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Old June 13th, 2001, 09:32 AM   #1
Magic Mtn Dan
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Motor racing - Le Mans 24 hours facts and figures

Motor racing-Le Mans 24 hours facts and figures

LE MANS, France, June 13 (Reuters) - Facts and figures for the 69th Le Mans 24-hour endurance race on June 16-17.

Venue: Circuit de la Sarthe

Circuit length: 13.605 kilometres

Lap record: Allan McNish (Britain), 3 minutes 37.359 seconds (Audi, 2000)

Most race wins: Jackie Ickx (Belgium) 1969, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1981, 1982.

Timetable (all times GMT):

Wednesday, June 13

1700-1900 - First qualifying

2000-2200 - First qualifying

Thursday, June 14

1700-1900 - Second qualifying

2000-2200 - Second qualifying

Saturday, June 15

0700-0745 - Warm-up

1400 - Race start

Sunday, June 16

1400 - Race finish

Race history:

In 1923, the forerunners of today's organisers the Automobile Club of the West (ACO), decided to hold a race to test round-the-clock endurance and the then new-fangled headlights. "Le Vingt-Quatre Heures du Mans" was born.

The Sarthe region already had a strong connection with motor racing having hosted the French Grand Prix in 1906 and 1921. The first race was won by a French Chenard, but a British car, the Bentley, went on to dominate the early years of the race.

The 'Bentley boys' drove to five victories (1924, 1927-1930) in the first seven years. Woolf Barnato got three wins in three starts.

The Italians then took over with Alfa Romeo winning four straight (1931-1934). Bugatti grabbed a couple of wins (1937, 1939) before the eight year hiatus (1940-1948) caused by the Second World War.

Ferrari won the first race after the break -- laying the foundation for their later dominance -- but it was another British marque, Jaguar, who were in charge for much of the 1950s with five victories (1951, 1953, 1955-1957).

Disaster struck in 1955 when at least 82 spectators were killed after Frenchman Pierre Levegh's Mercedes came off the track and went into the crowd. Levegh also perished.

Ferrari, who had grabbed their second victory in 1954, won seven of the eight races between 1958 and 1965 with the duo of Olivier Gendebien and Phil Hill winning three times together.

Ford finally got their challenge right and grabbed four wins in a row (1966-1969), the last of which saw Belgian driver Jacky Ickx win the first of his record six Le Mans victories.

Another of the great names of Le Mans, Porsche, won their first race in 1970. That same year the famous Le Mans start, where the drivers ran across the track to their cars at the drop of a green flag, was dropped for safety reasons.

In 1977, teams were first allowed, but not obliged, to have three rather than two drivers.

The names Porsche, Ickx and Derek Bell made Le Mans their own over the next two decades. Porsche won 12 races in the 1970s and 80s, while Ickx and Bell got eleven wins between them -- two straight as partners in a Porsche (1981, 1982).

In 1990, chicanes were added to the 3-km Mulsanne straight to comply with new FIA regulations that no straight could be longer than 1 km.

Jaguar re-established themselves with wins in 1988 and 1990 and Peugeot got their first victory in 1992, following it with their second a year later.

But Porsche came roaring back winning for four of the next five years. Wins for BMW and Audi in 1999 and 2000 continued an era of German control of the event.
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