Lure of Le Mans

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FERRARI-EATING: The Ford GT40.


SINCE the 1920s, anybody who was anything to do with performance cars wanted their machine to win at Le Mans. Even now, the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race is the ultimate accolade. Throughout history the Circuit de la Sarthe has seen the fastest cars in the world hurling themselves down the Mulsanne straight and around the public roads of Le Mans town.
This continued until 1939, when Hitler’s European tour forced the Le Mans 24-hour race to take a 10-year break. The race resumed in 1949 following the reconstruction of the Le Mans circuit and has remained virtually unchanged since. Apart from the famous Le Mans start being changed to a normal one, the move from opencockpit roadsters to closed-cockpit coupes would be the only major change in the race format in its history.
Through the 50s, the prolific Jaguar, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Mercedes- Benz and others began sending multiple cars in teams. This increased the spectacle, as well as the amount of cars on track. By the end of the 1960s, Ford would enter the Le Mans 24- hours with their Ferrari eating GT40s, taking four straight wins before the era of production-based cars would come to a close.
For the 1970s, Le Mans 24- hours’ competitors moved towards more extreme speeds, and the day of the Porsche began, where the 917, 935 and 936 were dominant.
The rule-bending trend continued throughout the 80s and 90s which resulted in Porsche, Mercedes- Benz, Toyota, Nissan, Panoz, and Lotus entering the GT categories. By the 1999 event, these GT cars were competing with the Le Mans Prototypes of BMW, Audi, and Ferrari.
From the turn of the century, Audi have made the race their own showroom. Apart from a brief interlude where Bentley stamped their foot down for a couple of years. Audi have ruled the roost. Until 2014 saw the return of the Porsche.


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