It’s one of the world’s greatest races – and it carries almost a full century of tradition. We take a quick look at three facts you might, or might not know, about the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
1: Triple Crown
The 24 Hours of Le Mans is part of motor racing’s ”Triple Crown”, alongside the similarly prestigious Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix and America’s Indianapolis 500.
To claim the Triple Crown, a driver is required to win each of the three events during the course of their career. Only one man has ever achieved this exceptional feat; Britain’s Graham Hill, who won the Indianapolis 500 in 1966, Le Mans in 1972 and the Monaco GP a full five times between 1963-1969. Hill was also crowned Formula 1 World Champion in 1962 and 1968.
As for current-day drivers, IndyCar star Juan-Pablo Montoya is the one sitting closest to a Triple Crown, having won both Monaco and Indianapolis (the latter twice).
2: The birth of the champagne custom – in France, of course
Le Mans was the scene of the first known instance of a by-now classic motorsport tradition – the spraying of champagne on the podium. This extravagant practise dates back to 1967, when Dan Gurney celebrated in style after winning that year’s 24 Hours in tandem with fellow American A.J. Foyt.
The very Ford GT40 that won that race 50 years ago is on display at Le Mans this week.
3: Scandinavian success
With nine victories to his name between 1997-2013 – including six of them on the trot – Denmark’s Tom Kristensen is the most successful driver in the history of Le Mans. One of Kristensen’s team-mates on his first win in 1997 was Sweden’s Stefan Johansson – Felix’s own advisor, who is present at the Circuit de la Sarthe this week. There has been one further Swedish victor in the event, with Stanley Dickens emerging triumphant in 1989.