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Le Mans, The History behind this famous french race

By foot, chariot, horse, or camel, men have an innate need to compete for speed and glory. From the moment the car was invented, it became inevitable that men would be racing, thus the Grand Prix of endurance held in Le Mans, France was born. The race began in 1923 is the longest running car race in history. The first race was the brain child of George Durand, Charles Faroux, and Emile Coquile. The three were critics of automobile advertisements, safety claims, and reliability statements. So they designed the race to serve as a test of performance and safety.

The Maiden Run

The 1923 running included 33 cars from 3 different countries and 17 different brands open to builders. The eve before race time, a hail storm pounded the track creating copious amounts of mud, canceling the fireworks show, and driving away many spectators. The residual gray skies and humidity reduced visibility and challenged the participating cars and drivers and drove home the testing atmosphere that continues to be the motto at the Le Mans circuit. Despite the multiple problems many cars had there were only 3 drop outs, a record that has never been matched in any other race.

Traditions and Rules

The traditions of Le Mans are as unique as the race itself. The race starts under the tricolors of the French flag with a flyby of colored smoke trails. Unique rules include starting the race with at least 1 hour before replacing or topping off fluids, and turning off the car during pit stops. Both of which are meant to test the reliability and durability of the vehicle. The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the race where the tradition of spraying Champagne at the completion of the race rather than drinking it. It is rumored that in 1967, underdog turned race winner Dan Gurney climbed the victory stand with a magnum of champagne and sprayed the spectators thus establishing a tradition that has lasted more than 40 years in motorsports. Until 1970, the races started with a mad dash from the starting line across the track to their awaiting cars.

Tragedy

The art and sport of racing is plagued with accidents and through these accidents the automobile industry learns more about the sport of driving. In 1955, Le Mans was the site of the worst historically significant accident known in the motorsport world. During the pit exit the Mercedes car hi the Austin Healy car and then rammed into the bank. The vehicle exploded and ejected its engine into the grandstands. The driver Pierre Levegh and 80 spectators died that day at Le Mans. This tragedy led to sweeping changes in car and racing safety. While other accidents have occurred at Le Mans and other races, changes continue to evolve to improve safety standards.

Significance

The Le Mans race changes the automobile industry with each running. The innovations in design, development, reliability, safety, and performance change and create the new features we see at dealerships every year. If were impressed with the new fuel efficiency designs in the last 5 to 7 years, take a look back at the cars running at Le Mans in the last 10 years. You will find research and development teams at Audi, Ford, BMW, and others that have been pushing their cars to the limit on the circuit. The aerodynamics changes the speed and force that the shape of the car exerts. The observations and performances from the race teach companies how to change the shape, weight, and body work of the car for efficient movement on the highway, and surface streets. This is true for engines, fuel efficiency, safety features and breaks. Since Le Mans isn't an all-out sprint, the endurance and efficiency of the car is a real life test for automobiles for the everyday driver.