Following the demise of the World Sportscar Championship, Le Mans saw a resurgence of production-based grand tourer cars
. The trend continued through the 1990s as more exotic supercars
were built. This culminated in the 1999 event, in which BMW
experienced its first victory. Following the 1999 event, many major automobile manufacturers would pull out of sports car racing due to the costs associated with running the event. After three victories in a row, Audi provided engine, team staff and drivers to its corporate partner Bentley
, who had returned in 2001. At the end of 2005, after five overall victories for the R8
and six to its V8 turbo engine, Audi took on a new challenge by introducing a diesel engined prototype known as the R10 TDI
. Although not the first diesel to race, it was the first to achieve victory at Le Mans. This era saw other alternative fuel
sources being used, including bio-ethanol, while Peugeot decided to follow Audi's lead and also pursue a diesel entry in 2007 with their 908. The 2008 24 Hours of Le Mans
was a great race between the Audi R10 and the Peugeot 908. For the 2009 24 Hours of Le Mans, Peugeot introduced a new energy-recovery system similar to the KERS used in Formula One
Successful Marques and Drivers
Over the years, many manufacturers have managed to take the overall win, while even more have taken class wins. By far the most successful marque in the history of the race is Porsche
, who have taken 16 overall victories, including seven in a row from 1981 to 1987. Ferrari follows with nine, also including six in a row from 1960 to 1965, while Jaguar has seven wins. Bentley, Alfa Romeo and Ford
all managed to win four races in a row, with Bentley recording two other victories in other years as well. Recently the Audi marque has dominated the event, winning in eight of the ten years they have participated. Audi and Team Joest have had two hat-tricks, the first being in 2000, 2001, and 2002. The only Japanese marque to win the race so far has been Mazda, although nearly every major Japanese manufacturer has made attempts at the race. Mazda's 1991 victory also saw the only win by a rotary engine, one of Mazda's hallmarks.
For drivers, two drivers stand apart for their number of victories. Initially, Jacky Ickx
held the record at six, scoring victories between 1969 and 1982, earning him an honorary citizenship to the town of Le Mans. However, Tom Kristensen
has been able to quickly eclipse this record with eight wins between 1997 and 2008, including six in a row. Three-time winner Woolf Barnato
(1928 to 1930) and American racing legend AJ Foyt
(1967) are still the only drivers to have won every Le Mans they participated in.
has won the race four times, yet currently holds the record for the most Le Mans appearances at 33. Graham Hill
is the only driver to win the so-called Triple Crown of Motorsport which is defined as winning the Indianapolis 500
(1966), Monaco Grand Prix (1963, 1964, 1965, 1968, 1969) and the 24 Hours of Le Mans (1972).