Le Mans 24 Hours: A quick guide

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by Hertz - 01 April 2020

The French city of Le Mans is a quaint place, with its riverside views and medieval old town punctuating the beautiful Pays de la Loire countryside.

But every June, this picturesque destination is transformed from sleepy city by the Sarthe River, to the epicenter of the motorsport world. Auto fans from across the globe embark on a pilgrimage to the famous Circuit des 24 Heures du Mans to watch the ultimate spectacle on four wheels.

Plan your trip to the home of endurance racing with our guide to Le Mans 24 Hours and discover how to book tickets, where to stay and the best vantage points to enjoy the race from.

What is the Le Mans 24 Hours?


The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the world’s longest-running motorsport endurance race. It’s held every June at the Circuit des 24 Heures du Mans, generally known as Circuit de la Sarthe – one of the longest tracks in the world at 8.5 miles (13.6 kilometers).

First held in 1923, the race has become one of the world’s most prestigious races, alongside the Indy 500 and Monaco Grand Prix.

Each of the 62 cars – racing in different categories – are piloted by three drivers who generally race in two-hour stints, from 3pm on the Saturday through 3pm on the Sunday.

As well as the world’s best racing talent – such as multiple-winner Andre Lotterer, and Formula 1’s Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso – throughout the years, other competitors have included the late actor Paul Newman, the former French soccer player Fabian Barthez, and Grey’s Anatomy actor Patrick Dempsey.

The circuit comprises both part of a dedicated race track, as well as closed-off public roads. This big and unique layout means there are plenty of places to view the race.

How do I book tickets for the race?

Getting your Le Mans adventure started is easy. All spectators need a ticket to attend the race and you can find them by visiting the official Le Mans ticket sales website.

Tickets range from general entrance passes, which let you visit most of the non-grandstand viewing areas, to VIP packages that give you all-access to the pit area and luxury hospitality.

General Week Enclosure tickets are valid for the entire raceweek, including the two test sessions and access to the stands on the Friday before the big race, Saturday and Sunday.

Pack tickets are pricier and grant you temporary access to the Gridwalk, permanent access to the paddocks and you’ll get your own numbered reserved seat in the prestigious Tribune 34, found above the stands and offering unparalleled views of the race.

Where should I stay when visiting for the race?

If you’re renting a car in Le Mans, there are a collection of hotels to choose from. But for the most immersive fan experience, there’s only one choice – camping.

Le Mans is half race, half festival, where the smell of barbeques lingers long into the early hours – soundtracked by 62 cars racing on the edge through day, night and day again.

With 18 designated camping sites to choose from around the circuit, here are five of the best.

  •          Beauséjour – one of the circuit’s biggest campsites, great for a mixture of car clubs and regular campers.
  •          Houx Annexe – great facilities matched only by its energetic atmosphere that brings fans back every year.
  •          Hunaudieres – aka the Mulsanne Straight, one of the most famous parts of the track.
  •          Maison Blanche – located next to the track, this renowned corner gets you closer to the action than many others.
  •          Tertre Rouge – this campsite is situated in an enviable position, right by the famous corner and is the choice of fervent Le Mans fans.

All campsites open at 9am on the Sunday a week before the race. When you book your tickets, you’ll be given a 375-square-foot pitch to park your vehicle, put up your tent, tables and chairs. You’ll also always need to display your access pass and leave it visible on your dashboard.

It’ll give you the most authentic experience of the race and lets you mingle with other racegoers morning, noon and night. Shuttle buses are also available to transport you from your campsite to other areas of the circuit, including the Village and Fan Zones.

How do I get to the circuit?


Circuit de la Sarthe is around a 20-minute drive south from central Le Mans.

  1.     From the city center, follow Avenue Bollée south-east out of the city and turn right onto Boulevard Nicolas Cugnot/D314
  2.     Stay on this route and eventually take the 3rd exit onto Avenue Georges Durand.
  3.     Turn right on to Rue André Gabelle, then take a left onto Rue de Laigne.
  4.     Follow this road towards Circuit de la Sarthe and turn left towards the main entrance.

The circuit is reachable by car from several other nearby destinations in France:

  •          Paris is around 130 miles (210km) away, via the A11 highway.
  •          Nantes is located 115 miles (185km) away, also via the A11 route.
  •          Tours, close by to Val de Loire Airport, is 56 miles (90km) away, via the A28 road.

Note that France’s highways – autoroutes – are toll roads. It’s a good idea to have some money to hand.

Where are the best vantage points of the race?

With over eight miles of track, the Circuit de la Sarthe offers plenty of viewpoints for avid racegoers to catch the action. Some have gained popularity among spectators for being the best places to truly experience the spirit of Le Mans. Here’s a few crowd favorites:


Located on the south-east of the circuit, Arnage is held in high regard by spectators and is a crowd favorite. From here, you can see right down the straight leading up to the corner, enjoying cars approaching at top speed before slowing to negotiate the tricky turn. Best of all, there’s a free shuttle bus service here, which can take you to different parts of the course.

Forest Esses

For panoramic views of the track, there are few better spots to choose than Forest Esses. Found on the west side of the circuit, this vantage point is on top of a hill, which lets you see cars approaching at top speeds of nearly 100mph (160km/h). It’s a fantastic place to watch the action when the night draws in, as headlights spear through the darkness.

Dunlop Chicane

Also on the west-side of the track, the Dunlop Chicane is another fan’s choice, which means getting there early is essential. Watch from here as the cars drop down from the iconic Dunlop Bridge. The exit of this corner is crucial, leading on to the Mulsanne Straight – the fastest part of the track. It’s also right by the Race Village, so you’re close to all the funfairs and concerts.

Pit Straight

This is where the race begins with the drop of the French tricolor, and finishes 24 hours later with the checkered flag. If you’ve got a pit pass, this is where you can go behind-the-scenes in the paddock – although the pit garages are strictly off limits. If you’re lucky enough to secure tickets for the grandstand, it’s the perfect place to enjoy Le Mans.

Discover more about how to make your trip to this historic race even more memorable when you book your Le Mans car rental with Hertz.