Sports & Outdoors

Le Mans Guide

Just a four-hour drive from Eurotunnel Le Shuttle's Calais Terminal, the motor-racing event Le Mans is a great adventure for the whole family.

Every year some 250,000 spectators descend on this "City of Art and History" in north-western France for the annual Le Mans 24 Hours Race , the most famous endurance race in the world.

This year will be no exception with 56 cars competing in the legendary 'twice around the clock' race on the 15th and 16th of June 2019. As always you can be sure of an exciting race and a close finish.

Ferrrari, BMW, Porsche, Corvette, Lotus, Aston Martin ... will all be there battling for the first place.

Le Mans 24 Hours offers a full weekend of events proving that at Le Mans "every second is a new emotion".

At Le Mans 24 Hours lasts a whole week!


Le Mans 24hr race has been held annually since 1923.
Le Mans 24hr race has been held annually since 1923. Credit: wheels_a_holics

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 events

Le Mans is considered one of the most prestigious automobile races in the world.
Le Mans is considered one of the most prestigious automobile races in the world. Credit: s.vallat_photographie

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 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.

Aerial view of part of the Le Mans circuit.
Aerial view of part of the Le Mans circuit.

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.

Other sights

Cathedral of Saint Julian in Le Mans
Cathedral of Saint Julian in Le Mans

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 the "24 Hours of Le Mans" event.

Circuit des 24 Heures

Phone : 02 43 40 24 24
Fax : 02 43 40 24 15
Information and tickets at:

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Top image credit: fritsh