Rolex, Official Timekeeper of Le Mans
Relentless pursuit of greatness
The Watch Quote™ - June 13th, 2015
Twenty-four hours of tense, highly competitive driving flat-out. That’s the challenge of Le Mans, universally regarded as one of the world’s toughest motor races. Rain or shine, day and night, there’s no let-up for the drivers; they drive every single lap on the limit.
First held in 1923, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the greatest of all motor sport endurance races, is always won by the team demonstrating the finest combination of endurance, reliability and speed in their vehicle, together with personal passion, determination and stamina. Legendary in its own right, the race has made icons of cars and drivers
The odds against lasting the 24 hours, let alone covering the 5,000 kilometres or more necessary to have a chance at winning, are huge. For the drivers who live up to the challenge, the rewards are impressive: a specially engraved Rolex Cosmograph Daytona and a place in sporting history.
Today, winning a Cosmograph Daytona at the 24 Hours of Le Mans constitutes the ultimate award, a coveted trophy that confers a particular aura. Created by Rolex in 1963, this legendary model has established an extraordinary track record in the world of motor racing thanks to its reliability and performance. Known simply as the “Daytona”, the watch has risen to the rank of icon as the most famous and most coveted chronograph in the world.
Further details and full specifications about the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona are available as an annex to this document.
Rolex has a long and proud connection with motor sports, an association that encompasses the cardinal elements of the sport – endurance, speed and tradition. In recognition of the elevated standing of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Rolex has been the Official Timekeeper of the race since 2001 and enjoys a close partnership with the founders and organizers of the race, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO).
The birthplace of legends
Rolex Testimonee Tom Kristensen, Derek Bell, A. J. Foyt, Henri Pescarolo; Bentley, Audi, Porsche; Mulsanne Straight, Tertre Rouge, Dunlop Bridge: revered drivers, dominant marques and renowned locations; over its 90-year history, the 24 Hours of Le Mans has established itself as an iconic contest, and many of the individuals and automobile brands that have participated are a major part of that legend. Through its magnetic appeal, the event always attracts a wide cross-section of participants and followers. Last year’s edition drew drivers from 16 to 65 years of age, rookies and veterans of the competition, from stars of film and television with a passion for motorsport to experienced Formula 1® World Championship drivers.
The relationship is symbiotic. The 24 Hours of Le Mans thrives on the passionate, talented personalities and the remarkable, technologically advanced cars that compete each year; in turn, the participants relish the demanding platform upon which they perform.
Tom Kristensen – Le Mans Legend
Tom Kristensen, nine-time winner of the race and a Rolex Testimonee, said his fervour for the race never once diminished during close to 20 years of competition at the highest level on the Circuit de la Sarthe. The Dane’s first win came in 1997, his last came on the 90th anniversary of the first race in 2013. Following a hard-fought second-place finish in 2014, his 14th podium at the race, Kristensen decided to hang up his helmet and retire from endurance motor sport.
Kristensen’s experiences in the race taught him that nothing should be taken for granted. He asserts that no driver can ever “conquer” the 24 Hours of Le Mans. To succeed personally, a driver needs to give everything, during every minute of the race. To win the race, so much more needs to be right: from the car to the strategy, from the physical to the mental. The whole team needs to execute the race masterfully and collectively.
“Le Mans”, he says, is “the jewel in the crown of any racing season; it’s where the most energy goes. The challenge is unique and you have to perform at your best if you want to win. It’s really tough, but the drivers love that about Le Mans.”
Even in his retirement, Kristensen will be present at the 83rd edition of the race in June and will grace the circuit that has made him legend. He has been invited by the ACO to serve as Grand Marshal, and in this symbolic role will drive the pace car ahead of the field for the warm-up lap.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans is contested on the 13.629 km Circuit de la Sarthe, located in western France. With its combination of road and racetrack, it is one of the fastest motor circuits in the world, with prototype cars reaching close to 340 km/h (211 mph) on the fastest sections. Each year developments in automotive technology and aerodynamic design enable the most advanced entries to compete for longer periods and at higher speeds, despite the introduction of restrictions on the amount of fuel each car can use. With a significant proportion of each lap spent at full throttle, there is immense stress on power and drive components, and, consequently, tremendous wear on the brakes and suspension as cars must slow from high to low speeds in compressed distances when they approach corners or chicanes.
Success in such a contest requires 24 hours of constant attention. Achieving this across the whole team is critical. Consistency is vital. Cars need to be driven as fast and meticulously in the final lap as in the first.
Together with the Rolex 24 At Daytona®, its North American equivalent where Rolex has been title sponsor since 1992, and the 12 Hours of Sebring where Rolex is also the official timepiece, the 24 Hours of Le Mans has for many years formed part of the Triple Crown of international endurance competition.
