Inaugurated in 1923, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, in northwestern France, is the oldest endurance race in the world – as well as one of the best known and most prestigious – together with the Rolex 24 At Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring. The objective of the race is to cover the greatest possible distance in the given time: 86,400 seconds.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans tests both the reliability of the cars and the physical and mental endurance of the drivers, who take turns behind the wheel to cover the 24-hour duration of the race, made up of 13.626 km of track and 38 bends for each tour. This unique sporting event was created to contribute to technical progress and development of the automotive market. Combining speed and safety over long distances, regardless of the racing conditions, in fact requires the best of engineering in order to develop the most suitable solutions. Endurance racing also allows manufacturers to test their innovations: since 2022, for example, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the FIA World Endurance Championship have chosen a certified 100% sustainable biofuel.
This year, the 91st edition of this legendary race will take place on 10 and 11 June 2023 and it will be an opportunity to celebrate its centenary: the first edition, in fact, dates back to 1923. The race takes place in the Sarthe Circuit, in the presence of more than 300,000 people. To kick off the race, a sports legend has been chosen for this edition: Lebron James.
One hundred years ago, the first edition was contested by 33 crews, each made up of two pilots; in this 2023 edition, 62 crews and 186 drivers will gather on the Sarthe circuit. An extraordinary opportunity for many of the biggest manufacturers and privateer teams to showcase their technology know-how.
The departure is scheduled for 4.00 pm on Saturday 10 June, the moment from which the clocks will begin to mark the 24-hour countdown. The time factor, therefore, is essential in this type of race. It is no coincidence that Rolex is a partner of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) and of the three races that have forged the legend of the discipline and its drivers: the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 12 Hours of Sebring.
After all, the crowned Maison has always been linked to the world of engines, since 4 September 1935, when Sir Malcolm Campbell became the first driver to break the 300 mph (or 485 km/h) land record driving his Bluebird and with a Rolex watch on her wrist. Since 1968, then, the brand has joined Sir Jackie Stewart, three times Formula 1® world champion (1969, 1971 and 1973), winner of 27 of the 99 Grand PrixTM he has entered and a staunch supporter of driver safety. Furthermore, since 2013, the brand has been the Global Partner and Official Watch of the Formula 1® world championship.
“When you win at Le Mans, you carry victory with you forever. When I think about the history of this competition and the commitment with which Rolex supports motor sports, I’m really proud, but also honoured” – Tom Kristensen
Ambassador in the centenary edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is the Danish driver Tom Kristensen.
With nine victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, driver Tom Kristensen is the most titled champion in the history of this race, so much so that he boasts the nickname “Mr. Le Mans”. A talented driver from the beginning in karting, he puts himself to the test in Formula 3 before launching himself passionately into endurance racing. In 1997 the champion took part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the first time, triumphing at the wheel of a car with which he had no experience. From 2000 to 2005 he imposes himself as undisputed winner of the race, which he will also win in 2008 and 2013. In 18 participations, Kristensen climbed the podium 15 times. His palmarès also includes the title of world champion in endurance in 2013 and six victories at the 12 Hours of Sebring.
Kristensen has been a Rolex Testimonial since 2010 and, in 2023, he will have the role of ambassador in the centenary edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The Rolex Daytona 24 Hours of Le Mans 100 Years
Rolex has supported the 24 Hours of Le Mans as an official watch since 2001. Tradition has it that the talented (and lucky) winners of the Le Mans race receive a Rolex watch.
This edition could not be an exception, which indeed celebrates such an important anniversary: the winners of the 24 Hours of Le Mans will in fact receive a special Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona, with a commemorative engraving on the case back with the logo of the race and the writing “winners 2023”. Among other things, this year also celebrates the 60th anniversary of this highly successful model, specially revisited for the occasion in the new version presented at Watches and Wonders 2023with updated proportions and the new caliber 4131.
The Rolex Daytona that will be given to the winner of this edition will therefore have a special and unique value. As Tom Kristensen pointed out, this timepiece “will forever tell the story of this memorable race and the special engraving will give the watch even more significant value” (..it will forever tell the story of this unforgettable race and seeing the unique engraving on the watch will give it extra meaning”).
After all, as the pilot Scott Pruett said “if you win a trophy you put it on a shelf. The prize money is deposited in the bank. But if you win a Rolex with the word ‘winner’ engraved on the caseback, you wear it every day” (Scott Pruett, Californian driver who won the Rolex 24 of DAYTONA five times (1994, 2007, 2008, 2011 and 2013).