Rev your engines! Le Mans is back

Caroline Cassidy

Rev your engines and prepare for motorsport's premier endurance test - the Le Mans 24 hour race takes place on 11-12 June and drivers and manufacturers from around the globe will be hoping to take home the prize.

Le Mans 24 hour 2011
Le Mans 24 hour 2011

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The world's oldest sports car endurance race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans has been held near the town since 1923. Designed to present a totally different test to the out-and-out speed of Grand Prix racing, it is the endurance of both driver and vehicle that are pushed to the limit at Le Mans.

Competing teams are grouped into classes for cars of a similar specification but every driver will be hoping to take first place, whatever their class.

Three drivers must share the driving duties for each vehicle, grabbing food and rest where they can, but many will spend more than two hours behind the wheel before getting their chance to chow down. The cars, meanwhile, are afforded no such luxury aside from the odd pitstop to allow for fuel, tyre and brakes checks.

The course itself, presents its own challenge - drivers must race around a mixture of closed public roads and purpose-built circuits and over the 24 hours there is, of course, plenty of night driving. Frequently, drivers must cope with the heat of the June weather as they battle tiredness and hunger covering distances well over 5,000 kilometres.

This year, eight-time winner Tom Kirstensen will be hoping to make it nine victories and he has started as he means to go on, setting the quickest time at the test day in the Audi R18. But Mike Rockenfeller was second quickest (also in an Audi R18) with Stephane Sarrazin blocking the Audi monopoly with the third quickest lap in the new Peugeot 908.

Sadly, British hope Aston Martin failed to impress - their two cars managed just twelve laps before being plagued with engine problems.

However, everything is in place for another exciting 24 hours and, for motor-racing fans, this unique event is a highlight of the calendar.

So why not soak up the atmosphere and take a trip to the French town for 24 hours you'll never forget. Camping packages are available, including a ferry crossing, from travel agents with prices starting at £95 (or more if you prefer the faster Eurostar) or do it in style at the Trackside Lounge, where you can enjoy silver service, Sunday lunch and breakfast, ensuring that you are sustained through your own endurance test!