No motorsport starting grid has ever been as diverse as that of Le Mans. The flagship 24-hour race in the World Endurance Car Championship has a history that stretches back to 1923, and while earlier cars may have conformed to a similar format (albeit with variants in cylinder count, and engine placement), modern Le Mans cars differ wildly.
To illustrate just how far the Le Mans field has evolved, Donut Media has put together a brief video showing 10 race-winning cars in profile; going from the Bentley 3 Litre Sport right through to the 2014 Audi R18 – with legends like the Ford GT40 and Porsche 917 in between
How far has the top-tier Le Mans field come? In 1924 the Bentley 3 Litre Sport made 52kW of power and weighed over 1.8 tonne. The Porsche 919 Hybrid that won this year’s race, meanwhile, generates around 670kW from its petrol/electric hybrid powertrain and weighs in at 875kg.
Then there’s the 4.0 litre diesel-electric hybrid Audi R18 that has been a consistent top performer at Le Mans, and last year’s front-engined 3.0-litre twin turbo petrol and quasi-AWD Nissan GT-R LM Nismo. In modern times, the pointy end of the Le Mans field is remarkably eclectic.
Petrol, diesel, number of driven wheels, number of cylinders, and position of the engine all are variable in the world of Le Mans – even the capacity of batteries used by the hybrid racers can be altered, provided the combustion engine’s output is adjusted to suit.
Piston engines aren’t mandatory either – in 1991 Mazda clinched outright victory with its rotary-engined 787B, proving that a conventional engine wasn’t a prerequisite for success at France’s Circuit de la Sarthe.
The video is just a minute long, but definitely worth a squiz if you’re a fan of the most famous endurance race on the planet.
Want more? Check out the anatomy of a Le Mans prototype racer.