The 24 Hours of Le Mans is arguably one of the most punishing motorsport events for both car and driver. High-speed straights meet relentless braking zones, all while navigating multiple classes and fighting through the night. These cars don’t just have to race, they have to survive the whole event.
Here are our top 10 Le Mans racers ever.
Probably the most famous car to ever race at Le Mans, the story of Ford’s battle with Ferrari is the stuff of legend. When Ferrari snubbed a Ford takeover at the last moment, Henry Ford declared war and that the Blue Oval should steal the Italian marque’s Le Mans crown. It took a few years of development, but the Ford GT40 captured a stunning 1, 2, 3 victory in 1966.
The car is dubbed GT40 after being just 40 inches tall.
One of the world’s most successful race cars, the Porsche 917 is as fast as it is handsome. Its extreme lightweight construction greatly contributed to Porsche’s 16 event victories in multiple specifications. It gained big-screen fame in 1971 as the star of ‘Le Mans’ driven by Steve McQueen.
The Audi R18 currently holds the record for most 24 Hours of Le Mans victories at nine in total. This car was steadily evolved over the years with the evolution of its diesel powertrain and traction-gaining all-wheel drive system.
With Le Mans ace Tom Kristensen behind the wheel, the Audi R18 was unstoppable.
Another Porsche that exercised its dominance is the 956 Group C car. Its mastery of aerodynamics allowed for total victory in its debut year of 1982. Even when Porsche stopped running the 956, customer teams still saw huge success.
This car is most recognised in its historic Rothmans livery.
Not only does this stick in the mind of any 1990s Le Mans fan, but the 905 eventually granted the French marque its first outright victory at the event in 1993 – specifically the 905 Evo 1B with its modified aerodynamics.
When McLaren decided to build a road car, it was intended to be exactly that. However, designer Gordon Murray was persuaded to exercise the supercar’s motorsport potential with the GTR. After several twists of fate, the car won outright at Le Mans on its debut – beating purpose-built prototype racers.
This BMW powered motorsport machine went down in the pages of history.
What a stunning car. Jochen Rindt and Masten Gregory piloted this beautiful Ferrari 250 LM to victory at the 1965 24 hours of Le Mans. Just 34 were ever made and today they tend to live on in various collections around the world. However, some enthusiastic owners still enjoy entering these valuable Ferraris into vintage motorsport events.
Ferrari 330 P4
It might be known as the car that got beaten by Ford at Le Mans, but the 330 P4 remains one of the most elegant racers to ever lap the French track. It fought back at the Daytona endurance race with a 1, 2, 3 finish of its own, but Le Mans alluded this model.
This machine was the inspiration behind the one-off Ferrari P4/5 road car.
The Mazda 787B represented a lot of firsts at Le Mans. Its high-revving rotary engine made it the first machine without pistons to win the race and also the first Japanese vehicle to do so. The rotary formula proved efficient, powerful, and reliable throughout its 24 hour stint.
Rule changes meant that Mazda never failed the 787B at Le Mans again.
Here’s another automotive legend. The Jaguar XJR-9 of 1988 fame won at Le Mans for the British marque. It featured a 7.0-litre V12 and some trick aerodynamics as part of that winning formula. In fact, the LM in its name denotes the specific low-drag bodywork that was developed for just this race.
This car represents the first Jaguar Le Mans victory since 1957.