LE MANS 24 HOURS 1923

26th - 27th May

33 starters

19 entries and

The fickle month of May lived up to its reputation! Rain and hail allied to rots and furrowed roads as well as night falling early al! combined to complicate the task of the 33 entries in the first - ever Le Mans 24 Hour race. Only 3 competitors failed to make it to the finish. There was no real classification based on distance, and the race was against the clock. The organisers had wisely fixed low averages (almost as low as tbe sky! ) and after 16 hours racing all the survivors had met their targets. The dash between Chenard & Walcker and Bentley dominated this "Grand Premier". Finally, it was a French triple thanks to the third - placed Bignan. Consolation for the singleton Bentley carne in the form of the first - ever lap record.

CIRCUIT :

17,252 kms. The A C. O followed the layout created after the war and used for the 1921 A C. F Grand Prix. In a place called "Les Raineries" two sets of tribunes (some 44 metres long) were erected in front of the pits. Race Headquarters were supplied with current by generators. Projectors were installed by the army at Pontlieue and Mulsanne. Bends and curves were sign - posted by acetylene lamps. The rain put paid to the scheduled fireworks display! Charles Faroux, the co - founder of the race, assumed the duties of Clerk of the Course and the main intervention vehicle was driven by Victor Hemery, a local, former holder of the World Land Speed Record and winner of the French GP run at Le Mans in 1911.

REGUlATIONS:

The event was open to commercial models, namely, cars "complying with those described in the manufacturers' catalogue". They had to have "Bona Fide" touring coachwork and all tbe basic accessories (wings, running boards, headlights, side - lights, hood, horn, rear - view mirror etc. . . ). Only tbe driver could carry out repairs. A fixed distance had to be covered which was determined according to cubic capacity. Sixty kgs of ballast had to be carried per possible passenger in addition to the driver. Cars with a cubic capacity of under 1100 ccs had to be two seaters

STARTERS:

33 cars 3 nations 17 makes

Belgium : 2 Excelsiors

France : 1 Amilcar, 2 Berliets, 2 Bignans, 2 Brasiers, 2 Bugattis, 3 Chenard et Walckers, 2 Corre la Liconres, 1 Delage, 2 Georges Irats, 3 Lorraine Dietrichs, 1 Montier - Ford, 4 Rolland Pilains, 2 Salmsons, 2 S. A R A s (Ste des Automobiles a Refroidissement par Air); 1 Vinot Deguingand.

Great Britain : 1 BentIey Makes, first appearance : : . . . all!

The pioneers :

SUMMARY:

Two Voisins and two Bucs witbdrew. Scrutineering was carried out in the rue du Porcepic. The Clerk of tbe Course, Charles Faroux, was assisted by Messrs Paul Rousseau, Poi Ravigneau, Geo Lefevre and Professor Charleau. At tbe beginning of May certain teams (Chenard et Walcker, Lorraine Dietrich and Bignan) came to explore tbe circuit. The price of seats varied from 25 francs (lodge) to 20 francs in the stands and 15 francs in the enclosures. There was a violent hailstorm just before tbe start given by Charles Faroux. Andre Lagache in his Chenard et Walcker led at tbe end of the first lap. Bignan, Excelsior Lorraine and BentIey contested tbe Chenards' domination for most of the race without however, preventing them from controlling the pace and imposing their rhythm. The no. 2 Excelsior went off at Mulsanne but was able to continue. The Bentley, handicapped by brakes on its rear wheels only and problems witb the lights, was unable to mount a real challenge. A slight 'off', but above all running out of fuel on the circuit prevented Duff and Clement from matching the pace of tbe Chenards and from resisting the attack of the "desmo" Bignan driven by Tomaco Gros. Due to a punctured fuel tank on his no. 29 Bugatti, Marie had to cover 5 kms on foot twice in order to refuel. The no. 31 S. A R. A which Piazzoli, one of its constructors, shared with Marcadanti, had the doubtful honour of being the first - ever retirement in the history of the race after an accident which did irreparable damage to tbe front suspension. There was drama at the finish as Raoul Bachman (Chenard et Walcker no. 10) was unsighted by a competitor and could not avoid Gros. The no. 23 Bignan driver suffered a fractured left arm and multiple bruises. Of the 2 makes that were subject to fuel checks, we know that the no. 21 Georges Irat used 8, 650 litres per 100 kms at an overall average speed of 66, 890 km/h and hbe surviving S. A R. A averaged 6 litres per 100 kms at a speed of 40, 957 km/h! Witb 30 classitied finishers from 33 starters, a loss of only 9%, this tirst Le Mans 24 Hour race set a reliability record that has never been beaten.

RECORDS:

The 2000 km barrier was breached by the 2 Chenard et Walckers nos 9 and 10 and by tbe Gros - Tomaco Bignan no. 23. Chenard et Walcker improved 2 road - going world records, that of 2000 kms covered in 21h 46'20" and that of 24 hours at 92, 065 km/h. The 2 litre Bignan and the no. 8 1500 cc Bugatti also beat the 24 hour record in their respective categories. The lap record was set at 107, 328 km/h by F. Clement (or J. Duff ? ). There was a large number of dead - heats, the so - called fourth place being shared by tbe Excelsior, the Bentley and the Bignan.

The only Delage and the Desvaux, Casse Salmson shared twelfth spot. Anotber Salmson (Benoist. Bueno) and the Cappe . Douarinou Georges Irat were grouped in fifteenth position. The Prost Redon Berliet and the Bloch . Starter Lorraine were attributed nineteenth place. Finally, tbe Corre la Licome of Balard . Drouin and the 2 Rolland Pilains of Pouzet . Pichon and Robin . Marinier were grouped in 23rd spot. The 2 Brasiers and the surviving Berliet went through the whole 24 hours without changing a single tyre.

back to index

Sports Car Races

Targa Florio 1963

Sebring 1966

Stardust GP 1968

Le Mans 1930

Le Mans 1949

Le Mans 1950

Le Mans 1951

Le Mans 1952

Le Mans 1953

Le Mans 1954

Le Mans 1955

Le Mans 1956

Le Mans 1957

Le Mans 1958

Le Mans 1959

Le Mans 1960

Le Mans 1961

Le Mans 1962

Le Mans 1963

Le Mans 1964

Author: ArchitectPage