A feature article that looks in more detail at the challenges of racing for 24 hours and compares the characteristics of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Rolex 24 Hours At Daytona is available on caracingnews.com.
For the three drivers sharing the duties behind the wheel, crisp accuracy is essential, whether in adhering to the racing line, in braking, in accelerating or in overtaking. Errors in judgment or timing can have potentially disastrous consequences. Concentration is paramount. For the mechanics, efficiency and effectiveness in the pit lane are critical to keeping their car on the circuit for the longest period of time. For the team management, race strategy and supervision of resources need unremitting focus throughout the 24 hours to keep ahead of the ebb and flow of a relentlessly changing race.
Pursuit of speed
While the race is about endurance, speed remains a key component. In the 1970s, top speeds reached an extraordinary 396 km/h (246 mph). Understandably, over the entire race history, driver and spectator safety concerns have led to regular alterations in the circuit shape and changes to regulations covering car specifications – efforts aimed primarily at slowing down the track and reducing power output.
The delicate balance between the organizer’s adjustments and ever-evolving car technology is highlighted by progress in lap times. The fastest in-race lap of 3:19.074 (average speed of 246.463 km/h), set in 2010 on the current circuit configuration and distance, all but matches the absolute in-race lap record of 3:18.400 (244.387 km/h) recorded in 1971, over a slightly shorter course that still incorporated an uninterrupted 5.8 km (3.7 mile) long straight: the Ligne Droite des Hunaudières, known in English as the Mulsanne Straight.
The race’s reputation and heritage are remarkable. The 2015 edition will see 56 participating cars driven by 168 drivers representing some 25 different nationalities. The international driver line-up is only a fraction of the event’s global appeal. The contest between major automotive marques from Europe, the USA and Asia has stirred fierce patriotism over the years, as the manufacturers use the platform to showcase their ability to innovate and out-think the competition. Each year the event draws a crowd of more than 250,000 over the race weekend. Enthusiastic spectators from around the world are compelled to attend this iconic spectacle by the stories, the passion and the atmosphere. The 24 Hours of Le Mans is itself an icon in sport and a legend shared by many.
The automobile club de l’ouest
Based in Le Mans and founded in 1906, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest has been a fundamental part of the motor sports landscape for more than a century. Its primary functions are the organization of races and the active promotion and implementation of road safety measures. The ACO is also engaged in developing technical regulations governing the quantity of energy available to each car, a cornerstone of its sustainable development philosophy. In its founding year, the club launched the very first automobile Grand Prix, and, in 1923, it created the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The contest has thrived for over 90 years, becoming one of the world’s major sporting competitions, in no small part thanks to the ACO’s adherence to values it shares with Rolex: sportsmanship, dedication, performance and technological innovation.
Spirit of Le Mans
In tribute to the race and the people who have helped it become so legendary, the ACO has presented an honorary Spirit of Le Mans Award during each contest since 2001. This award, which includes a specially engraved Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, is presented to individuals who best embody the spirit and passion of the competition. Recent recipients include team managers Hugues de Chaunac and Yoshimasa Hayashi, and drivers Tom Kristensen and Gérard Larrousse.
2015 Preliminary Schedule
(Schedule subject to change)
29-31 May Test Weekend
Sunday, 7 June
14:30-19:00 Administrative Checking & Scrutineering
Monday, 8 June
10:00-18:00 Administrative Checking & Scrutineering
Tuesday, 9 June
17:00-18:30 Drivers’ autograph session
Wednesday, 10 June
16:00-20:00 Free practice session
22:00-00:00 Qualifying practice session
Thursday, 11 June
19:00-21:00 Qualifying practice session
22:00-00:00 Qualifying practice session
Friday, 12 June
10:00-20:00 Pits & Track Discovery
17:30-19:30 Drivers’ Parade
Saturday, 13 June
15:00 Start of 83rd 24 Hours of Le Mans
Sunday, 14 June
15:00 Finish of 83rd 24 Hours of Le Mans
immediately followed by the Prize-giving
24 hours of Le Mans winners 2014
Four separate classes compete for individual trophies, and the overall winner is the car that covers the furthest distance irrespective of class. A total of 54 cars started the race and 38, spread across the different classes, were still running after 24 hours.
