A Rich History
There is no denying that all racing cars are seriously cool. However, there are a set few that just stand out from the rest, whether that be because of their on-track prowess or simply their eye-catching aesthetics.
As the world's oldest active endurance racing event, the 24 Hours of Le Mans has a rich history of showcasing iconic cars from brands such as Aston Martin, BMW, and Porsche, across its multiple categories.
With both the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Le Mans Classic taking place each year, we are going to highlight some of the best cars to have graced the French circuit.
As one of the most successful manufacturers to race at Le Mans, Porsche have produced a plethora of fantastic racing cars throughout the years, none more so than the brilliant 956/962C.
The 956 dominated the race in the early 1980s, winning in '83, '84, and '85, whilst its almost-identical successor, the 962C, won in '86 and '87. Both cars were driven by some of the world's best racing drivers, including Derek Bell and Hans-Joachim Stuck, and became known for its striking look, especially in the famed Rothman's livery.
Generating between 630 and 650bhp, both cars could produce a staggering amount of downforce whilst possessing the capability to exceed 230mph. It is argued that, theoretically, the 956 could drive upside down due to the amount of downforce it produces, as displayed in Porsche's Stuttgart museum.
The 956 made a name for itself at the notorious Nürburgring circuit too, setting a staggering lap time of 6 minutes and 11 seconds whilst other cars were on the track, adding to the list of brilliant Porsche cars to have tackled the 'ring.
Ford GT40 MKII
Famous for its legendary duel with Ferrari in the 1960s, the Ford GT40 MKII is the first American-built racing car to have won the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The masterminds behind this piece of art include Ken Miles, Carol Shelby and Bruce McLaren, writing their name in the motorsport history books in the process.
Standing at just 40 inches tall, the aerodynamic design of the GT40 MKII ensured agility and manoeuvrability were at their highest, while a colossal 7.0-litre V8 engine produced 485bhp and 475lb ft of torque.
Almost everybody underestimated the GT40 MKII, until they saw it on track. In 1966, Ford showcased the car's abilities at Le Mans, finishing 1-2-3 in the standings. The success followed in subsequent years too, with the GT40 MKII winning the race in both '67 and '68.
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of their famous win, Ford announced they would be returning to the endurance event in 2016 with their all-new Ford GT LM GTE Pro Class car, and enjoyed another convincing 24 Hours of Le Mans win in doing so.
Jaguar is a British brand that have forged a reputation for producing luxurious cars such as the F-TYPE, and in more recent times, intelligent electric vehicles such as the I-PACE. However, embedded in their heritage is a variety of historic race cars that were the pinnacle of their time.
The Jaguar D-type was produced between 1954 and 1957, winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans on three consecutive occasions in the '55, '56, and '57 events. Their most successful was in 1957, when the D-type secured five of the top six finishing positions, cementing its place in the hearts of many.
With its beautifully-curvaceous design and brilliant straight-six engine, the D-type was always going to be a recipe for success not just on the track, but off it too. In 1957 Jaguar decided to build a number of road-going examples titled the XKSS; this went on to become one of the most sought-after Jaguar models ever built.
The Audi R18 is a Le Mans Prototype car that enjoyed success at the French event between the years of 2011 and 2014, winning the event in each year. It was also the first Audi racing car to have utilised hybrid (HEV) power, and the first car ever to win the event using a HEV powertrain.
Power was limited to approximately 490bhp from the 3.7-litre V6 engine due to regulations, but the unit was still capable of producing an impressive 627lb ft of torque. The clever aerodynamic design and a gross weight of less than a tonne (1,000kg) ensured the Audi R18 was a seriously quick machine.
Motorsport has always been a part of the Audi DNA and the R18 undoubtedly aided the development of the e-tron hybrid and electric powertrain systems we see on road-going Audi models of today. At the end of the 2016 season, Audi withdrew from the World Endurance Championship, marking the end of the highly successful R18.
BMW V12 LMR
When you think of a luxury executive car, there is a high probability that the first name to come to mind will be BMW. But much of the technology you see on their prestige vehicles would probably have had some kind of influence from their M division.
Over two decades ago, the Bavarian brand set about conquering the French circuit with their entry; the V12 LMR. The V12 LMR was a major redevelopment of its predecessor and came with radical new features such as a redesigned roll hoop that significantly reduced drag; perfect for the notoriously long Mulsanne straight.
The naturally aspirated 6.0-litre V12 powertrain produced circa 590bhp and a soundtrack of dreams. Driven to victory in 1999 by Yannick Dalmas, Pierluigi Martini, and Joachim Winkelhock, the BMW V12 LMR became the first, and only, BMW to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans event, adding to BMW M's heritage.
Discover your own piece of history with Stratstone
A plethora of fantastic racing cars have graced the famous Circuit de la Sarthe to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans event, and it was quite the challenge to select only five of our favourites.
At Stratstone, we are proud to be able to work with these iconic automotive brands and are privileged enough to sell special race-inspired versions of their cars from time to time. Our extensive new and pre-owned car collection is host to a variety of excellent examples.
Where to next?
History: Aston Martin Racing