The biggest event in global motorsports will start in a few hours at the Circuit de La Sarthe and the event has been sold out. 300,000 people will be able to hear the roar of engines and witness a spectacle that captivates millions worldwide.
This year marks the Centennial of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The show began in 2022 when the Automobile Club de L’Ouest (ACO) announced Tom Kristensen as its ambassador for the 2023 race, signaling the inclusion of a formidable fleet of Hypercars that replaced the previous LMP1 category.
The festivities will continue until the end of Sunday, June 12, when the curtain falls. On June 1, the Le Mans Museum inaugurated the Grand Exhibition of the Centennial of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which will remain open until July 2. The exhibition showcases 80 cars that are part of the Le Mans legend, including 59 from past winners. This exhibition was possible due to the loan of vehicles from 18 museums and 17 private collections.
On June 2 and 3, technical and administrative checks took place at Place de la Republique, with car-weighing taking place in the city center. This marked the first interaction between teams and the public, who passionately support their circuit throughout the year. This was followed by testing sessions on June 4 and two free practice sessions last Wednesday, culminating in the qualification session late in the afternoon, preceding yesterday’s (Thursday) Superpole session.
There is no shortage of entertainment and events. Concerts, a parade of racing cars, and the reinstallation of bronze plaques on Avenue du Général-Leclerc bearing the names of past winners are part of a narrative journey through the history of automobiles and the Bollée family.
This afternoon, there will be the customary drivers’ parade through the city in classic cars, which is one of the most popular moments of the event.
Concerts, visits to the paddock during this morning, and the parade this afternoon will keep thousands of motorsport enthusiasts entertained, as they flock to Le Mans at this time of the year.
Tomorrow, the warm-up session will take place at 12:00 PM, and the spectacle of the start will begin at 2:00 PM. In the sky, there will be a display by the French Air Force acrobatic squadron, celebrating its 70th anniversary. After the singing of the “Marseillaise,” LeBron James, a global star of the NBA, will give the start signal for the Centennial Race. The entry list for the race features excellent contenders in all three categories.
The arrival of the Hypercars has brought back brands that have not competed in Le Mans and the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) for many years. Despite recent victories by Toyota in previous races (Sebring 1000 Miles, Portimão 6 Hours, and Spa-Francorchamps 6 Hours), intense competition is expected in the premier category.
Many hopes rest on the Ferrari team, returning to the top category of the WEC with two 499P cars driven by Fuoco/Molina/Nielsen and Per Guidi/Calado/Giovinazzi.
Porsche will present four cars of the 963 model, including one from the British Jota team, driven by the Portuguese champion Félix da Costa, William Stevens, and Yifei Ye, who will be the first Chinese driver to drive a Hypercar at Le Mans. There is much anticipation surrounding this team to see their capabilities.
Additionally, there will be the Peugeot 9X8, three Cadillac cars, two cars from Glickenhaus Racing with the 007 model, and the Floyd Austrian team’s Vanwall Vandervell 680.
In the LMP2 category, the interest lies in finding out who the winners will be, since all the cars on the track are of the Oreca 07-Gibson model.
At the brand level, the competition in the LMGTE Am category will be more interesting, with anticipated duels between the Porsche 911 RSR-19, Ferrari 488 GTE Evo, Aston Martin Vantage AMR, and the sole Corvette C8-R from the American Chevrolet team.
The Innovate Car category, introduced in 2012, will feature only one entry: the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 from the American Hendrick Motorsports team, driven by Johnson/Rockenfeller/Button.
The ACO has decided to honor Akio Toyoda with the Spirit of Le Mans 2023.
The Spirit of Le Mans trophy recognizes the men and women who embody the values of endurance racing: involvement, commitment, teamwork, and sporting effort. Tom Kristensen, the legend who won the race nine times, six of them consecutively, will be the Grand Marshal of the Centennial and will have the privilege of leading the 62 cars on the formation lap.
With public transportation decorated accordingly and the city adorned, Le Mans is preparing to once again renew its tradition, maintaining the same energy, interest, and youthful spirit, so that in 2023, the Centennial Year, an exceptional harvest will be reaped. Sérgio de Almeida Correia, MDT, Le Mans