The legendary The 24 Hours of Le Mans or Grand Prix of Speed and Endurance, has been run annually since 1923 at the Sarthe road-racing circuit, near Le Mans, France.
Le Mans long been at the forefront of automotive pioneering and innovation issuing from major car companies. The push for greater speed, durability, aerodynamics, fuel efficiency over the years has been feed down to main stream manufacturing. The race has produced some pretty iconic cars over the years and has lead to great competition between manufacturers. We’re going to take a look at who comes out on top between the manufacturers since the beginning in 1923.
We will list each manufacturer and the number of titles in chronological order. The early years at LeMans were completely dominated by French, British, and Italian drivers, teams, and cars.
Bugatti 2 Titles
Bugatti won at Le Mans first in 1937 and in 1939 Jean-Pierre Wimille and Pierre Veyron won the 1939 race with just one car.
Alfa Romeo – Four Titles
Alfa Romeo cars won in 1931, 1932, 1933, 1934 but that was their last podium finish.
Bentley – 5 Titles
Bentley dominated in the debut years winning in 1924, 1927, 1928, 1930 then a 67 year drought for the manufacturer! Then in 2003 drivers Tom Kristensen, Dindo Capello, Guy Smith got Bentley their last win.
Ferrari – 8 Titles
Ferrari started their long winning pedigree with the 24 hours of Le Mans in 1949, they won it again in 1954 and 1958, then completely dominated the early 60’s winning five in a row from 1960-1965. This ended their winning streak and Ferrari would never win at Le Mans again!
The formation of the World Sportscar Championship in 1953, really changed things in motor racing. Teams like Ferrari, Aston Martin, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar and many others began sending multiple cars backed by their respective factories to compete for overall wins against their competitors. This caused fierce competition between manufacturers but lead to major advancements in car technology as all the big car brands in vested heavily in building the right car to win. This would also lead to some terrible disasters too.
Ford – 5 Titles
Ford were the first American car manufacturer to win at Le Mans. The 1966 race was a big wake up call to the Europeans as Ford filled the podium wining first, second and third place. The in 1966 race has been immortalised in the Hollywood blockbuster “Le Mans 66” and the Ford GT40 became a supercar in motorsport legend. Ford won in 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1975.
Porsche – 20 Titles
In the 70’s engineering, handling and aerodynamic advanced much further and tt was Porsche who took over back the podium from the American Ford company in 1970. The Porsche 917, 935, and 936 were dominant throughout the decade. 1970, 1971, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1980. The French managed a very impressive 4 win with the Matra-Simca brand winning Le Mans in 72, 73 and 74 and Renault-Alpine won it in 1978.
Porsche dominated the 1980’s too, starting with 956, it was later replaced by the 962. Porsche won again in 1981 and then another 6 times right up until 1988 when the legendary Jaguar XJ220 final knock them off the podium in 1988.
With 20 Le Mans wins, the Porsche car company are by far the most successful at Le Mans.
Mercedes Benz – 2 Titles
Mercedes won their first race in 1952 and had been involved in the earlier years of Le Mans racing their iconic 300SLR, then the 1955 tragedy happened. Frenchman Pierre Levegh was driving for the Mercedes-Benz team when it was involved in a crash,the car launched out of the track and into the stands, exploding and killing Levegh and 83 spectators. It was and still is worst tragedy in motorsports history.
Mercedes would not race at Le Mans again until the 90’s and finally won the race in 1989, it was their one and only win.
Peugeot – 3 Titles
Jaguar would win again in 1990 and Mazda won for the fist time ever in 1991, this was to the a first 24 hours of Le Mans win for any Japanese car company. Then Peugeot took back some French ownership, winning in 1992 and 93. They would win it again in 2009 with the 908.
Porsche notched up another three wins in 1994, 96 and 97. McLaren won a first and only LeMans in 1995 but then it was back to business as usual and Porsche won the next 3 in a row.
BMW – 1 Title
The german car giant could only manage one win at Le Mans despite a number of try outs, their win was in 1999. The same year Mercedes left Le Mans for good after two near catastrophic crashes were caused by problems with their CLR race car.
Audi – 13 Titles
After facing near economic ruin some of the automobile manufacturers withdrew from sports car racing after 1999 due to the high cost. This left an easy path for Audi to enter and win a clean sweep in 2000, 2001 and 2002. Bentley made a comeback to the podium after 67 years, winning in 2003 for the last time to date.
In 2004 the Audi R8’s and R10’s continued their winning streak and the end of 2005, Audi took on a new challenge by introducing a diesel engined car known as the R10 TDI. It wasn’t the first first diesel to race, but it was the first to win at Le Mans. The only one to upset Audi winning between 2004 and 2014 was Peugeot in 2009.
2015 saw Porsche regain their title, winning again in 2016 and 2017 in the 919 Hybrid.
Toyota – 2 Titles
In 2018 Japanese car company Toyota won at Le Mans in the Toyota TS050 Hybrid, they followed up in 2019 winning again.
So there you have it, Porsche win by a long shot, Audi second. After Fords success in the 50’s the American car companies faded to the back of the field. Japanese car companies have been the least successful winning on 3 times.
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