An Idiot’s Guide To The 24 Hours Of Le Mans

Tuning in to the world’s most famous endurance race for the first time this year? Here’s your guide to the basics
An Idiot’s Guide To The 24 Hours Of Le Mans

It’s June, which can only mean one thing for the world of motorsport – the 24 Hours of Le Mans is upon us.

The world’s most famous endurance race will take place on 15-16 June, with several big-name manufacturers and drivers descending on the French countryside.

Naturally, such a big race often captures the attention of newbies to endurance racing. If you’re among those watching your first ever Le Mans (or just need a refresher), this guide should help you get up to speed.

Where is Le Mans?

An Idiot’s Guide To The 24 Hours Of Le Mans

Nestled in the northwest of France is a little town along the Sarthe River called Le Mans. For 51 weeks a year, it’s home to around 140,000 people.

For one week, though, that rises to around 400,000 as motorsport fans from across the world descend upon the Circuit de la Sarthe, based on the edge of the town.

Part of the 8.467-mile circuit is a permanent fixture - from the high-speed Porsche Curves towards the end of the lap, leading through to Tetre Rouge, a near-flat-if-you’re-brave right-hander.

From there, closed local roads are used to make up the rest of the track, consisting mostly of the Mulsanne Straight – normally the RD 338 to regular traffic – where leading cars can reach speeds over 210mph before a heavy braking zone.

From there, it heads towards 90-degree corners in Indianapolis and Virage, before rejoining to the permanent circuit.

Can I have a quick history lesson?

An Idiot’s Guide To The 24 Hours Of Le Mans

Certainly. 2024 will mark 101 years since the very first 24 Hours of Le Mans, with the first held in 1923, making it the oldest active endurance race in the world.

Held as a standalone event in its early years, it became a part of the World Sportscar Championship from 1953 until 1992. It was passed around various championships from then until 2012 when it became the highlight of the newly-formed World Endurance Championship (WEC).

Porsche is the most successful manufacturer with 19 overall wins, with Danish racer Tom Kristensen the most-crowned driver with nine victories.

Which cars are racing at Le Mans?

Le Mans has three categories - Hypercar, LMP2 and LMGT3. This year’s race will see 62 cars line up on the grid. Each could in theory compete for the overall win, with all cars on track together, but every category has its own race within the race.

An Idiot’s Guide To The 24 Hours Of Le Mans


This is the top-class in Le Mans, and these cars are the ones to keep an eye on for the overall win. They’re purpose-built prototypes, and are split into two subcategories - LMH and LMDh - although both compete against each other in the same class. It’s a little confusing at first but keep with us.

We’ll start with LMDh, as this one is a pretty easy one to wrap your head around. The backbone of the car – basically everything but the engine and bodywork – is supplied by one of four chassis manufacturers: Dallara, Multimatic, Ligier and Oreca.

These are bought in by mainstream car manufacturers who then supply their own engines and bodywork for the car. It’s a cost-effective way to go racing, which is why it’s attracted some big names – BMW, Lamborghini, Cadillac, Porsche and Lamborghini are all competing with this ruleset.

Then you have LMH, which is a less restrictive but more costly ruleset. Here, manufacturers can build their own chassis as well as supply everything else. Also, where LMDh must be rear-driven only, LMH cars can supply electric power to the front axle from a hybrid system. Toyota, Ferrari, Peugeot and Alpine are the biggest names in this category, with Isotta Fraschini also turning up – although don’t expect them to be too competitive.

You’re probably thinking that LMH has a massive advantage, right? Well, no, as WEC uses Balance of Performance, usually referred to as ‘BoP’. We’ll come to that in a bit.


LMP2 cars are much easier to explain. Regulations in theory allow teams to buy a chassis from one of four constructors and an engine from pretty much anywhere, but the 2024 entry list is simpler than that.

Each of the 16 LMP2 cars is an Oreca chassis with an engine from British manufacturer Gibson.

The name ‘LMP2’ is a carryover from the previous WEC regulations, which had LMP1 as the top-tier class. LMP2 remains as the second-fastest category for now, although its future is a bit up in the air at the moment.


