Sports are meant to test the endurance and spirit of human beings. Intentionally putting mind and body in challenging situation is involved in almost every sport. Some of them use equipment – tennis or badminton, while others – marathon or sprint – depend only on the human body. One such sport that tests not only human body’s endurance but also excellence of our engineering skills is motor race. While the drivers of a motor race exercise their physical and mental skills, the cars involved are tested for their speed, strength and endurance.
Of all car races, perhaps the most demanding and difficult one is ‘Le Mans 24 hours’. It began in 1923 and is the oldest active sports car race. Name comes from its venue, the town of Le Mans in France. Both the vehicle and the racer have to run 24 hours, nearly in continuity. Mostly drivers are in a team of three, a minimum two, as current rules do not permit any racer to drive for more than 14 hours in a race. Earlier, some drivers, in an adrenaline rush, to save time, have done solo race as well. It is no longer permitted.
At breakneck speed, if attention of driver is missed even for a fraction of a second, the vehicle may end up in pieces and ashes. Numerous incidents of death and damage have occurred in Le Mans. Similarly, the records made in this race are unbelievable. French driver Roger Dorchy achieved a lightning speed of 405 kmph in 1988 when the circuit had a 6 km long straight. Now that no section of the 13.626 km circuit has any straight longer than 2 km, the highest speed recorded is 330 kmph. Just imagine a bullet being fired from a revolver.
All reputed car manufacturers send their racing teams. About 60 cars take part every year. Qualification criteria are strict. Every car is not built to give a 24-hour super torque. Aerodynamics of cars, their weight, design, engine capacity, fuel efficiency, break and tyre durability, sitting and safety for driver – and many other factors require microscopic precision to prepare a machine for this race. It is only excellent research and defect free performance that deliver a galloping rush on the roads of Le Mans.
A Danish driver Tom Kristensen has nine wins, most in Le Man’s history till now. The car manufacturer Porsche is the most successful marque with nineteen race wins. Many interesting records, achievements and distinctions are made in the history of Le Mans which is one of the Triple Crown of Motorsports – other two being Indianapolis 500 and Monaco Grand Prix. Difference among the three is while Le Mans is a fixed time race, other two have fixed distances.