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2023 has been a year of anniversaries that any gearhead will appreciate. It’s NASCAR’s 75th anniversary, and it’s also the 75th anniversary of Porsche’s first sports car, but there’s another one that snuck up on me: 2023 marks the 100th anniversary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. To commemorate the centenary, Motorbooks dropped a gorgeous commemorative book titled Le Mans 100: A Century at the World’s Greatest Endurance Race.
Smale Knows His Stuff
Le Mans 100 is a compendium of every race held at Circuit de la Sarthe over the last century. Every race gets at least two pages of summary, some verynice photographs, and the top-class podium results. Each decade gets a setup chapter written by author Glen Smale to set the scene. Smale’s writing is concise and to the point, so it keeps things moving along nicely.
Smale knows the subject matter well, having covered the 24 Hours of Le Mans numerous times and penning 15 books over the years on sports cars and racing, including Porsche at Le Mans: 70 Years, published by Motorbooks in 2021 (Smale later detailed what surprised him about Porsche at Le Mans during an appearance on the Cars Yeah podcast with Mark Greene).
From Le Mans 100: A Century at the World’s Greatest Endurance Race by Glen Smale, published by Motorbooks. Photos: Alamy, John Brooks, Glen Smale.
Le Mans 100 Foreword & Writing Style
The foreword is written by “Mr. Le Mans” himself, Tom Kristensen. That the guy who’s won at Le Mans more than anyone lends a hand here is noteworthy, but it’s also worth pointing out that Kristensen is an excellent writer on his own merits. I read his autobiography back in 2021 and was struck by the fact he’s a pretty good writer, a rarity in the racing autobiography world. That Kristensen adds his own thoughts to Le Mans 100 is just the icing on a very edible cake.
Different than a book like A French Kiss with Death, about the making of the Steve McQueen movie Le Mans, which is actually a pretty decent history of the race itself, Le Mans 100 is similar to one of those statistics books that gives you the results of every Super Bowl (a similar style of book exists for Formula 1 races). However, Smale’s summaries and introductions for every decade ensure the book is much more than just a long list of tidbits, as does the photography.
Frozen In Time
The photography is stunning. It starts with a bang right on the cover, which is presented in an embossed handsome red cloth slipcase. It’s a beautiful black and white shot of the start of the 1965 24 Hours of Le Mans with half a dozen drivers frozen in mid-sprint as they streak across the track to their dormant cars, the old pit grandstands packed with spectators. It’s a moment of how it used to be, frozen in time.
The rest of the shots are just as good as the cover. From the 1920s, with its frightening lack of safety plain to see in every picture, through the 1950s and ’60s and right on up to the present day. On top of the photos, there are these great fold pages showcasing race posters throughout the past century. Le Mans 100 features some of the best shots I’ve seen of this race.
As an Amazon Associate, Automoblog earns from qualifying purchases.
Award-winning Le Mans historian Glen Smale details touchstone events such as the late-1960s battles between Ford and Ferrari and the 1955 tragedy that claimed the lives of more than 80 spectators.
Packed with stunning photography that spans an entire century.
Features a who’s-who of motorsport legends like Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss, Carroll Shelby, Dan Gurney, and more.
Fun Gift For Gearheads
Le Mans 100 is one of those books that works for a wide range of readers. Racing fans, of course, but also fans of Bentley, Jaguar, Ferrari, Ford, Porsche, Audi, and Toyota would all dig this. If you have someone with a birthday coming up who never misses the 24 Hours of Le Mans, they will love getting this as a gift. Not counting any deals or promotions, Le Mans 100: A Century at the World’s Greatest Endurance Race by Glen Smale is available on Amazon for about $70, with used copies running a little less than that.
Longtime Automoblog writer Tony Borroz has worked on popular driving games as a content expert, in addition to working for aerospace companies, software giants, and as a movie stuntman. He lives in the northeast corner of the northwestern-most part of the Pacific Northwest.