Circuit de la Sarthe, 17 June 2016 – After two dramatic days of qualifying at Le Mans, where drivers and teams were tested to the extreme on wet track conditions under stormy skies, the stage is now set for the world’s oldest and greatest endurance race. Sixty cars will line up to start the 84th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which represents the pinnacle of passion, prestige and precision in motor sport. Rolex continues to support this iconic race, proudly celebrating its 15th year as Official Timepiece of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and reflecting the brand’s long-term commitment to motor sport.
A CROWN TO BE WON
Leading the field and defending its title in the LMP1 category, will be the #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid, with team driver Neel Jani setting the fastest lap time of 3:19.733 in the first qualifying session on Wednesday. Thursday’s qualifying session was a wash out with heavy rain falling for most of the session and preventing the teams setting faster times. All eyes are also on the Ford GTs who command the front of the grid in the LMGTE Pro class on their highly anticipated return to Le Mans, 50 years after Ford’s legendary 1-2-3 podium finish in the race following a great fight with the Ferraris. Following the success at the Rolex 24 At Daytona® and Twelve Hours of Sebring, the LMP2 team, Extreme Speed Motorsports and their Ligier JS P2-Nissans are seeking to become only the second team to achieve endurance racing’s Triple Crown by winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans as well. The team increased its chances of making motor sport history by dividing the four drivers and pairing them into two of the 23 cars entered in the LMP2 class.
ROLEX TESTIMONEE AND MR LE MANS
Two-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Alexander Wurz will act as GrandMarshal for this year’s “Grand Prix of Speed and Endurance”, driving the pace car during the formation lap and pulling off the track as the French Tricolour drops to signal the start. Speaking of his return to the Circuit de la Sarthe, Alex Wurz said he felt “honoured to follow in the footsteps of Tom Kristensen”, who took on the role of Grand Marshal in 2015. In an additional twist, these two drivers share a piece of 24 Hours of Le Mans history. In 1997, Rolex Testimonee, Tom Kristensen claimed his first 24 Hours of Le Mans title, stepping into the Porsche seat vacated by Alex Wurz. The legendary Danish driver went on to win a further eight times, earning his nickname “Mr Le Mans”.
THE ROLEX COUNTDOWN CLOCK
When the Rolex clock begins its 24-hour countdown at 15.00 CET on Saturday 18 June, the drivers and teams will begin their quest, not only to take the chequered flag on Sunday 19 June, but also to win the iconic 24 Hours of Le Mans trophy and specially engraved Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona watch. With a rich motor sport heritage and revered for its legendary status, reliability and performance, the ‘Rolex Daytona’ is regarded as the ultimate racing driver’s watch, with drivers at both the 24 Hours of Le Mans andthe Rolex 24 At Daytona® aiming to win this prestigious prize each year.
Speaking about the challenges of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Rolex Testimonee Tom Kristensen said: “The drivers have to go into the race thinking it is going to be their best race ever. Everyone has to have that mind-set, as all four classes have very strong competition. The changeable weather conditions mean the race will be incredibly tense. Drivers and teams will have to predict a lot of things they haven’t been able to try at this unique magical circuit, due to limited track time. This will play into the race and could be a good omen in that sense; I predict it will be a very eventful 24 hours.”
ROLEX AND MOTOR SPORT
Rolex's close ties with motor sport date back to Sir Malcolm Campbell’s World Land Speed Record successes in the 1930s, when he became the first driver to break the 300 mph barrier at the wheel of Bluebird. Since then, Rolex’s presence in motor racing has grown steadily, supporting iconic endurance races such as the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the 24 Hours of Le Mans; iconic classic car events steeped in elegance, beauty and tradition, including the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion and Goodwood Revival; the leading motor sport series, Formula 1®, and most recently, the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Rolex, the leading brand of the Swiss watch industry, is headquartered in Geneva and enjoys an unrivalled reputation for quality and expertise the world over. Its Oyster watches, all certified as Superlative Chronometers for their precision, performance and reliability, are symbols of excellence, elegance and prestige. A pioneer in the development of the wristwatch as early as 1905, the brand is at the origin of numerous major watchmaking innovations, such as the Oyster, the first waterproof wristwatch, launched in 1926, and the Perpetual rotor self-winding mechanism invented in 1931. Rolex has registered over 400 patents in the course of its history. A truly integrated and independent manufacturing company, Rolex designs, develops and produces all the essential components of its watches in-house, from the casting of the gold alloys to the machining, crafting, assembly and finishing of the movement, case, dial and bracelet. Rolex is also actively involved in supporting the arts, sports, exploration, the spirit of enterprise, and the environment through a broad palette of sponsoring activities as well as philanthropic programmes.