The 24-hour race at Le Mans is regarded worldwide as the most important motorsport event of the entire calendar. This year, last year’s winner Ferrari triumphed unexpectedly and decisively, while 300,000 fans demonstrated how to celebrate motorsport. The field of participants was perhaps the most exciting in the past 25 years.

If some car manufacturers complain that vehicles today no longer excite anyone, Le Mans is a spectacular exception. And those who think the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring is the biggest motorsport event have not been to Le Mans at the start of summer—a grand event that eclipses all others in terms of professionalism, marketing, and fan culture. 62 cars, including 23 in the new hybrid prototype class, attracted more than 300,000 fans from Europe, North America, Asia, and even Australia to the 13-kilometre Sarthe circuit. Le Mans is pure motorsport enthusiasm; despite bad weather with continuous rain and a chilly wind, fans remained at the iconic track points known worldwide: Arnage, Indianapolis, Porsche Curves, Mulsanne, or the unique high-speed right-hand corner Tetre Rouge, along with the legendary Hunaudieres straight where the 700 PS power hybrids still reach speeds up to 340 km/h despite chicanes. But Le Mans is more than a car race; it’s like a national holiday, attracting actors, athletes, celebrities, and stars from around the world for a well-staged visit.

The 2024 edition, like the endurance classic a few weeks ago at the Nürburgring, was particularly notable for the bad weather. There was heavy and persistent rain, and thus, the field of roaring cars drove for more than five hours at 80 km/h in a single-file line behind three safety cars, which had split the field. Previously, the race had been dull aside from individual scenes, only awakening into an exciting racing spectacle in the last six hours, which Ferrari eventually won with its hybrid car, the 499 P, bearing number 50, driven by Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina, and Nicklas Nielsen. After just 311 laps, the North Italians finished 14 seconds ahead of the number 7 Toyota GR 010 Hybrid (drivers De Vries/Kobayashi/Lopez) and the second Ferrari 499P (number 51; Calado/Giovinazzi/Pier Guidi). Favourite Porsche ended up disappointed with their best-placed 963 finishing fourth ahead of the second Toyota, number 8.

However, the Manthey Porsche 911 GT3 R won the GT class, ahead of BMW and Ford. The round-the-clock race in the hybrid hypercar class was also disappointing for BMW and Cadillac, both highly rated by many fans, as well as for the French home teams Peugeot and Alpine, who had no impact on the race outcome. Consequently, the 20th Artcar, one of the two BMW M Hybrid V8s, will now head to the museum after the race.

The local favourites’ weakness did not dampen the spirits on the 13-kilometre high-speed track, nor did the bad weather. Most of the 300,000 spectators are regulars, coming to central France for years to witness a unique spectacle. The fan culture knows no bounds, and the visitor spectrum is unmatched not only in its numbers. On numerous campsites at Mulsanne, Arnage, behind Tetre Rouge, or the converted hippodrome, it is not just about basic and simple setups. Thousands of visitors set up tent cities, arrive in luxury motorhomes worth millions, or pitch a small pop-up tent next to their Aston Martin DB9, Ferrari 599 GTB, or sleep on the roof of their Porsche 911 Turbo S.

It is less about winners or losers, Ferrari or Porsche, prototype or GT class. The track and the atmosphere are the stars that draw visitors in. Some celebrate for a week, enjoying the offerings of French supermarkets or riding folding bikes to private houses along the track and unique parties at night. Compared to this, other 24-hour events at Nürburgring, Spa, Dubai, or Daytona, despite all their traditions, operate in a completely different league, and preparations for the next edition start immediately after the grand event for most manufacturers.

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