Eurosport - Tue, 08 Jun 21:53:00 2010
A look at the background of the Le Mans 24 Hours race.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the world's oldest endurance race and regarded as one of the triple crown of motorsport events, including the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix and Indianapolis 500.
Held annually since 1923, teams must compete over a 24-hour period to determine who has driven the furthest - determined by the number of laps completed.
The race begins and ends at 15:00 local time on the Saturday and Sunday respectively - 14:00 UK time on each day.
The stunning sports car technology provides high speeds and has led to limits on how long each driver can spend behind the wheel: since the 1990s each competitor cannot drive for more than four hours at a time or 14 hours in total.
Entries consist of three drivers each, with 55 cars set to go into scrutineering ahead of the 2010 race.
There are four categories of racing: the Le Mans Prototype (LMP1 and LMP2) classes, whose custom-built cars are the fastest closed-wheel racing cars used in circuit racing and can reach speeds faster than those in open-wheel F1; and the grand tourer (GT1 and GT2) classes, considered below the LMPs and production-based.
GT cars generally have better reliability and therefore have won the overall classification on past occasions.
In order to be classified in the race results, a car must cross the finish line once the 24-hour period has elapsed. However there are strict rules governing the distance they must travel, namely 70 per cent of the distance covered by the winning car.
The circuit consists of closed public roads and a dedicated racetrack called the Circuit de la Sarthe. It stands 13.65km in length.
The public sections are rougher than the track, as you might expect, and offer less grip under properly 'rubbered in'.