Le Mans, Frankrike
Om Le Mans:
The Circuit des 24 Heures, also known as Circuit de la Sarthe, located in Le Mans, Maine, France, is a semi-permanent race course most famous as the venue for the 24 Hours of Le Mans auto race. The track uses local roads that remain open to the public most of the year. The circuit, in its present configuration, is 13.629 kilometres (8.47 mi) long, making it one of the longest circuits in the world.
Le Mans is a race where up to 85% of the time is spent on full throttle, meaning immense stress on engine and drivetrain components. However, the times spent reaching maximum speed also mean tremendous wear on the brakes and suspension as cars must slow from over 200 mph (320 km/h) to around 65 mph (100 km/h) for the end of Mulsanne in a short distance. Downforce in the era of Group C cars helped braking to some degree but presently cars are tending towards low downforce to seek higher speeds in the face of power limiting regulations.
The track, which basically was a triangle from Le Mans down south to Mulsanne, northwest to Arnage, and back north to Le Mans, has undergone many modifications over the years, with CIRCUIT N° 14 being in use since 2007. Even with the modifications put in place over the years, the Sarthe circuit is still known for being very fast; with average speeds in excess of 230 km/h (140 mph) being achieved by the prototypes.
In the 1920s, the cars drove from the present pits on Rue de Laigné straight into the city, and after a tight right-hander near the river Sarthe Pontlieue bridge (a hairpin permanently removed from the circuit in 1929), left the city again on the rather straight street now named Avenue Georges Durand after the race's founder. Then 17.261 kilometres (10.725 mi) long and unpaved, a bypass within the city shortened the track in 1929, but only in 1932 the city was bypassed when the section from the pits via the Dunlop Bridge and the Esses to Tertre Rouge was added. This classic configuration was 8.369 miles (13.469 km) long and remained almost unaltered even after the 1955 tragedy. Its frighteningly narrow pit straight was narrowed off to make room for the pits and was part of the road itself, without the road becoming wider just for the pits. The pit straight was about 12 feet (3.7 m) wide (the pit straight was widened in 1956) and the race track and pits were not separated for another 15 years. The pit area was modified at a cost of 300 million francs, the signalling area was even moved to the exit of the slow Mulsanne corner, and the track was resurfaced.
With cars getting ever faster in the 1960s, criticism rose, especially when several drivers were killed, often in the testing session in April. Since 1965, a smaller but permanent Bugatti Circuit was added which shares the pit lane facilities and the first corner (including the famous Dunlop bridge) with the longer version. For the 1968 race, the Ford chicane was added before the pits to slow down the cars. The circuit was fitted with Armco for the 1969 race. The Maison Blanche kink was prone to criticism, a number of nasty accidents happened at the very fast kink over the years, such as John Woolfe being killed there in his Porsche 917 in 1969 and three Ferrari 512s (including two works cars) were involved in a pile-up there in 1970, with the latter shunt sealing the very fast classic circuit's fate. The circuit was modified nine more timesin 1971 (a year where the prototypes were averaging over 240 km/h (150 mph), which was also the last year the classic circuit was used) Armco was added to the pit straight to separate the track from the pits, and in 1972, the last part of the race track was revamped considerablywith the quick Porsche curves bypassing Maison Blanche and part of the first straight and all of the second straight between the pits and Maison Blanche. One of the Porsche Curves was affectionately named "Maison Blanche" and a short straight with a slight kink and two chicanes before the pits named the Ford chicanes were all added.
The chicane at the Dunlop Bridge.
In 1979, due to the construction of a new public road, the profile of Tertre Rouge had to be changed. This redesign led to a faster double-apex corner as well as requiring the removal of the second Dunlop Bridge. In 1986, because of construction of a new roundabout at the Mulsanne corner, a new portion of track had to be built in order to avoid the roundabout. This created a right hand kink prior to Mulsanne corner. In 1987, a chicane was added to the very fast Dunlop curve where cars would go under the Dunlop bridge at 180 mph (290 km/h), now they would be slowed to 110 mph (180 km/h).
In 1990, two chicanes were added onto the Mulsanne straight (explained in more detail below), and in 1994, the Dunlop chicane was tightened, in 2002, the run to the Esses was revamped because of a reconstruction of the Bugatti Circuit. The Le Mans circuit was changed between the Dunlop Bridge and Esses, with the straight now becoming a set of fast sweeping turns. This layout allowed for a better transition from the Le Mans circuit to the Bugatti circuit. This layout change would also require the track's infamous carnival to be relocated because the area it had once occupied became runoff. The carnival was relocated to the Porsche curves, and in 2006, the ACO redeveloped the area around the Dunlop Curve and Dunlop Chicane, moving the Dunlop Curve in tighter to create more run-off area, while also turning the Dunlop Chicane into a larger set of turns. As part of the development, a new extended pit lane exit was created for motorcycles running the Bugatti Circuit. This second pit exit re-enters the track just beyond the Dunlop Chicane and before the Dunlop Bridge.
Part of the Mulsanne straight.
Le Mans was most famous for its 6 km (3.7 mi) long straight, called Ligne Droite des Hunaudières, a part of the route départementale (for the Sarthe département) D338 (formerly Route Nationale N138). The Targa Florio featured the even longer Buonfornello straight along the coast, though (but this was not a consistently straight stretch of road). As the Hunaudières leads to the village of Mulsanne, it is often called the Mulsanne Straight in English, even though the proper Route du Mulsanne is the one to Arnage. The Porsche 917 long tail had reached 380 km/h (236 mph), but after engine size was limited, the top speed dropped until the Group C allowed powerful turbo engines. Speeds on the straight by the Group C prototypes reached over 400 km/h (250 mph) during the late 1980s, and the combination of high speed and high downforce caused tyre and engine failures, as this circuit was extremely hard on both tyres and engines before 1990, less so in 1990 and beyond. Due to safety concerns after the extremely high speeds reached at the end of the straight and a number of hideously violent, sometimes fatal accidents in the 1980s (Jean-Louis Lafosse in 1981 and Jo Gartner in 1986) two roughly equally spaced chicanes were consequently added to the straight before the 1990 race to limit the achievable maximum speed. The chicanes were added in 1990 also because the FIA decreed it would no longer sanction a circuit which had a straight longer than 2 kilometres (1.2 mi). These were named after sponsors Forza Motorsport and Michelin. The fastest qualifying lap average speed dropped only from 249 to 243 km/h (151 mph) in 1993, and it rose up to 247 km/h in 2008, not far from the all time best of 250 and 251 km/h set by the Porsche 917 and 956. Regarding the lap record in the race itself, 2008 saw the fastest ever. Källa: Wikipedia