The Coolest Cars to Win 24 Hours of Le Mans
It’s one thing to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but it’s another thing to look cool doing itby Nicholas Waithaka, on
Le Mans is one of the greatest tests of endurance where man and machine are tested for 24 hours at speeds in excess of 200 mph. Almost a century ago, the race began as a showcase for manufacturers to prove their vehicles’ sturdiness in competition. The race was then staged annually without fail, apart from the hiatus during the Second World War. Ever since, thousands of teams have flocked to the French countryside to brave the elements. Racing dynasties also flourished and faded during the years resulting in great stories, legends, and victories that are currently being told. The following are some of the best cars to compete at the Circuit de la Sarthe during the past century.
The story of Ford versus Ferrari is popular because it is that of an unlikely American underdog that bested motorsport greats.
It began with a verbal agreement between Henry' The Deuce' Ford II and Enzo Ferrari that would grant the American giant ownership of the Italian sports car company. When Enzo noticed that the contract would allow Ford to take control of the motorsports division, he voided the deal at the last minute.
The Deuce responded by commissioning the construction of a car that would beat Ferrari at the most demanding race of the era, which was almost impossible considering Ford had almost zero racing experience until then. The collaboration of Carol Shelby’s engineering and racers like Ken Miles brought much-needed victory and cemented the fame of the GT40. Their race car had a 7.0-liter V-8 engine that produced 425 horsepower and reached a top speed of 212 mph on the Mulsanne Straight. The GT40 went on to have four consecutive victories at Le Mans before it was discontinued and later reincarnated as the GT in 2005.
|Transmission||Kar Kraft T44 4-speed|
|Top Speed||212 mph|
Read our full review on the Ford GT40
The 917 was a prototype race car that the brand developed after the FIA announced it would allow the participation of 5.0-liter group 4 cars. The 917 featured a 5.0-liter flat-12 engine that was rated at 630 horsepower.
Even with the five-speed manual transmission, the 917 could accelerate to 60 mph in 3 seconds and reach a top speed of 220 mph.
Though the first Porsche 917s did not immediately catch on due to instability, the brand hired the services of John Wyer, who had helped to make the successful GT40. The result was more downforce and the winning formula that gave the automaker their first Le Mans win. Since then, Porsche has had 19 wins at Le Mans with different models.
|Configuration||912.10 180º V12|
|Displacement||4,907 cc / 299.4 cu in|
|Power||630 HP @ 8,300 RPM|
|Torque||415 LB-FT @ 6,400 RPM|
|0 to 60 mph||3 seconds|
|Top Speed||220 mph|
Read our full review on the 1970 Porsche 917
The McLaren F1 has previously been said to be the benchmark of supercars during the 90s. The GTR is worth remembering as it was the first time McLaren entered the 24 hours of Le Mans, it had no prior experience, and went on to win the event. The GTR has undergone limited alteration from the mass-produced version following extensive testing. It had a naturally aspirated 6.1-liter V-12 engine and a six-speed sequential manual transmission. The output was 592 horsepower which made the racecar interestingly less powerful than the road-going version, albeit it more nimble because of the lowered weight. In 1996, McLaren was not in the top three, but they still had five slots within the top 10. In 1997, the car did receive a new set of aerodynamic upgrades and managed second and third, though it was the final production year.
|Power||592 HP @ 7,500 RPM|
|Torque||480 LB-FT @ 5,600 RPM|
|Gearbox||six-speed sequential manual|
|0 to 60 mph||3 seconds|
|Top Speed||240 MPH|
Read our full review on the 1995 McLaren F1 GTR
In 1991, the 787B was the first Japanese car to win the 24-hours of Le Mans. It was also quite timely for Mazda, considering it was their last opportunity to prove themselves. The regulations mandated that rotary engines would be phased out the following year, and Mazda had been announcing the advantages of rotary power for the previous decade. The first model prototype was the 717 in 1983 that was contested within the Group C class. Over the years, improvements were made over the 1990 spec 787 to include extramid-range torque for better driveability and increased downforce.
The Mazda 2.6-liter naturally aspirated engine produced 700 hp at 9000 rpm, and it proved to be an advantage considering its reduced weight.
The cars ran with 800 kg, while the competition weighed one ton on averagehttps://www.carthrottle.com/post/wy.... The car is still considered one of the best Japanese race cars by the automaker and Wankel motor enthusiasts.
|Engine||2.6-liter naturally aspirated|
|Top Speed||210 mph|
Read our full review on the 1991 Mazda 787B
Audi R8 LMP900
The R8 LMP900 was designed by Wolfgang Appel and Michael Pfadenhauer for the 2000 Le Mans race as a redesign of the R8R. It quickly gained success and won the event three consecutive times and five times overall by 2005. Under the hood, the R8 had a 3.6-liter V8 with fuel stratified injection and produced 610 hp to the rear wheels. This was linked to a six-speed sequential gearbox and the car achieved a top speed of 210 mph. The last victory was notable, especially since driver Tom Kristensen was able to beat legend Jacky Ickx’s previous record of six career Le Man’s victories. The R8 is still one of the fastest gasoline-powered Le Mans Prototypes.
|Top Speed||210 mph|