95 Years of the 24 Hours of Le Mans Race • Magnum Photos

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Sport

95 Years of the 24 Hours of Le Mans Race

We look back through Magnum's archive capturing the glamour and tension of one of the world's greatest endurance motor races

Magnum Photographers

Henri Cartier-Bresson The 24-Hours of Le Mans. Circuit de le Sarthe. Le Mans. France. 1966. © Henri Cartier-Bresson | Magnum Photos
Henri Cartier-Bresson The 24-Hours of Le Mans. Circuit de le Sarthe. Le Mans. France. 1966. © Henri Cartier-Bresson | Magnum Photos
Henri Cartier-Bresson The 24-Hours of the Mans. Circuit de le Sarthe. Le Mans. France. 1966 © Henri Cartier-Bresson | Magnum Photos
Henri Cartier-Bresson The 24-Hours of Le Mans. Circuit de le Sarthe. Le Mans. France. 1966 © Henri Cartier-Bresson | Magnum Photos
Henri Cartier-Bresson The 24-Hours of Le Mans. Circuit de le Sarthe. Le Mans. France. 1966 © Henri Cartier-Bresson | Magnum Photos
Henri Cartier-Bresson This is Henry Ford's day at Le Mans. Here, center, he handles some of the non-driving problems attendant on the race. The 24-Hours of Le Mans. Circuit de le Sarthe. Le Mans. France. © Henri Cartier-Bresson | Magnum Photos
Raymond Depardon The American actor Steve McQueen. Circuit de le Sarthe. Le Mans. France. 1970. © Raymond Depardon | Magnum Photos
Richard Kalvar All-night bar. The 24-Hours of Le Mans. Circuit de le Sarthe. Le Mans. France. 1972 © Richard Kalvar | Magnum Photos
Richard Kalvar All-night bar. The 24-Hours of Le Mans. Circuit de le Sarthe. Le Mans. France. 1972 © Richard Kalvar | Magnum Photos
Richard Kalvar The 24-Hours of Le Mans. Circuit de le Sarthe. Le Mans. France. 1979. © Richard Kalvar | Magnum Photos
Richard Kalvar American actor Paul Newman. The 24-Hours of Le Mans. Circuit de le Sarthe. Le Mans. France. 1979. © Richard Kalvar | Magnum Photos
Bruce Gilden The 24-Hours of Le Mans. Circuit de le Sarthe. Le Mans. France. 2008. © Bruce Gilden | Magnum Photos
Bruce Gilden The 24-Hours of Le Mans. Circuit de le Sarthe. Le Mans. France. 2008. © Bruce Gilden | Magnum Photos
Bruce Gilden The 24-Hours of Le Mans. Circuit de le Sarthe. Le Mans. France. 2008. © Bruce Gilden | Magnum Photos
Bruce Gilden The 24-Hours of Le Mans. Circuit de le Sarthe. Le Mans. France. 2008. © Bruce Gilden | Magnum Photos
Bruce Gilden The 24-Hours of Le Mans. Circuit de le Sarthe. Le Mans. France. 2008. © Bruce Gilden | Magnum Photos
Bruce Gilden The 24-Hours of Le Mans. Circuit de le Sarthe. Le Mans. France. 2008. © Bruce Gilden | Magnum Photos
Bruce Gilden The 24-Hours of Le Mans. Circuit de le Sarthe. Le Mans. France. 2008. © Bruce Gilden | Magnum Photos
Jérôme Sessini 24 Hours of Le Mans Race, the world's oldest active sports car race in endurance racing, held annually in Circuit de la Sarthe. Le Mans. France. 2015. © Jérôme Sessini | Magnum Photos
Jérôme Sessini 24 Hours of Le Mans Race, the world's oldest active sports car race in endurance racing, held annually in Circuit de la Sarthe. Le Mans. France. 2015. © Jérôme Sessini | Magnum Photos
Jérôme Sessini 24 Hours of Le Mans Race, the world's oldest active sports car race in endurance racing, held annually in Circuit de la Sarthe. Le Mans. France. 2015. © Jérôme Sessini | Magnum Photos

On May 26, 1923, the first 24 Hours of Le Mans race took place. The day-long event, which is the world’s longest-running motor race, was held at the Circuit de la Sarthe in north western France. It is considered one of the most daunting and glamorous events in motorsport, alongside the Monaco Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500.

Colloquially known as the Grand Prix of endurance, Le Mans is an immense challenge to engineers, designers, and drivers alike. The race has been covered by numerous Magnum Photographers over the years, first by Magnum co-founder Henri Cartier-Bresson, who in 1966 turned a typically humanist eye on the event’s crowd rather than its cars. In 1970 Raymond Depardon photographed Steve McQueen working on the feature film Le Mans, shot on location and released the following year, while Richard Kalvar was on hand to capture American actor Paul Newman taking second place in his debut race in 1979.

Magnum photographers have, over the years, captured the variety and enduring allure of the world’s oldest motorsport event, from camera shy lovers, to celebrity glamour and trackside action.