On Saturday 11 June at 4.00 p.m. local time, 62 cars will line up at Circuit de la Sarthe alongside the iconic Rolex 24-hour clock to contest the 90th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Almost a century after this legendary endurance race was first held, 250,000 motor sport enthusiasts are expected to witness the drivers and their teams compete in extreme conditions and under intense pressure to secure their place in sporting history. Driven by a passion for heritage, performance and precision, Rolex has been the Official Timepiece of the 24 Hours of Le Mans since 2001 and subsequently partnered with the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).
In this year’s WEC, a fascinating rivalry has developed between Toyota Gazoo Racing and the current series leader Alpine Elf Endurance Team, who hold a five-point advantage after the first two races. Emphasizing the importance of the season’s third round, the winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans will be rewarded with double points. To triumph requires resilience and perseverance as man and machine race in harmony, twice around the clock. There are exactly 86,400 seconds for the taking; some provide the opportunity for exhilarating speed, while others require a more measured approach. Yet, as day turns to night, and back again, finding and maintaining a rhythm around the 13.626 kilometre racetrack is paramount.
Rolex Testimonee Tom Kristensen, the most decorated driver in the history of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, this year celebrates the 25th anniversary of his first of nine victories in the world’s oldest endurance race. Discussing his unique relationship with this event, Kristensen says:
“That race was the foundation of my career and those 10 days in June 1997 were the most important of my racing life. You carry a win at Le Mans with you forever. I feel proud and humble reflecting on the race’s legacy and Rolex’s involvement with motor sport. Together they are the perfect combination; both striving for excellence through persistence, technical innovation and human endeavour.”
The 24 Hours of Le Mans welcomes entrants from a variety of motor sport disciplines, with professional and amateur drivers competing across four categories. The headline Hypercar class features the defending champion, No. 7 Toyota Gazoo Racing, as the Japanese manufacturer looks to record a fifth successive race victory. The two Toyota GR010 Hybrids take on the mighty Alpine Elf Endurance Team, with the Glickenhaus Racing duo completing the group. A bumper 27-car field will contest the LMP2 class, including former Formula 1® drivers Sébastien Bourdais, Robert Kubica and Felipe Nasr, as well as eight-time FIA World Rally Champion, Sébastien Ogier. Having become the youngest-ever WEC race winner at the season-opening 1000 Miles of Sebring, 16-year-old Josh Pierson is on track to be the youngest driver to take part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In the LMGTE Pro class, Corvette Racing return with a two-car entry, while the all-female Iron Dames will make their fourth appearance at Circuit de le Sarthe in the LMGTE Am class.
On the afternoon of Sunday 12 June, the team that has covered the greatest distance will step onto the podium to lift the 24 Hours of Le Mans trophy, with each driver receiving a specially engraved Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona. The ultimate accolade in motor sport, the Cosmograph Daytona is revered for its legendary status, reliability and performance. Kristensen, who joined the Rolex family in 2010, says:
“My Daytonas are emotional possessions and remain as special to me today as when I first won them. They tell the story of defining moments in my career. When I look at the watches, not only do I see precision timing but I also relive the achievements with my team and co-drivers all those years ago.”