“100 Years of Legends: The Official Celebration of the Le Mans 24 Hours” book reviewed


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Celebrating its 100th year in 2023, there has been no shortage of Le Mans 24 Hours-related media products in recent months.

While Richard Williams’ ’24 Hours’ book published early this year provides a superb prose-led history of the events, this – the official celebration book – is something else altogether.

Another beautiful Evro production, having initially appeared in its original French a few months ago, the book takes full advantage of the coffee table format with innovative page layout and design making it a delight to flick through.

With sections covering every conceivable aspect of the race’s history, ‘100 Years’ is the perfect book to dip in and out of, and certainly lends itself better to enjoying this way, rather than going cover-to-cover.

That’s not to say ‘100 Years’ is superficial – far from it. There’s plenty of text and insight crammed in. The other joy is the sheer variety; hopping from a double page spread on Jean Rondeau to an interview with Masten Gregory’s wife, to a feature on BMW art cars – there are few stones left unturned.

The translation is also a good one (this is far from always the case) meaning that the book is easy to read, and the linguistic idiosyncrasies are thin on the ground. Likewise, the self-congratulatory tone that can sometimes surround the Le Mans 24 Hours is largely absent.

As a good social sciences student, I’ve been trained for years to read three books on any subject. Here ‘100 Years’ fits perfectly with Williams’ ’24 Hours’ and Quentin Spurring’s multi-volume definitive history of the event. For the Le Mans 24 Hours fan, this will be the perfect festive reading.

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Rating four out of five

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100 Years of Legends: The Official Celebration of the Le Mans 24 Hours

Authors: Denis Bernard, Basil Davoine, Julien Holtz & Gerard Holtz
Publisher: Evro Publishing
Published: November 2023
Pages: 336
Price: £70.00
ISBN: 9781910505885

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Ben Evans
Motorsport commentator Ben is RaceFans' resident bookworm. Look out for his verdict on the latest motor racing publications on Sundays....

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8 comments on ““100 Years of Legends: The Official Celebration of the Le Mans 24 Hours” book reviewed”

  1. Looks like a must have publication, and judging by the images on the publishers website they’ve only neglected to include both the standard measurements and the English ones on the track maps; it seems everything else is given in both. And it’s cheaper in Euro as well, which is always nice.

    Speaking of Quentin Spurring, it’s been so long since I’ve heard anything from him. He’s now two decades behind in his excellent series, which is a bit of a shame. Is it known if he or maybe someone else is still working on them?

    1. @MichaelN EVRO Publishing have said that Quentin Spurring is currently working on the next two volumes of his official history of Le Mans series. The first was due in 2022 so he’s running behind, but fingers crossed!

  2. Coventry Climax
    24th December 2023, 12:21

    I was on holidays in Thailand, many years ago, when I bought Richard Williams’ ‘The death of Ayrton Senna’, in one of the many, second hand bookstores that seem to cater for tourists specifically. It struck me as inevitable that someone with that last name would write a book like that. (Like a flowershop owner named ‘Rose’, or, most recent, Mrs. Hatcher(!) giving birth to ‘twins’ from two separate wombs.)

    Unaware of it at the time of purchase, it later turned out I’d bought it on the exact date (no, not the year ofcourse) of his (Senna’s) death. Coïncidence ofcourse, but that’s what made it special to me.
    Apart from that though, it’s turned out to be a book and writer that I -still- value highly, among the books I have on motorsports, be it about cars and manufacturers, drivers or teams.

    I might be interested in this book as well, as it seems -and if it proves- to indeed be a full history of Le Mans.
    As I feel ‘Le Mans’ was actually killed with the arrival of the hypercar and BoP, it would make another necrology, so to speak.
    Some will argue Le Mans still carries the name and title.
    Well, so does King Charles, but, to put it mildly, it just doesn’t feel like the real thing anymore.

    1. How did the Hypercars ruin lemans? I don’t know a lot about lemans / WEC. It seems to me BoP was a good idea for the GTE class but shouldn’t have been applied to the others. Also why is BoP even required for the hypercars with the EoT rules? I plan to catch up on the last WEC season over the winter break.

      1. Also why is BoP even required for the hypercars with the EoT rules?

        The Equivalence of Technology was necessary when there were different approaches to both the engines (petrol and diesel) and the electric motors (or lack thereof). Since all Hypercars now (must) use petrol hybrid PUs, this is no longer an issue.

