ROLEX celebrates 100 years of the 24 Hours of Le Mans

One hundred years of the 24 Hours of Le Mans has come to this moment. The culmination of a century of technological advancements, extraordinary human endeavour and heroic performances, which Rolex has supported as the Official Timepiece since 2001. In just over a week’s time, from Saturday 10–Sunday 11 June, the oldest and most prestigious endurance race will celebrate its centenary at Circuit de la Sarthe in north-west France, witnessed by an expected record-breaking crowd of 300,000 people. With renowned manufacturers returning to the sport, all attempting to cover the greatest distance in this ultimate race against time, global interest in the 24 Hours of Le Mans has never been stronger.

Since its first running in 1923, driver and machine have navigated some of the most demanding conditions around the 13.626 kilometre track. From dusk until dawn, epic contests have been staged and legends created. Nine-time winner and Rolex Testimonee Tom Kristensen is the most decorated driver in the history of the race and takes on the role of ambassador for the centenary edition. He says: « For me, this year is all about the 24 Hours of Le Mans; there is so much anticipation as we build to this momentous event. Being the official ambassador is a big responsibility and an honour. I’m proud to celebrate the legacy of the 24 Hours of Le Mans over the past 100 years and to reflect on the many evolutions and revolutions, while looking forward to next week’s race. For a racing driver, Rolex and Le Mans are the perfect match. Both have an extraordinary heritage, built and forged over a century. »

At 4.00 p.m. on Saturday 10 June, the Rolex clock will begin to count down the 24 hours of this year’s eagerly anticipated race. The capacity 62-car field features the new Le Mans Daytona hybrid (LMDh) machines and many of the sport’s biggest names, including the reigning champions, No. 8 Toyota Gazoo Racing. Striving for a sixth consecutive 24 Hours of Le Mans victory, the Japanese marque will compete alongside four of the world’s leading manufacturers – Cadillac, Ferrari, Peugeot and Porsche – in the top Hypercar class. Toyota has shown relentless skill and precision to triumph in the opening three rounds of this season’s FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) and leads the standings as the competition heads into its cornerstone race. Strengthening its relationship with endurance racing, Rolex became the Official Timepiece of the WEC in 2016 and continues to champion the series’ quest to push boundaries and test influential new technologies on racetracks around the globe.

Reflecting the innovative spirit at the heart of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the pioneering Garage 56 car joins the grid, aiming to be the first of its kind to complete the race. Jenson Button, a Rolex Testimonee and the 2009 FIA Formula 1® Drivers’ World Champion, will co-pilot the stock car alongside NASCAR legend Jimmie Johnson and sportscar specialist Mike Rockenfeller. Button says: « I’m very excited to be joining the Garage 56 line-up. It will be an incredible challenge and a privilege to be at the 100th anniversary of Le Mans in such an unusual car, alongside some of the greats of the sport. This race is all about time so to be competing as part of the Rolex family this year will be particularly special. Every driver should experience endurance racing. It’s about working together and developing each other into the best possible driver for the overall success of the team. »

After a relentless, twice-around-the-clock journey, the centenary champions of the 24 Hours of Le Mans will have earned their place in motor sport history. Honouring this remarkable achievement, the winning drivers are to receive a specially engraved Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona, in the year that marks the 60th anniversary of this exceptional chronograph. As the winning team steps onto the podium, they will also be presented with the centenary trophy depicting a ribbon weaving towards the finish line at Circuit de la Sarthe, created for this landmark event. Kristensen adds: « This beautiful trophy symbolizes unity and going into infinity, which sums up this mythical race. Being awarded a Rolex Daytona will be an even more incredible moment this year; it will forever tell the story of this unforgettable race and seeing the unique engraving on the watch will give it extra meaning. To triumph at the 24 Hours of Le Mans is the ultimate and the whole world will be watching next week. »

Virginie Chevailler & Emily Sitwell,