1923 24 Hours of Le Mans

The first 24- hour race at Le Mans, the 1er Grand Prix d' Endurance les 24 Heures du Mans, took place from May 26 to 27 in 1923 at the Circuit des 24 Heures in Le Mans.

  • 3.1 pilots after Nations
  • 3.2 Final ranking
  • 3.3 Only in the message list
  • 3.4 Class Winner
  • 3.5 racing data


The idea to organize a long distance race for touring cars in order to demonstrate the performance of normal road cars, in 1922 Georges Durand, secretary of the Automobile Club de l' Ouest. In October of the same year he spoke at the Paris Motor Show Faroux Charles, editor of the trade magazine La Vie Automobile, a matter of who was immediately enthusiastic. They moved Emile Coquille, the French representative of the tire company Rudge - Whitworth, added and discussed the possibilities. The original idea of ​​a race unsubscribe so that eight hours driving time should be enough in the night, was discarded. They finally agreed on a race that was to last exactly 24 hours.

Durand and Faroux worked the regulations of Coquille donated the Rudge - Whitworth Cup, which was also called the Biennial Cup, and 100,000 francs in prize money. The vehicles had to be touring or road vehicles. From each participating vehicle had at least one copy to the circuit presented and 30 pieces are produced. In addition, the car in the completely same facilities had to go to the start, as they were delivered. Cars up to 1100 cc had to have at least two seats, car with higher engine capacity had to have four seats. For each vacant seat 60 kg had to be carried as ballast to simulate the application in full load.

During the race, the cars had minimum distances to cover. Vehicles with less than 1100 cc were not allowed to stay below 800 km by 24 hours. This increased up to the 6- liter car which should not remain below 1200 km. Every six hours, the distance covered was checked, and slow cars were taken out of the race.

The race

The first 24 -hour race was extended in May. A wrong decision in retrospect, May applies but in this region is particularly weather unstable. It rained almost the entire weekend. Addition, there was strong wind especially difficult driving on the unpaved public roads. Since the boxes consisted only of tents, they too have had bad states soon.

33 cars were at the start when the race by 16 clock was started on May 26. Only three teams came from outside France. The two Belgian Excelsior were with their 5.3 liter engines, the biggest capacity vehicles and were therefore, the numbers 1 and 2 from England came a 3-liter Bentley, which was used by the London brand of Representatives John Duff. His co-pilot was the Bentley factory driver Frank Clement. How important this event was taken, could be seen from the fact that Walter Owen Bentley personally organized the boxes work on the Duff - car.

The simplest vehicle was a normal Ford Model T, which was used by the French Ford Representative Charles Montier as " Montier Special".

Although it was the first 24 -hour race, it was one of the least spectacular of the. Soon after the launch took two Chenard Walcker & and a Bignan the lead and drove in always the same order until the end. The winners were Andre Lagache and René Léonard Chenard & Walcker on a sport, in front of their fellow Raoul Bachmann and Christian d' Auvergne. Third place went to Paul Gros and Raymond de Tornaco on a Bignan 11HP Desmo sport.

The Bentley was afflicted by a variety of problems. The car had only rear brakes, which was a constant challenge in the heavy vehicle and the bad roads for drivers. Through a stone whirled a front light was destroyed. Another stone damaged the fuel tank, which had a two-hour repair time result. In the end it was enough even for fourth overall.

Frank Clement and the bike

When the fuel tank of the Clement / Duff - Bentley was hit on Sunday morning, ran out of fuel until the seated at the wheel of John Duff had to stop three kilometers before the start -finish. The race seemed to be for the Bentley pilots to end. However, the Canadians ran to the nearest accessible telephone and called in the box, you should let him get help. Frank Clement did ask if the racing line, if one is possible. After his request was answered positively, the Frenchman borrowed a bike, fixed on two cans of gasoline and cycled to the stranded vehicle. The two cans of gasoline were sufficient despite leak to bring the car back to the pits. Clement sat in the way back in the passenger seat, the bike was in the back seat. Following repair, the team could now compete with Clement at the helm, the races again.


Pilot after Nations

  • Oldest Starter: France Gaston Delalande (49 years )

Final ranking

Only in the message list

Here are the teams, drivers and vehicles that were originally registered for the competition, but it did not participate for various reasons.

Class winner

Race data

  • Reported: 37
  • Started: 33
  • Counted: 30
  • Racing classes: 6
  • Attendance: unknown
  • Honorary starter of the race: unknown
  • Distance: 17.262 km
  • Travel time of the winning team: 24:00:00,000 hours
  • Total rounds of the winning team: 128
  • Total distance of the winning team: 2209.536 km
  • Winners section: 92.064 km / h
  • Pole Position: unknown
  • Fastest race lap: Frank Clement - Bentley 3 Litre Sports (# 8) - 9.39.000 = 107.328 km / h
  • Race series: first round of the Triennial Cup 1923