The 24 Hours of Le Mans turns 100, what happened from 1924 to 1939

The 24 Hours of Le Mans turns 100, what happened from 1924 to 1939

June, the correct month. Inside of 1924 “24 hours” was run on 14-15 June, hoping to meet better weather. And so it happened: the temperature was even tropical. From then on the race would always be held in that month (with only two exceptions: in 1956, when it was run in July, and in 1968, in September). A new law imposed on pilots of pit stop on lap five and of close the hood at least for the next 20 rounds to show his resistance. Initially, 41 cars were planned to represent sixteen French brands and one British brand; he came first there Bentley “3 Liter” by Duff-Clement, that year finally equipped with brakes also on the front wheels. Interest in Le Mans grew from within 1925 49 competitors were counted, of which only 16 finished the race. It was like that important issuebecause a new starting order was introduced, intended to be the hallmark of the 24 Hours of Le Mans: the cars were lined up in a “herringbone pattern” on the right side of the track (in order of engine power until 1962; from 1963 on the basis of qualifying times ), while drivers wait on the other side. At first the drivers ran towards the cars, closed the top, started the engine and drove off. This ritual lasted until 1969 (the obligation to wear a hat was abolished in 1928), when. Jacky Ickx, to protest the tendency of the pilots to take off without wearing seat belts to save precious seconds, he slowly walked towards his Ford “GT 40”, which he started after settling into the seat. He was the last to go, but the first to arrive, winning partnered with Jackie Oliver. After the complaint, in 1970 the pilots waited for the start already sitting in the car, while from 1971 the Indianapolis-style start was accepted.

Diatto and OM from Italy. Inside of 1925the year in which Italian houses Diatto (with two “30s” and two “35s”) and OM (two “665 S Superbas” and one “665 SS Superbas”), pit stops for refueling and any additions were allowed for a minimum of 20 cycles, which it became 24 in 1932 and 32 in 1955. It is only in 1960 that oil distribution will be liberalized. During the third edition, “24 Hours” also counted it the first victims: André Guilbert on Ravel during practice and Marius Mestivier on Amilcar on lap 17. Inside 1926 the first annual recognition was established, the Performance Index, the right of a car that was achieved according to the ratio between the distance traveled and the minimum set on the basis of engine capacity. That year the average barrier of 100 km / h fell, followed by Lorraine-Dietrich “B3-6” who won the first three places. The biennial Rudge-Withworth Cup 1925-26 was instead won by OM “665 SS Superba” number 17 of Minoia-Foresti. The following year, Davis-Benjafield’s Bentley took the lead, covering 2369.807 kilometers at an average speed of 98.740 km/h; this confirmation launched the so-called epic The Bentley Boyswhich dominated “Saa 24” until 1930.

Leaderboards and awards. Despite the “Rudge Cups”, the attention of pilots, journalists and the public nevertheless focused on the overall victory, which was not officially recognized. To bridge this gap, 1928 the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (Aco) established the Coupe Annuelle à la Distance, a prize open to all classes and intended for the car that would travel the most kilometers in 24 hours. However, the organizing body continued to favor classification according to the Index Performance, reserving for the finalists a higher award than that expected for the “Coupe Annuelle”; only in 1952 the importance of the two awards was equalized. In 1928, the code accepted supercharged engines and in 1929 the circuit underwent the first revision: for safety reasons, the ACO decided to install a new part of the route, Rue du Circuit, to eliminate the sharp curve of Pontlieue (neighbourhood of Le Mans). The total length was reduced from 17,262 to 16,340 km. The following year, Alfa Romeo debuted, with “6C 1750 GS” number 23 driven by Lord Howe-Leslie Callingham, fifth, and Mercedes-Benz and “SS” number 1 driven by Rudolf Caracciola-Christian Werner, who he retired. in cycle 83. Presence of the first female employeesMarguerite Mareuse-Odette Siko, who finished the race in 7th place in a Bugatti “Type 40”.

Race for men only. The “feminine rate” would always remain small; even between 1957 and 1971 women were excluded from the competition. The biggest presence was in 1935, when four female crews competed (three in MG “Midget PA” and one in Riley “MPH”), which was added Madame Anne-Rose Itier at the wheel of Fiat “508 S” number 45, joined by Robert Jacob. The track defined in 1929 was used until 1931, the version won for the first time by an Italian car, Alfa Romeo “8C 2300 LM” number 16 driven by Lord Howe-Tim Birkin, which moreover broke the 3000 km barrier in 24 hours. ( 3017.654 km at 125.735 km / h). It was the beginning of an exciting series of victories for the Milanese company, which won again in 1932-33-34. The continuous expansion of the suburbs of Le Mans and the need to have suitable spaces for a more international race led the Automobile Club de L’Ouest to buy 75 hectares of private land to renovate the circuit for the tenth edition of the “24 Hours” (1932). To cut the “urban” area of ​​the route, a 1,505 meter long section was built from scratch. Immediately after the start of the straight, the new formation turned right and, after forming an S, resumed the previous layout with the Tertre Rouge curve which led to the super-fast Hunaudières. circuit, which wound its way through 13.492 kilometersit took on a configuration that is still characteristic of it today.

What a party! From the early years, “24 Hours” took on the characteristics of a big popular festival, arriving to host, in the golden years, up to 200,000 visitors who took the plant for two days and one night. On Sunday morning the spectators were seen lying on the grass, tired after a sleepless night, while the boys of “Le Maine” newspaper distributed the third special edition about the race. Recently, in Le Mans, large parking spaces have been reserved for historic clubs of various brands, among them Jaguar, Aston Martin, MG, Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and the best Bugatti. Many English fans who still cross the English Channel to watch the races and who during the week meet at the Restaurant des Hunaudières, where whiskey consumption is always high. In 1991, a large panoramic structure was built on stilts, called “Aircraft Carrier”, which houses, among other things, a press room.

War. Alfa Romeo missed out on a fifth consecutive victory 1935, when the number 12 “8C 2300” of Helde-Stoffel arrived behind the number 4 Lagonda “Rapide” of Hindmarsh-Fontes. For Biscione the victory faded again 1938: The prestigious “8C 2900 B” of the Sommer-Biondetti crew, already with victory in hand, retired on lap 219 leaving the field open to the Delahaye “135 S” driven by Chaboud-Tremoulet. Inside of 1936 Strong social tensions swept across France, leading to massive strikes. The whole country was paralyzed and therefore the automobile industry; The 24 Hours of Le Mans also paid a price it was cancelled a week since the start. The following year saw the first success Bugattis and Wimille-Benoist’s “Type 57 G” number 2; always Bugatti, “Type 57 C” Wimille-Veyron number 1, won in 1939 with a length of 3354.760 km at an average of 139.781 km/h. A few weeks later, on September 3, France entered the war and for ten years there was no more talk of Le Mans. After the conflict, little or nothing remained of the circuit of La Sarthe.