        Hypercar was/is intended to be a performance-capped series. In other words, it is simply forbidden to build the best car possible, and in theory this will make it possible for manufacturers to give their designs their own iconic look and feel. The Balance of Performance is then necessary to make sure they can all compete on equal footing. However, as we’re seeing now, manufacturers are quickly converging on a fairly standardized design because the BoP itself just can’t change the inherent physical characteristics of the cars; just tweak the laptimes a bit. The concept is failing a bit, in that sense.

        But that Hypercar is a huge change at Le Mans is also a bit overstated. Back in LMP1 and LMP900 there were a lot of regulations that were aimed at keeping the field and the different kinds of engines and chassis together. Granted; there was room for development that isn’t there today, but it’s still not a huge change given that the FIA/ACO were quite happy to make rule changes that undid that development.

        Finally, it’s also a safety matter. The circuit at Le Mans is not a permanent circuit, and doesn’t have the highest safety rating the FIA has to offer. Therefore, the ACO is reluctant to have cars get ever faster, and the 3:15 laptimes that we saw late in the LMP1 era were judged to be too fast. So they brought both the top class and everything else back a bit, too. This isn’t unusual either; just like Indycar doesn’t want qualifying speeds to get above 375 km/h, the ACO prefers to have Le Mans laptimes around the 3:25 mark for their top class.

        1. MichaelN, it feels as if you’re criticising the ACO both ways though – if the ACO does interfere with BoP to maintain more diversity in design, you’ve complained that they’re artificially handicapping the better designs and that they shouldn’t interfere too much.

          When the ACO then doesn’t get as heavily involved with BoP, you then complain that there is now not enough design diversity because teams are then encouraged to move towards a more optimal design.

          1. I might not have worded it right. The Hypercar class has performance limits, which were deliberately quite achievable to 1) bring costs down massively, 2) bring lap times down to about 3:25, and 3) make it possible to make choices based on corporate look and feel rather than sheer performance. While that does indeed limit the better designs, that’s all fine as it’s part of the deal they all signed up for.

            But the BoP can’t fix everything, which puts #3 under pressure. This is perhaps best seen at Peugeot; their design is quite radical, but while BoP can bring them up to speed, it can’t chance physics; a design that is more reliant on underbody downforce will, inevitably, be more sensitive to bumpy tracks than cars that take a greater share of their downforce from the body and the wings. There just isn’t any way around this, because it’s not just an issue of laptimes, it also has an impact on how they handle the tyres and so on.

            So it seems inevitable that Hypercar won’t be a varied grid of all kinds of cool and unique designs, but rather more like the DPi days in IMSA, when American manufacturers put slight twists on the LMP2 base design. There isn’t much the FIA/ACO can do about it, especially since the calendar features so many similar tracks (Qatar, Imola, Interlagos, COTA, Fuji and Bahrain) with Spa-Francorchamps and La Sarthe being the high-speed outliers.

      2. Coventry Climax
        24th December 2023, 19:13


        I think this is always a good start to find out about things. Long read, but interesting enough.

        So, the original purpose of ‘Le 24 heures du Mans’ was to cover the longest distance in that given time.
        Because speed is defined as unit of distance per unit of time (e.g. km/h), that boils down to achieving the largest average speeds, which must sound familiar if your in to motorsports at all. Instead of setting a fixed distance, like in F1 and a lot of other racing classes, they chose to set a fixed time. And quite a long time at that, hence the name endurance racing.

        To me, so my opinion, the point is twofold: To build a better car than the competition and get a better diver than the competition. So in that respect F1 and Le Mans are/used to be exactly the same.

        There are racing classes where the aspect of ‘trying to build a better car than the competition’ is taken out, like Caterham races, or MX5/Miata’s or any standard car. Those are called spec races, because the cars have to adhere to fixed specifications. That obviously means it’s a driver competition only. They can be huge fun to watch (let alone do!), as it’s often very competitive with all cars performing the same.

        Fun as spec racing can be, as an engineer though, I’m interested in the other aspect as well, where the engineers of one team try to outsmart those of the other teams.
        That can quickly become a costly affair though, making it a money race more than an engineering race. It accounts for the withdrawal of many teams from Le Mans.
        There would have been many solutions to that issue, but with the ‘hypercars’ (nice name, but they’re not that at all) they chose to go the mix/variant version of the spec route, by allowing (I’d say minor, others may disagree) design differences, but then equalise the endresults of the engineering efforts by having the better performing cars run penalty ballast weight, reduced power output and/or reduced maximum allowed total energy.
        It’s called Balance of Performance, a fancy name for chopping off anything above ground level.

        It means that the second aspect I’m interested in, is taken out. And, in my opinion, it takes away the incentive for engineers to do better than the competition, which is what endurance racing should not be about.
        Think of it: What does the first place Trophy mean? Right: You did better than the others.

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