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Le Mans

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porsche history hans hermann and richard attwood together.jpg

Hans Herrmann and Richard Attwood reunite in 2020, 50 years after driving their Porsche 917 #23 to Porsche's first overall Le Mans victory in 1970. Attwood celebrates his 80th birthday here. After the race, Attwood retreated from the celebrations saying all he wanted was his bed. Soon after, a doctor found he had raced Le Mans with the mumps.

Photo credit: Porsche Museum

Porsche's Overall Wins at Le Mans



Porsche’s first overall win comes in 1970. Hans Herrmann and Richard Attwood shared the driving of a 917K ("Kurzheck"---"Short tail") car #23 seen below. They covered 2,863.2 miles at an average speed of 119.3 mph. Rain dampened speeds. "Overall" refers to the farthest distance covered by any class car. Porsche's first class win was with a modified 356, car #46, on the 23rd of June,1951. They finished 20th overall.

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Photo credit: Porsche AG

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Le Mans
Circuit de la Sarthe

The Le Mans Sarthe race track has seen 12 track layout variations since the first race in 1923. These changes have focused on improving safety for drivers, pit crews, and spectators. Course modifications shortened the circuit from its original 10.7 mile length to 8.5 miles . Prior to the 1990 race, two chicanes were included in the Mulsanne straight for the purpose of preventing top speeds from continuing to rise. Unlike most race tracks, Le Mans is run, in large part, on public roads. Given pavement suffering the wear & tear of everyday public use, race driver's---exceeding 200 mph---must contend with surfaces that lack professional care.

Circuit note: Area names may change over time as sponsors come and go. Circuit layout may also evolve in time.

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Porsche Overall Wins:

1970 - 917K (Short Tail) - Porsche KG Salzburg

1971 - 917K (Short Tail) - Martini Racing Team

1976 - 936/76 Spyder - Martini Racing Porsche System

1977 - 936/77 Spyder - Martini Racing Porsche System

1979 - 935 K3 - Kemer Porsche Racing

1981 - 936/81 - Porsche System

1982 - 956 - Rothmans Porsche System

1983 - 956 - Rothmans Porsche

1984 - 956B - Joest Racing

1985 - 956B - Joest Racing

1986 - 926C - Rothmans Porsche

1987 - 926C - Rothmans Porsche

1996 - TWR Porsche WSC-95 - Joest Racing

1997 - TWR Porsche WSC-95 - Joest Racing

1998 - Porsche 911 GT1-98 - Porsche AG

2015 - Porsche 919 Hybrid - Porsche Team

2016 - Porsche 919 Hybrid - Porsche Team

2017 - Porsche 919 Hybrid - Porsche LMP Team

Up to 2022, Porsche cars have finished first overall 18 times. Looking at the roster, it’s evident these wins come in streaks. This hints to  there being some dominant aspects that are owned by a team only briefly. Eventually, some other manufacturer comes up with the next performance advantage and the high point on the podium is theirs… for a while.

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Start of the 1969 Le Mans. The format had drivers standing across the track from their cars. On the lowering of the French flag, they would sprint to their cars, get in, start their engines and drive off. While exciting for drivers and spectators alike, the "Le Mans start"  was halted in 1970 as drivers were tending to neglect their seat belts until later... while driving.

Photo credit: Courtesy Le Mans 24 Hours

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Roger Dorchy, record speed holder at Le Mans. 252 mph on the Mulsanne staraight in 1988 in the car above, #51, a WM P88 Peugeot. "WM"  was the racing team led by Gerard Welter and Michel Meunier.

Dorchy  photo credit: de wikipoedia

WM P88 photo credit:

The first Le Mans race took place in 1923. Organized by Automobile Club de l’Ouest, the concept for Le Mans was a deviation from the short sprints of the predominant racing profile at the time, that being Grand Prix. Le Mans was conceived from the very beginning as a competition of endurance over the (original) 10.7 mile circuit. This served to promote the quality of the car manufacturers that participated. It also fostered innovation beyond speed given cars having to endure a 24 hour run. The winner is the car maker / drivers who go the furthest distance during the 24 hour period.


There are currently 4 classes (car categories) that run Le Mans. In order of capable speed and beginning with the fastest, they are:

  • LMP1 - Le Mans Prototype 1

  • LMP2 - Le Mans Prototype 2

  • GTE PRO - Grand Turismo Endurance Professional

  • GTE AM - Grand Turismo Endurance Amateur

LMP1 is comprised of 2 subclasses:

  • LMP1-H - Hybrid 

  • LMP1 - Non hybrid / "normal"

Each class/category is governed by specific rules that deal with everything from the weight and dimensions of a car, to the power system, fuel load, and even the team are governed by rules.

Early on at Le Mans, top speeds approached 90 mph. The highest speed ever recorded was set in 1988 by French driver Roger Dorchy. He achieved 252 mph in a WM P88-Peugeot. Given the two chicanes added to the Mulsanne Straight in 1990 (to curtail top speeds from increasing), Dorchy's record may well stand into perpetuity. After the chicane additions, top speeds settled to around 227 mph. For comparison, consider a commercial airliner taking off between 140 and 180 mph and there is some indication of the aero-engineering necessary to keep a high speed car grounded.

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Side-by-side comparison---Porsche's winning Le Mans race cars from 1970 (left), a 917 short tail, and from 2017 (right), a 919 hybrid. On display here is the competitive mindset that forces the evolution of technology. Concerning performance, Porsche's 1970 engine was approximately a 4.9 liter. Basically two 911 engines put together with 12 cylinders, this configuration produced 600 hp. In 2017, Porsche achieved 720 hp from a diminutive 4 cylinder 2.0 liter hybrid drive system.

Photo credit: Porsche AG

2017 at Le Mans - Winning Porsche team drivers left-to-right: Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard, and Earl Bamber celebrating moments after their Le Mans victory. Running in 56th position, they managed to take the lead during the final two hours of the race. Beyond the drivers, credit must also go to the entire team and Team Principle, Andreas Seidl.

Photo credit: Porsche Newsroom

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Disclaimer: “Porsche,” the Porsche crest, and Porsche car model numbers & names are under licensed use by Porsche Cars North America, Inc.(PCNA) from the owner Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche Aktiengesellschaft, Porsche AG ("Porsche.") Racing car model numbers & names are likewise the property of Porsche AG. The "Porsche Museum" name is the property of Porsche AG. No association or affiliation with Porsche, PCNA, The Porsche Museum is intended or implied by the author of this section or by GP AutoWerks, an independent Miami-based Porsche service, repair, rebuild & PPI shop that offers comprehensive Master Porsche mechanical care for classic & contemporary Porsche sports cars---356 through 991, 928, 944, Boxster, and Cayman. Ferrari, the Ferrari logo/crest, and Ferrari car model names are the property of Ferrari. No association or affiliation with Ferrari is intended or implied by the author of this section or by GP AutoWerks as previously described.


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