The First Lady of Le Mans

15 December 2022

The Le Mans 24 Hours is the world’s oldest endurance sports car race. The first race took place in May 1923.

It has been held mainly in June almost every year since, with a few exceptions. 1936 due to a labour strike and nine times due to the Second World War.

The Automobile Club de l’Ouest is the founder and organiser of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the original name Grand Prix de Vitesse et d’Endurance or Grand Prix of Speed and Endurance run at the Sarthe road-racing circuit, near Le Mans, France.

Since 1928 the winner has been the car that travels the most distance in 24 hours. The racing circuit is roughly 8.5 miles long and runs in June on one of the shortest nights of the year.

There are two sets of rules for Le Mans: those pertaining to the cars and those related to drivers.

Le Mans is one of the eight races that compose the International Automobile Federation (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile; FIA) World Endurance Championship.

The most famous was in 1966, when Ford, with their GT40, took on the dominance of Ferrari. Hollywood made a film, ‘Ford v Ferrari.’

Even more spectacular, in 1935, ten women participated in Le Mans, a record that still stands today. It wasn’t the first-time women had competed in the race; in 1930, Marguerite Mareuse and Odette Siko shared driving responsibilities of their Bugatti Type 40 and came in seventh place.

At the 1932 Le Mans 24 Hours, Odette entered her personal Alfa Romeo 6C shared with Louis Charavel. Odette came in fourth place and won the 2-litre Class– the best result for a woman in Le Mans History, a record that still stands.