What is an Endurance Drive or Endurance Motorsports?

What’s the longest time you have driven a car or a bike without even stopping? Maybe 6 hours, 7 hours or 12 hours, how about a 24 hour drive? Yes, the concept of driving or motorsport racing constantly for 24 hours or covering a maximum distance in less time has been around for quite some time. It basically tests the endurance or durability or capability of the machine as well as the participant. Mind you, it is not just 24 hour race; it basically involves anything from a 1000 km race, a six-hour race to cover the maximum distance or a 1600 km race, or a race that extends for 24 hours. Anything that tests the driver and the machine.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is what endurance race, endurance drive or endurance motorsports is all about. The first 24-hour race to take place at a dedicated motorsport venue was at Brooklands in 1907 which involved two 12 hour races, between 8 am to 8 pm and the interval in between, the cars were locked up to prevent any maintenance work to happen.

In 1992 Paris-Cape Town rally covered more than 12,000 kilometers, which increased to 13,000 kilometres by 1994.  Dakar rally in 2001 saw competitors cover a distance of 10,739 kilometres (6,673 mi) with a winning time of 70 hours over 20 days with three classes of cars, motorbikes, and trucks. Le Mans is one of the races in endurance racing’s Triple Crown, The 24 Hours of Daytona, held at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., and the 12 Hours of Sebring, held at Sebring International Raceway, a former Army Air Force base in Sebring, Fla., round out the Triple Crown. Cutting it short, there are various such races, which might take out your interest from reading ahead, to prevent that, let’s just skip to the most famous endurance motorsport race – 24 hours of LeMans.

Endurance drive - LeMans

24 hours of Le Mans – the most important race for the manufacturers and fans, where the best machines, technology and drivers are put to test for a full 24 hour. The words oldest 24 hour endurance race started back in 1923 also crowned as Grand Prix of Endurance and Efficiency. Here teams balance speed and accuracy to run for 24 hours without a mechanical failure. So the cars needed to be sporty yet reliable. That’s what the manufacturers like Bentley and Porsche would prove their mettle; Ford would crush Ferrari to settle a beef.

Endurance drive - LeMans

During the 24-hour race, cars of all classes race simultaneously. The fastest cars are LMP1 and LMP2 prototype racers, purpose-built, closed-cockpit racers that look and perform like no road car you can buy. Alongside them are the typically slower GT cars, based on production vehicles like the Porsche 911 and Chevrolet Corvette, run by manufacturers and private teams and driven by both professional and amateur drivers.

There are approximately 60 competitors. Most teams cover around 3000 miles which is 18 times longer than a Formula 1 Grand Prix. They run with one set of brakes and roughly 30 fuel and tyre top-ups. Teams usually pitch in 3 drivers with 8 hours being done by each. There are rules to reduce driver fatigue mandated that drivers could not drive for over 240 minutes over a 6-hour period, and that no one driver could run for over 14 hours total.

Endurance Drive - LeMans

24 hours of Le Mans is  held in June, The race begins in mid-afternoon and finishes the following day at the same hour the race started the previous day. The race takes place at the 8.5-mile Circuit de la Sarthe. The 3.7-mile Mulsanne Straight, where cars regularly do 200 mph. It’s still one of the fastest stretches of track anywhere in the world.

Le Mans has seen a number of fatal accidents. The largest one was in 1955, when more than 80 spectators and driver Pierre Levegh were killed. In the wake of the disaster, many races were cancelled.

Endurance racing stands out from other kinds of motorsports, it tests not only the stamina and skill of the driver, but the sustained durability and reliability of the vehicle.

All of the engineering that goes into making reliable, fuel efficient endurance racers could be put to good use in consumer cars.

Endurance championships helped drive research into fuel efficiency, reliability and aerodynamics. So, the next time you look at a manufacturer boasting about how it performed at an endurance championship, you know what they are trying to prove.

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