Category & Overall Winner
LE MANS PROTOTYPE 1 (LM P1)
AUDI SPORT TEAM JOEST #2, Audi R18 e-tron Quattro
Drivers : Marcel Fässler (CH), André Lotterer (GER), Benoît Tréluyer (FRA)
Laps : 379 (5,167.13 km / 3,210.12 miles)
Average Speed : 214.90 km/h (133.93 mph)
LE MANS PROTOTYPE 2 (LM P2)
JOTA SPORT #38, Zytek Z11SN-Nissan
Drivers : Simon Dolan (GB), Harry Tincknell (GB), Oliver Turvey (GB)
Laps : 356 (4,851.92 km / 3,014.84 miles)
Average Speed : 202.16 km/h (125.62 mph)
LE MANS GRAND TOURISME PROFESSIONAL (LM GTE PRO)
AF CORSE #51, Ferrari 458 Italia
Drivers : Gianmaria Bruni (ITA), Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA), Toni Vilander (FIN)
Laps : 339 (4,620.23 km / 2,870.88 miles)
Average Speed : 192.509 km/h (119.62 mph)
MANS GRAND TOURISME AMATEUR (LM GTE AM)
Aston Martin Racing #95, Aston Martin V8 Vantage
Drivers : David Heinemeier Hansson (DEN), Kristian Poulsen (DEN), Nicki Thiim (DEN)
Laps : 334 (4552.09 km / 2,828.54 miles)
Average Speed : 189.670 km/h (117.86 mph)
24 Hours of Le Mans Milestones
1906 : Creation of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest in Le Mans. Designed to serve the needs of all public motorists, the Club organizes the inaugural French Grand Prix.
1923 : First edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is held on 26-27 May. A total of 33 cars start and only three abandon the race. Frenchmen André Lagache and René Léonard win the race, completing 128 laps and over 2,209 km at an average speed of 92.06 km/h. The 1956 and 1968 editions are the only others to not take place in June.
1930 : Bentley wins for the fifth time, and the “Bentley Boys” become part of the legend. Woolf Barnato from Great Britain is the first driver to win the race three times, while French nationals Marguerite Mareuse and Odette Siko go down in history as the first women to compete, finishing 7th overall.
1940-1948 : Races are cancelled during World War II.
1949 : The post-war return of 24-hour racing witnesses the first Ferrari victory.
1955 : An accident in the early hours of the race, between Frenchman Pierre Levegh and British driver Lance Macklin, sends debris into the grandstands and results in one of motor sport’s worst tragedies. About 80 spectators lose their lives and hundreds are injured. The incident marks a major turning point in race safety across the sport.
1966 : Ferrari had won the 24 Hours of Le Mans nine times since 1949 and had been undefeated from 1960 to 1965. Ford puts an end to the domination, with two cars crossing the finish line almost simultaneously. The rules stipulate that only one car can win, and Ford #2 is declared the winner. Having begun the race in 4th place on the grid, it is deemed to have driven 20 metres further than Ford #1, which started in 2nd place. This finish remains the closest in the event’s history.
1967 : For the very first time the 24 Hours of Le Mans welcomes over 300,000 spectators to watch Ford and Ferrari battle it out at the Circuit de la Sarthe. For the first time the overall race distance covers more than 5,000 km and is marked by what remains the only all-American Le Mans victory, won in an American-built car (Ford Mark IV), prepared by an American team (Shelby-American Inc.) and driven by American drivers Dan Gurney and A. J. Foyt.
1970 : This edition is marked by the first victory for Porsche with drivers Hans Herrmann from Germany and Richard Attwood from Great Britain, and the making of the iconic film Le Mans, starring Steve McQueen. Porsche would go on to win the race a further 15 times over the next 28 years.
1971 : Organizers abandon the Le Mans-style start, where drivers run to their cars at the drop of the green flag, in favour of a safer flying start.
1982 : Jacky Ickx wins the race for the 6th time, an all-time record until Danish driver Tom Kristensen secures his own seventh win in 2005.
1988 : Roger Dorchy, driving the WM Secateva P88, establishes a speed record of 405 km/h on the Mulsanne Straight. In 1990, two chicanes are introduced on the 5.8 km section.
1997 : Danish driver and Rolex Testimonee Tom Kristensen races at Le Mans for the first time, winning the race by a margin of one lap in a Joest Porsche TWR WSC-95.
1998 : The 16th victory by a Porsche. The marque remains the most successful manufacturer in the history of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
1999 : French driver Henri Pescarolo, a four-time winner (1972-73-74-84), retires after a record 33 starts.
2005 : The Audi R8 wins at Le Mans for the fifth time, and driver Tom Kristensen becomes Le Mans’ most decorated driver with a seventh win.
2006 :The first Le Mans victory for a diesel engine with the Audi R10 driven by German drivers Frank Biela and Marco Werner, and Italian Emanuele Pirro.
2008 : The edition is marked by an eighth victory for Tom Kristensen, while the fastest lap time on the current 13.629 km track configuration is set by the #4 Peugeot 908: 3:18.513 at an average speed of 247.160 km/h.
2012 : A hybrid car adds its name to the list of winners with the Audi R18 e-tron Quattro, with Swiss driver Marcel Fässler, German André Lotterer and Frenchman Benoît Tréluyer behind the wheel.
2013 : On 90th anniversary of the first race, Tom Kristensen wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for a record ninth time.
2014 : Tom Kristensen races for the 18th and final time, finishing 2nd. Approximately 260,000 people, the highest number for 20 years, attend.