Le Mans’ legendary 24-hour circuit is 13.6 kilometres long and has 38 corners. For the MotoGP World Championship, the 4.18km Bugatti circuit is used, sharing 1.5km of track with the 24-hour layout: The home straight and the opening corners.
The Bugatti circuit was created in 1965 for the driving school, but its versatility has allowed it to host major competitions, such as Formula 1 since 1967 and the Motorcycle World Championship since 1969.
The shorter layout has also held 24-hour endurance competitions for motorcycles, trucks, bikes and even in-line skates.
In 1906, Le Mans hosted the first car Grand Prix in history. The race lasted six laps of a 103-kilometre track.
The legendary French track has hosted the Motorcycle World Championship 29 times: 28 of them have been denominated the French GP. The other, in 1991, was the Vitesse GP, replacing the Brazilian GP. That year the French GP was held at Paul Ricard, where the French round has taken place on a further 12 occasions.
Between competitions and testing, the 24h Le Mans circuit only hosts track activity for around 10 days a year.
The French GP attracts some of the highest amounts of spectators of the season, especially on the Saturday. That afternoon, thousands of people remain in the stands of the circuit’s main straight to enjoy different activities that include motorcycle parades and stunt exhibitions. A demonstration of motocross jumps this year will see the participation of Spanish specialist Edgar Torronteras.
Spanish riders took their first three-class treble at Le Mans in 2003, with wins for Dani Pedrosa (125cc), Toni Elias (250cc) and Sete Gibernau (MotoGP).
Le Mans also hosts a round of the Moto3 Junior World Championship in the FIM CEV Repsol this weekend -one of the two events the competition will run outside Spain this season.
The Chemin aux Bœufs corner means ‘ox track.’ It refers to the 400 kilometre commercial route that in Roman times linked Nantes with Paris. The track crosses the circuit and is still visible around 20 kilometres before and after the town of Le Mans.
In 1985, Freddie Spencer won the 250cc race and then also achieved the victory in 500cc, something he also did in Italy, Austria and Belgium.
The development of brake discs for the 24 hours of Le Mans race in 1953 was the secret weapon in the winning return for Jaguar to the competition, and the stepping stone to the popular use of brake discs after their invention at the beginning of century. However, it took 60 years to find the right materials for mass introduction, starting in 1955 with the Citroën DS.
The thick Roman wall at Le Mans dates from the third century and is one of the best preserved in Europe.
Le Mans has one of the largest Gothic-Romanesque cathedrals in France: Construction began in 1060 and was completed in 1430.
Le Mans is on the route of the great castles of the Loire, a tourist attraction that encompasses the 21 castles that dot the Loire river valley.
In 1971, Steve McQueen starred in a film entitled ‘Le Mans,’ inspired by the 24-hour race.