped un­der the ’16 Pro­to­type rules and is pow­ered by a twin-turbo di­rect in­jec­tion 2.4L V-6 mated to a 8MJ hy­brid sys­tem. The pow­er­train was de­vel­oped in Japan while the rest of the car de­signed and built in Ger­many.

5. Le Mans is the ul­ti­mate test for a race car and its team. Last year, 60 cars started and only 49 fin­ished! In ’16, Toy­ota ex­pe­ri­enced a last-minute fail­ure, which made them for­feit the race on the fi­nal lap. In ’17, the three com­pet­ing Toy­otas fell short of ex­pec­ta­tions; only one fin­ished. For ’18, the only other man­u­fac­turer in its class, Porsche, has pulled out of con­tention. Toy­ota will only be fac­ing pri­va­teers in the LMP1 class; how­ever, that doesn’t mean all is lost. It truly takes balls for any man­u­fac­turer or team to put in all the money and ef­fort re­quired of Le Mans. It’s an un­pre­dictable race as Toy­ota has ex­pe­ri­enced, but we’ll be cheer­ing for them in the next two races as they con­tinue to strive for their first cham­pi­onship in one of mo­tor­sport’s most iconic spec­ta­cles.

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