This prestigious motor racing event, known as “The Grand Prix of Endurance and Efficiency”, has always stood out for pushing the limits of what cars can endure. While its 24 hour race time has stayed the same, Le Mans has come a long way since the first cars took to the tarmac in 1923.
Endurance is as key to Le Mans as it is to everything we do at Bahco. The iconic race is an integral part of the World Endurance Championships that shape the speediest drivers’ calendars every year.
The dazzling speed of Formula One racing was well established by the 1920s, but the founders of 24 Hours of Le Mans wanted to see the cars, drivers and spectators challenged in a different way. Instead of focusing on short bursts, this race was designed to balance speed with reliability and endurance.
This way, car manufacturers would be forced to alter the design of their cars to produce much more reliable, hard-wearing vehicles that could withstand a full day of skilled racing. With innovative manufacturing came the need for precision tools that would ensure these cars would not just survive, but excel during a 24 hour race.
Le Mans through the years
The iconic endurance race of Le Mans has changed in many ways since the first cars raced around the French village in 1923.
In the first few years, no mechanics were allowed to be involved during the race and all repairs had to be completed by the drivers. In 1925, a car with a 6 cylinder engine won the race for the first time and three years later, in 1928, there was a bigger change when the number of local French drivers were outweighed by their British and American counterparts.
Le Mans has been eventful in the past with crashes and major accidents shocking crowds and reminding drivers that danger still exists even at endurance level speeds. These incidents are hardly a surprise when you consider that some cars didn’t have disk brakes even as late as 1955. Alterations have continued to be made to the evolving track, including speed reductions on harsher corners and making sure drivers can’t exceed 200km/h on the extended straight.
While there has always been interest in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, efforts are continuously made to refresh and enhance the experience. In 1957, energy capacity limiters were removed by the factory teams to ensure that public interest could be maintained and this involved a specialist approach from manufacturers to ensure maximum efficiency.
Another game-changer in the history of Le Mans was undoubtedly the introduction of computers into the race. The devices from IBM created new possibilities and technical demands for the cars.
On average, 85% of the 24 hour race is spent at full throttle, so it’s safe to say that the engine and other car components are pushed to their limits throughout the circuit. The pressure is immense, but so is the need to get the fastest time possible, so pit stops must be kept to an absolute minimum.
However, given that the cars travel 5,000km on public roads that aren’t race standard for 24 hours straight, it’s fair to say pit stops are needed. Ensuring the race vehicles can endure the strain these conditions put them under is key.
With demand for high performing vehicles comes the need for greater technical skill and top quality tools. We’ve always prided ourselves on producing equipment that’s capable of pushing boundaries and this is where we make our greatest contribution to Le Mans’ progression.
For the past few years, we’ve worked closely with the Signatech Alpine team who are leaders in the field of endurance racing and regularly grace the podium at Le Mans. Signatech Alpine are World Champions because they believe in working with the best and their results speak for themselves.
The Signatech Alpine team are integral to the overall experience of Le Mans and created the A450 model to commemorate the 50 years since an Alpine vehicle was first at 24 Hours of Le Mans, a vehicle that’s all about performance and viability.
We’re proud to contribute to the phenomenon that is the 24 Hours of Le Mans and, through our close relationship with the Signatech Alpine team, we can’t wait to push automotive performance even further.
Here at Bahco we’re looking forward to seeing history being rewritten again this June when the 50 drivers take to the legendary circuit and race for 24 hours.