The 80th running of the Le Mans 24 hour race takes place this weekend. To mark the occasion, here are 10 things you might not know about this historic motorsport event.
The 24 hour race has always been hugely popular with British people, and in particular with sports car enthusiasts. In 1999, a record-breaking 2460 TVRs set off from the UK, all headed for Le Mans. An equally record-breaking 14 of them made it.
The 1982 Le Mans 24 hour race actually ran for 26 hours and 34 minutes after it was realised that no one had bothered to keep an eye on the clock.
Tom Kristensen has made Le Mans so popular with Danes that this year the entire population of Denmark will be at Circuit de la Sarthe leaving the country completely empty. Fortunately the Swedes have promised to pop over to feed the cat and turn on a few lights.
Le Mans landmark Circuit Karting Alain Prost is so named because the facility is actually run by the eponymous former F1 legend. ‘I cannot talk now, I ‘ave, ‘ow you say, a stag do coming in,’ the four-time world champion said. ‘Alors, regardez le video du safety avec M. Martin Brundle!’ he added.
In 2004 the French trading standards authority, Le Standards du Trading, unsuccessfully took action against dozens of track-side stalls for using inflatable promotional devices to con drunk British people into thinking they were selling chips when in fact the things they are selling are definitely NOT chips.
Some of the outlying fields now used as Le Mans campsites were the scenes of brutal, muddy, bloody battles during the First World War. Conditions have since got a lot worse.
In 2006 French police issued speeding fines to a record 10,474 British motorists who were on their way to Le Mans. Some of these convictions were later overturned when it was discovered that sneaky Gendarmes had actually crept over the Channel and were stopping people as far north as Bedfordshire.
One person never to have taken part in Le Mans is former F1 star Rubens Barrichello. ‘I would love to but it always clashes with my annual 24 hour DVD marathon of The Fall Guy,’ the Brazilian racer said. ‘Damn you Colt Seavers!’ he added.
In 2005, famed irony enthusiast Derek Bell attempted to enter Le Mans in an ex-Gulf liveried sports prototype that had been crudely painted to look like a shabby Nissan Bluebird bought off eBay for £250.
The French organisers of the 24 hours race recently denied accusations of local bias after they issued a press release which claimed the five most successful car makers in Le Mans history were “Peugeot, Renault, Citroen, Peugeot encore, Axiam”.