The 24 Hours of Le Mans is one of the most exciting endurance races of the year, and 2022 marks 99 years since the iconic race first took place way back in 1923. A total of 62 cars will compete for victory on the 8.47-mile (13.63 km) track between the 11th and 12th of June, so here’s a quick rundown for all you Le Mans first-timers to bring you up to speed with the world’s most historic endurance race.
The race takes place at the Circuit de la Sarthe near the French town of Le Mans. The first-ever race took place between the 26th and 27th of May 1923, with the competition designed to encourage innovation and development within the automotive industry. It’s safe to say that Le Mans has succeeded in stirring development, acting as a testbed for motorsport technologies ranging from radial tyres all the way up to the modern hybrid engine. The latest challenge from the iconic endurance race is dubbed ‘Mission H24’, which has encouraged manufacturers to build a hydrogen-powered Le Mans racer in preparation for the 2024 race.
The mammoth course combines the Bugatti Circuit - a permanent, purpose-built racetrack measuring 2.6 miles in length - with local roads. One of the most iconic features of the circuit is the Mulsanne straight, which stretches for 3.7 miles alone and enables the racers to reach speeds north of 200mph. In the name of safety, the long-distance straight was modified in 1990 to include a windy chicane. However, drivers need to be on their A-game to successfully exit the high-speed chicanes at the end of the straight.
There are some fantastic corners to watch out for at Le Mans, requiring high-speed entry, a smooth exit and, above all, bravery from the drivers behind the wheel. The iconic Porsche Curves is a quick, tricky section, and it’s arguably the most difficult corner on the entire track. The Tertre Rouge is another of the Circuit de la Sarthe’s famous corners, and it provides the perfect opportunity for drivers to launch into the first stretch of the Mulsanne straight carrying high speed. Other corners to watch out for are the Dunlop Esses, the Forza Chicane, the Indianapolis and the unsettling Arnage bend. In summary, there’s action to be found in every section of the Circuit de la Sarthe.
There are three different varieties of cars that compete at Le Mans. The latest introduction is the Hypercar class, which the FIA introduced to draw more OEM manufacturers to the sport. In this class is the new breed of Le Mans Hypercar (LMh) prototype racers. You’ll see Toyota Gazoo Racing, American firm Glickenhaus and Renault-owned Alpine contesting this class. Peugeot will be joining the category with its LMh later in 2022, while Ferrari will bolster the ranks in 2023.
In 2023, Le Mans Daytona hybrid (LMDh) rules, which are shared with the American IMSA series, will be joining the pack of racers. These cars aren’t quite as bespoke - teams must choose from one of four chassis supplied by Dallara, Ligier, Multimatic and Oreca, and pair their own powertrain with a standardised hybrid system. Manufacturers such as Porsche, Cadillac, BMW and Lamborghini are promising to get involved in this side of the sport over the next couple of years.
Next up is the LMP2 class, which comprises mostly of private teams running their cars on one of four chassis with a single power unit on offer – a Gibson Technology 4.2-litre naturally aspirated flat-plane V8 engine producing around 552 bhp. Below the LMP2 class are the GTE Pro and GTE AM racers, which make up the bottom half of the grid. These are production-based racers, with cars in the class including the Porsche 911 RSR-19 and the Ferrari 488 GTE.
Toyota Gazoo Racing are the favourites to win this year’s event, with Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez Sebastien, Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa making up a dominant team. The Japanese motorsport firm has won four straight titles and is hoping to create a dynasty to match the iconic Audi team that achieved several victories between 2006 and 2014. The #8 GR Toyota will be starting from pole position, but don’t be surprised to see Glickenhaus and Alpine put up a strong fight for overall victory.
You can watch the Le Mans 24 Hour race on Eurosport and Discovery+ channels in the UK which are available to Sky customers and cost £6.99 per month or £59.99 annually. Coverage of the race will also be available via Amazon Prime in the UK, while those in the USA can tune in to Motor Trend from 9:30 ET on Saturday to catch the event.
The race will take place on Saturday, 11th of June, with the warm-up taking place between 9:30am BST and the official start taking place at 3:00pm BST. The race finishes at 3:00pm on Sunday, 12th of June, so get your popcorn and energy drinks ready for 24 hours of adrenaline-fuelled racing.