LMGT3 is a new class for WEC this year, replacing GTE. This is a slightly modified ruleset from the globally recognised GT3 category, which is used in a variety of international and national championships.

These are based on road-going cars, albeit extensively modified. Manufacturer-backed efforts from Porsche, Ferrari, McLaren, Lamborghini, BMW, Aston Martin, Chevrolet and Ford will all compete with a pair of privateer Lexus RC Fs on the grid as well.

It would take something truly incredible for an LMGT3 car to win the race overall, as it’s far and away the slowest class, but it often throws up some of the best inter-class racing of all.

Wasn’t there a NASCAR last year?

An Idiot’s Guide To The 24 Hours Of Le Mans

There was indeed a NASCAR stock car, albeit modified, competing last year. You’d be right for thinking it’s an odd inclusion, too.

That was entered under Garage 56, a long-standing ‘experimental’ entry which gives a one-off right to race to anyone with an idea good enough. Usually, that’s used to demonstrate future tech although last year it was to celebrate 75 years of NASCAR racing.

There’s no Garage 56 this year, sadly.

What is ‘BoP’?

An Idiot’s Guide To The 24 Hours Of Le Mans

Balance of Performance, better known as BoP, is a system used by WEC governing bodies the FIA and the ACO to keep the racing competitive.

It’s not designed to even out the whole field, but rather cars within individual categories. It’s quite a complex thing to wrap your head around, but simply put, cars that are faster early in the season will have their performance culled by means of power restrictions or ‘ballast’ (extra weight) to try and even things out rather than have a Red Bull F1-style era of domination.

It’s not a perfect system and often throws up complaints from manufacturers who feel – rightly or wrong – unfairly hampered. So much so that sporting regulations actually forbid it from being discussed. Regardless, expect to hear about it quite a few times across the Le Mans race weekend.

Will there be any drivers I’ve heard of?

An Idiot’s Guide To The 24 Hours Of Le Mans

If you’ve got a general interest in motorsport, almost certainly. The series has its own set of legendary names – with fan favourites competing this year including André Lotterer, Loïc Duval and Mike Conway.

For those unfamiliar with WEC, though, there are plenty of names from F1 years gone by. 2009 world champion Jenson Button will be competing in a Porsche 963 LMDh, with cult favourite Kamui Kobayashi a legend of endurance racing in his own right. Other names from recent history include Mick Schumacher, Romain Grosjean and Antonio Giovinazzi.

Bonus mention to six-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon as well, who will be competing in Cadillac’s LMDh as he seeks his Le Mans win having competed in five races before.

When does the race start and how can I watch it?

An Idiot’s Guide To The 24 Hours Of Le Mans

The 24 Hours of Le Mans will start at 3pm CEST (2pm UK) on 15 June and, if you haven’t guessed from the name, will finish 24 hours later.

In the UK, Eurosport will broadcast the race live on television or you can watch with the Discovery+ app. If you’d rather listen in, Radio Le Mans offers uninterrupted audio coverage of the race.

You’re a bit out of luck if you’d like to go to the race, with tickets sold out. You can chance your luck on the official resale site, but you may be better off saving your pennies for the 2025 race. Tickets usually go on sale in late Autumn.

How does qualifying work?

Qualifying is split up into two sessions. The first takes place on Wednesday evening, with all 62 cars taking to the track for a one-hour session. At the end of this, the top six from each class will advance to ‘Hyperpole’ with everyone else’s starting positions determined.

Hyperpole is a spectacle of its own, taking place on Thursday evening with a half-hour session. 24 cars will remain in this session to compete for pole positon in their respective classes, and refuelling is not allowed.

How do you win Le Mans?

An Idiot’s Guide To The 24 Hours Of Le Mans

Unlike Formula 1, Le Mans is a race against the clock rather than a set number of laps. Simply put, the car that covers the most distance in 24 hours wins the race.

The race doesn’t just suddenly stop as the clock ticks over, though. Once the 24-hour mark is reached, the current lap becomes the final lap. It’s very rare at that point for two cars to be wheel-to-wheel on the same lap by this point, but fingers crossed that’ll happen this year.

Rather than one driver per car (although that did happen way back when), a car has three drivers on rotation working together as a team. Each must complete a minimum amount of time in the car.


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