Le Mans Circuit des 24 Heures c/o AC de L'Ouest Cedex 19X, Le Mans 72009 France Tel: +43 402424 Fax: +43 402425 Track Length: 8.451 milesThe circuit was first used in 1921, as a 10.726 mile road circuit. This was shortened to 10.153 miles in 1929, when the western end of the circuit was shortened with the Rue du Circuit link road for safety reasons. In 1932, the current track from the pits straight to Tertre Rouge was built, with the Dunlop bridge being installed after the first corner, bringing the track length down to 8.378 miles. It remained unchanged until 1956, when following "Pierre Levegh"'s horrendous crash into the crowd the pits straight was widened and the Dunlop Corner eased (track length now 8.365 miles). In 1968 the Ford Chicane was added before the start (8.369 miles), followed by the Old Maison Blanche bypass with a new piece of ciruit to Arnage from the Ford Chicane in 1972 (8.476 miles). In 1979 Tertre Rouge was tightened to accommodate the new Le Mans ringroad (8.467 miles), and in 1986 the construction of a roundabout at the entrance to the Mulsanne Village necessitated a new corner (8.406 miles). In 1987 a chicane was built at the Dunlop Corner, bringing the track length to 8.410 miles.
After the new breed of Group C sportscars had been clocked at over 230 mph on the Mulsanne straight, it was decided to insert two chicanes to slow the cars down, bringing the track length up to 8.450 miles. This change was much lamented by the drivers, as they used the straight to 'rest' on, and they were now required to perform some 3000 more gearchanges during a race. It also led to the typical driving squad being raised from two/three to three/four drivers. The last change came in 1990 when Indianapolis and Arnage were reprofiled.
However, in 1999, the Mercedes GT cars managed to flip on three separate occasions on the Mulsanne straight when going over the "Mulsanne Hump". In response to this, the circuit was flattened and the hump lowered by 8 metres during the winter of 2000/2001 to try and reduce the risk of this happening again.
For 2002 the circuit at the Esses was re-profiled into a series of sweeping bends, the circuit length being extended to 8.4835 miles (see left). For 2007 Tetre Rouge was reprofiled, adding run off and shortening the circuit by 21m. The exit of Arnage was also widened, and a new surface laid to remove the bumps - this reduced lap times by 3 seconds or so.