Le Mans 2014 Guide
Your guide to the most famous and prestigious event in motor racing.
A test of endurance, performance and skill! This 24-hour race is a stunning spectacle to witness first hand, and people flock from all over the world to come and watch it.
This modern event takes place on the weekend of June 14-15 and features a variety of accompanying events which create a week-long festival of motoring for casual and serious fans alike.
Just a four-hour drive from Eurotunnel Le Shuttle's Calais Terminal, Le Mans is a great adventure for the whole family and provides an opportunity to see some of the world's greatest drivers behind the wheels of some of the most innovative new designs in the automotive industry.
So, before you pull on your racing gloves and drive across to France with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle, let us tell you a bit more about this high speed event.
Le Mans has hosted a 24-hour race since 1923, stopping only briefly for The Great Depression and the Second World War.
The race was set up by the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) to test both car and driver for endurance and reactions. This has led to car manufacturers being forced to innovate in order to allow better aerodynamics, fuel efficiency and braking and Le Mans regularly features new designs from some of the biggest names in racing (known as Le Mans Prototypes, or LMPs).
Although the 13.6km track, named the Circuit de la Sarthe, has seen many tweaks over the years (most notably the inclusion of chicanes on the straight to stop drivers going too fast) the basic layout has remained the same. Some sections use public roads which can be driven on in the days leading up to the race before being closed off, giving you a unique opportunity to get an insight into the experience of the competitors (except at a slower and safer speed of course).
The main 24-hour race begins at 3pm on Saturday, June 14, but beforehand a series of other exhibitions and activities allow for a week of entertainment beginning the Sunday before (Sunday, June 8).
Every year fans get the chance to meet their heroes with the Drivers' Autograph Session, and those lucky enough to get their hands on a General Enclosure, Grandstand, or VIP weekend ticket will get a chance to explore behind the scenes with guided pit walks, offering a unique first-hand experience of the track.
One of the most popular non-race events traditionally occurs on the Friday, when the competitors take part in the Drivers' Parade through the centre of Le Mans. The carnival-style event not only gives spectators the opportunity to get up close to both classic cars and drivers, but also to enjoy a huge street party. Each year is more colourful and livelier than the previous; expect music, dancing and the odd cheeky display of bravado from some of the best drivers in the world today.
If you're feeling the need for speed then the high velocity events begin mid-week, with free practice sessions and qualifying practice sessions warming up the tyre rubber. These are normally followed by more qualifying practice sessions in the following days.
As the main race approaches on the Saturday (June 14) there are a number of support races which make for an equally impressive spectacle. In the morning, the Le Mans Legend takes place, a unique event reserved for cars that have previously competed in Le Mans. Each year a different era is picked from the past and drivers range from amateurs to former champions, such as Sterling Moss.
Of course, after all this excitement it's easy to forget that you have 24 hours of one of the greatest races on the planet to cap it all off. You can watch all the action first hand or on one of the eleven giant screens scattered around the race area, grandstand and village, so you don't have to miss one nail-biting minute.
Accommodation and tickets
The ACO opens several campsites around the circuit for the event. Most are only a short walk from the track and are connected to the village by a small train.
You will need to get a special camping ticket, normally one per vehicle required, and the best campsites sell out fast, so be sure to book as early as possible.
Tickets can be bought directly from the ACO at the official Le Mans race website. To see the race you will need at least an Enceinte General ticket (general admission), but separate tickets are needed for the grandstands.
For more tips and advice see our guide to camping in France.
The city of Le Mans itself should not be overlooked, with its stunning architecture and amazingly-preserved old town.
An ancient settlement, the remains of a Roman wall and amphitheatre can be seen in town and the cobbled streets may seem familiar as the setting for Gérard Depardieu's film adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac.
Paris is just a 2 hour drive away, so if you want to take a break from the racing festivities and do something a little different why not check out our guide to
shopping in Paris?
Whether you're a huge racing fan or just interested in experiencing one of the most incredible and exciting events on the sports calendar then be sure not to miss Le Mans 2014.
For updated information on the schedule please visit the official Le Mans website