Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 26, 2015
24 Hours of Le Mans poster for 1923

24 Hours of Le Mans poster for 1923

May 26, 1923: A new endurance race hits the streets of France. The 24 Hours of Le Mans began on this date and after a 24 hour race was run, it would take another two years of racing to come up with a declared winner based on the greatest number of miles traveled during the entire three year run. The Rudge-Whitworth Cup would go to the team with the most miles, but not until 1925. Very few teams had selected names and drivers worked in pairs. Most of the teams came from France, but a few other countries were represented – Switzerland, Germany, and Great Britain. There were 33 teams at the start of the race, three of them unable to finish. André Lagache and France René Léonard, driving a Chenard Et Walker Sport with a 3.0 L I4 engine made 128 laps.

The first race was run through public roads. The idea of not awarding a winner each years was soon abandoned and a winner was declared each year as racers showed up to test themselves and their cars. It has become one of the most prestigious races and is sometimes called the Grand Prix of Endurance and Efficiency. Teams balance speed and the cars’ ability to last 24 hours of punishing racing. Drivers now race in teams of three and may switch out after two hours while the car is making a pit stop. Consumables must be wisely managed and fuel, tires, and brakes need to be carefully maintained. Drivers eat and rest while teammates take the wheel.

The race was organized by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) and today runs on the Circuit de la Sarthe which is made up of some public roads and a specialized racing circuit. With its current configuration, it covers 8.47 miles and is one of the longest racing circuits in the world. The race stadium has a capacity to seat 100,000. With long straightaways, up to 85% of the race is run at full throttle causing wear and tear on the engine and drive train as well as on the drivers themselves. When coming into a curve or turn, cars much slow from over 200 mph to around 65 mph which also places wear and tear on the brakes. The highest speed on the course was reached in 1988 with roger Dorchy driving a Peugeot 2.8L V6 turbo charged car. He reached a goal of over 400 km/h when he hit 405 km/h or 251.1 mph. Unfortunately, the car lasted only a few more laps before an overheated engine caused it to quit.

Today, the race is held in June, beginning at mid-afternoon and finishing the next day. It is often hot and cars are not built for ride or comfort, but for speed and handling. Weather conditions are immaterial and the race is often run in the rain. In the 2010s, the drivers have made distances over 5,000 km (3,110 mi) and the longest drive was 5,410 km or 3,360 miles (over six times the Indianapolis 500 and 18 times longer that a Formula One Grand Prix). Tom Kristensen has been the driver to win the most times (9) and Joest Racing is the team with the most wins (13). Porsche has had the most wins with 16. Tom is a Danish driver who won with the Joest team while driving a Porsche. The German Audi Sport Team Joest team won in 2014 with 379 laps. The race for 2015 will be held on June 13-14 and will be the 83rd running of Le Mans.

There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games. – Ernest Hemingway

In racing, the fastest person wins. It is very simple. – Paul Newman

Racing takes everything you’ve got — intellectually, emotionally, physically — and then you have to find about ten percent more and use that too. – Janet Guthrie

Auto racing is boring except when a car is going at least 172 miles per hour upside down. – Dave Barry

Also on this day: Who Was That? – In 1828, a strange teenager was found on the streets.
Complex Napoleon – In 1805, Napoleon was crowned King of Italy.
Sailing to Oblivion – In 1854, Khufu or Cheops’ ship was discovered.
Alse Young – In 1647, Alse was hung as a witch.
From Property to Human – In 1857, Dred Scott was freed.

Fast France

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 26, 2014


June 26, 1906: The first Grand Prix de l’Automobile Club de France begins. Commonly called the 1906 French Grand Prix, it was a motor race held for two days on closed public roads outside the city of Le Mans. It was organized by the Automobile Club of France (ACF) at the urging of the French automotive industry. It was hoped that it would compliment the Gordon Bennett races which limited each competing country’s number of entries regardless of the size of its industry. France had the largest automobile industry in Europe at the time and opted to not limit the number of entries by any country.

The course was 64.11 miles long with the circuit going over mostly dust roads sealed with tar. Six laps were to be completed each day by each driver for a combined 769.36 miles driven. The race lasted for more than twelve hours and was won by Ferenc Szisz from Hungary. He was driving for the Renault team. Coming in second was Felice Nazzaro of Italy who was driving a FIAT and third place was won by Albert Clement of France driving a Clement-Bayard. The fastest lap of the race was driven by Paul Baras, also of France but driving a Brasier, who completed the first lap of 64.11 miles in 52:25:4. He held onto the lead for three laps when Szisz took the lead and held onto it for the rest of the race.

Hot conditions melted the road tar and dust was kicked up by the speeding cars and hit the drivers of following cars with the plume of dirt often blinding them and making driving even more dangerous. Several tires were punctured and Michelin had introduced a detachable rim with a tire already in place which could be quickly swapped, which saved a great deal of time. This allowed for Nazzaro to pass Clement on the second day since the FIAT used the tires and Clement’s card did not. The Renault victory led to an increase in sales of the French car in the years following the race. The success of the race prompted a repeat the next year and incited the Germans to create their own German Grand Prix in 1907.

Many other nations joined in the fun of the endurance road race between 1906 and 1949. By the end of World War II, only four races of Grand Prix caliber were held. They restructured in 1947 and the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) was formed. Beginning in 1950, the FIA would link several national Formula One Grands Prix to create a world championship for drivers. A points system was developed and seven races were granted championship status. The first World Championship race was held at Silverstone in the United Kingdom. Ferrari appeared in the second World Championship race and is the only manufacturer to compete throughout the entire history of the event and is still competing in 2014.

Aerodynamics are for people who can’t build engines. – Enzo Ferrari

It is amazing how may drivers, even at the Formula One Level, think that the brakes are for slowing the car down. – Mario Andretti

To achieve anything in this game you must be prepare to dabble in the boundary of disaster. – Sterling Moss

Speed has never killed anyone, suddenly becoming stationary… that’s what gets you. – Jeremy Clarkson

Also on this day: Helicopters – In 1934, the FW-61 helicopter is flown for the first time.
Cyclone – In 1927, Coney Island opened a new ride.
Pied Piper – In 1284, a piper led 130 children out of Hamelin.
CN Tower – In 1976, the Ontario tower opened to the public.