History of Le Mans

Enter any year (4 digit format) from 1923 onwards in the box below and click Submit to see the race results for that year.

To see a summary of all the winners from 1923 onwards click below.


The 24 Hours of Le Mans was first run on 26 and 27 May, 1923, through public roads around Le Mans. Originally planned to be a three year event awarded the Rudge Whitworth Triennial Cup, with a winner being declared by the car which could go the farthest distance over three consecutive 24 Hour races, this idea was abandoned in 1928 and overall winners were declared for each single year depending on who covered the farthest distance by the time 24 hours were up. The early races were dominated by French, British, and Italian drivers, teams, and cars, with Bugatti, Bentley, and Alfa Romeo being the dominant marques. Innovations in car design began appearing at the track in the late 1930s, with Bugatti and Alfa Romeo running highly aerodynamic bodywork in order to run down the Mulsannes Straight at faster speeds. In 1936 the race was cancelled due to general strikes in France, then with the outbreak of World War II in late 1939, the race went on a ten year hiatus while France reconstructed itself.


Following the reconstruction of the circuit facilities, the race was resumed in 1949 with renewed interest from major automobile manufacturers. After the formation of the World Sportscar Championship in 1953, of which Le Mans was a part, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, and many others began sending multiple cars backed by their respective factories to compete for overall wins against their competitors. Unfortunately this fierce competition would also lead to tragedy with an accident during the 1955 race in which the car of Pierre Levegh crashed into the crowd of spectators, killing more than 80 people. This led to widespread safety measures being brought into place not only at the circuit, but elsewhere in the motorsports world. However, even though the safety standards improved, so did the speeds of the cars. The move from open-cockpit roadsters to closed-cockpit coupes would help produce speeds over 320 km/h on the Mulsanne. Race cars of the time were still mostly based on production road cars, but by the end of the 1960s, the Ford Motor Company would enter the picture with their GT40s, taking four straight wins before the era of production-based wins would come to a close.


For the new decade, the race took a turn towards more extreme speeds and automotive designs. These extreme speeds led to the replacement of the typical standing Le Mans start with a rolling Indianapolis start. Although production-based cars still raced, they were now in the lower classes while purpose-built sportscars become the norm. The Porsche 917, 935, and 936 were dominant throughout the decade, but a resurgence by French manufacturers Matra-Simca and Renault saw the first victories for the nation since the 1950 race. This decade is also remembered for strong performances from many privateer constructors, with two scoring the only victories for a privateer. John Wyer's Mirage won in 1975 while Jean Rondeau's self-titled chassis took 1980.


The rest of the 1980s was known for the dominance by Porsche under the new Group C race car formula which pushed for fuel efficiency. Originally running the effective 956, it was later replaced by the 962. Both chassis were cheap enough for privateers to purchase them en masse, leading to the two chassis winning six years in a row. Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz returned to sports car racing, with Jaguar being the first to break Porsche's dominance with victories in 1988 and 1990 (with the XJR-9 and Jaguar XJR-12 respectively). Mercedes-Benz also won in 1989 with what was seen as the latest incarnation of the elegant "Silver Arrows", the Sauber C9, while an influx of Japanese manufacturer interest saw prototypes from Nissan and Toyota. In 1989 too a W.M.-Peugeot set up a new record speeding at 406 km/h (253 mph) in the Ligne Droite des Hunaudières, famous for its 6 km (3.7 mi) long straight. Mazda would be the only Japanese manufacturer to succeed, with their unique rotary-powered 787B winning in 1991. For 1992 and 1993, Peugeot entered the sport and dominated the race with the Peugeot 905 as the Group C formula and World Sportscar Championship were fading in participation. The circuit would also undergo one of its most notable changes in 1990, when the 5 km long Mulsanne was modified to include two chicanes in order to stop speeds of more than 400 km/h from being reached. This began a trend by the ACO to continually attempt to slow portions of the track down, although speeds over 320 km/h are still regularly reached at various points on a lap.


Following the demise of the World Sportscar Championship, Le Mans saw a resurgence of production-based grand tourer cars. Thanks to a loophole in the rules, Porsche was successfully able to convince the ACO that a Dauer 962 Le Mans supercar was a production car, allowing Porsche to race their Porsche 962 for one final time, dominating the field. Although the ACO attempted to close the loop hole for 1995, newcomer McLaren would win the race in their supercar's first appearance thanks to reliability, beating faster yet more trouble prone prototypes. The trend would continue through the 1990s as more exotic supercars were built in order to skirt the ACO's rules regarding production-based race cars, leading to Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Nissan, Panoz, and Lotus entering the GT categories. This culminated in the 1999 event, in which these GT cars were faced with the Le Mans Prototypes of BMW, Audi, and Ferrari. BMW would survive with the victory, their first ever. This strong manufacturer influence led the ACO to lending the Le Mans name to a sports car series in the United States in 1999, known as the American Le Mans Series, which competes to this day and serves to qualify teams to enter Le Mans.


Following the 1999 event, many major automobile manufacturers would pull out of sports car racing due to the costs associated with running the event. Among them, only Cadillac and Audi would remain, with Audi easily dominating the race with their R8. Cadillac would pull out of the series after three years and although Panoz, Chrysler, and MG would all briefly attempt to take on Audi, none could match the R8's performance. After three victories in a row, Audi provided engine, team staff and drivers to their corporate partner Bentley, who had returned in 2001, and the factory Bentley Speed 8s were able to succeed ahead of privateer Audis in 2003.


At the end of 2005, after five overall victories for the R8, and six to its V8 turbo engine, Audi took on a new challenge by introducing a diesel engined prototype known as the R10 TDI. Although not the first diesel to race, it was the first to achieve victory at Le Mans. This era saw other alternative fuel sources being used, including bio-ethanol, while Peugeot decided to follow Audi's lead and also pursue a diesel entry in 2007 with their 908. The 2008 24 Hours of Le Mans was a great race between the Audi R10 and the Peugeot 908. After 24 hours of racing, the Audi managed to win the race by a margin of less than 10 minutes. For the 2009 24 Hours of Le Mans, Peugeot introduced a new energy-recovery system similar to the KERS used in Formula One. Aston Martin entered the LMP1 category, but still raced in GT1 with private teams. Audi returned with the new R15 TDI, but this time Peugeot would prevail taking their first overall triumph since 1993.