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The Best Le Mans 24-hr Cars Of All Time

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Credit: Wonker Wonker from London, United Kingdom, Le Mans 2008 Rolling start
CC BY 2.0

The 24 Hours of Le Mans is an endurance race that has delighted fans for almost 100 years.

It is the world’s oldest endurance race and has attracted motor enthusiasts worldwide to spectate and compete. It is more than a simple race; it demands a strong mechanical team to keep a car running for 24 hours and ensure a balance with reasonable speed.

Often, we see groundbreaking cars showcased at the event, with only a few base requirements for entrants. Cars once had to have two seats; two doors are allowed, although open cockpit cars do not require doors. Due to safety reasons, all cars in the LMP1 category must have a roof, whilst all prototype cars must also have a roof. There are three separate classes, decided by weight, speed and power output, which means a wide variety of cars on show for spectators to enjoy.

Le Mans 2021 was the 89th race in the series, and it was won by Toyota Gazoo Racing, who Bwin Sports revealed were favorites after three wins in the previous years. They were two laps ahead of the competition, with drivers Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez steering them to victory. Kobayashi was named Sportscar365’s Prototype Hypercar Driver of the Year on the back of the win, pushing the GR010 Hybrid engine to 371 laps of the circuit.

Whilst the cars have come on significantly since 1923, Le Mans has seen some amazing machines doing laps through the night. Here are three of the best cars to ever take to the Le Mans track for the endurance race.

Porsche 917

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For many, the Porsche 917 defines the Le Mans race of the seventies. It made its Le Mans debut in 1969 and was victorious in 1970 and 1971. That fame saw it feature in a film, Le Mans, featuring Steve McQueen, which brought the race and the manufacturer to worldwide attention. In fact, some attribute the early Le Mans victories and the 917 to boosting Porsche as a manufacturer to the luxury brand it is today.

Audi R18

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The R19 dominated Le Mans between 2011 and 2014, and whilst it is easy to get nostalgic about older cars and hold them in esteem, it would be remiss to skip over this wonderful German machine. Equipped with a turbocharged 4.0-liter V6 diesel hybrid engine that delivered 550 horsepower, it raised the bar in terms of expectation and is credited with changing Le Mans forever. Its design was so unique that it was used as a template for the LMP1 regulations that came into force and are still used today.

Ferrari 250 LM

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Ferrari were the dominant car on racing circuits of the late fifties and early sixties, with models such as the 250 TR58 and 330 TRI/LM Spyder impressing on circuits around the world. After debuting the year before, the 250 LM managed its first victory in 1965. Notably, it was the last time Ferrari won the event, having chalked up nine until that point. Nowadays, if you own one of the 34 LMs ever made, you’re sitting on a $10m fortune.