This 91st edition, which completes a first century of existence for the most famous endurance race, will see the return to the premier Hypercar category of Peugeot, Cadillac, Porsche - holder of the record of victories at Le Mans (19) - but especially Ferrari, 50 years after its last participation.

See the legendary Prancing Horse team "back at Le Mans to win, it's exceptional," Pierre Fillon, president of the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO), organizer of the race, told AFP.

This enthusiasm of manufacturers is driven in particular by the new regulations which now allow the same cars to race in the World Endurance Championship (WEC) and in the American IMSA Championship.

A craze that will go far beyond the track limits this weekend since, around the mythical 13.629 km long circuit, the ACO expects a record of some 300,000 spectators.

Toyota, the team to beat

The centenary would almost make you forget that this is the 4th round of the WEC dominated by Toyota for the moment, thanks to its three victories (Sebring, Portimao, Spa).

In recent years, the 24 Hours of Le Mans often turned into a duel at the top between the two cars of the Japanese brand. Faced with the legitimate favorite of this edition, the competition has however greatly increased compared to 2022 since the number of entries in the Hypercar category has more than tripled, from five cars to 16.

Japanese driver Ryo Hirakawa at the wheel of the Toyota GR010 Hybrid Hypercar during testing at the Le Mans circuit in France on June 4, 2023 ahead of the 24 Hours of Le Mans © JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER / AFP

"If we manage to get on the top step of the podium, the victory will be even more special," New Zealander Brendon Hartley, the defending champion with Switzerland's Sebastien Buemi and Japan's Ryo Hirakawa at the wheel of the Toyota N.8, told AFP.

The other Toyota, the N.7, victorious in 2021, will be driven by Britain's Mike Conway, Japan's Kamui Kobayashi and Argentina's Jose Maria Lopez.

But beware of competition! For its return to the highest level of endurance, Ferrari, currently 2nd in the championship, would like to hit hard at Le Mans with its two prototypes.

"We know the Toyotas are powerful here, but Ferrari has huge potential," said Britain's James Calado, whose 499P N.51 finished at the top of the timesheet after the first test on Sunday, ahead of Toyota, which is visibly struggling.

"We will have to put pressure on them," said his Italian teammate, former Formula 1 driver Antonio Giovinazzi. "But in a race that lasts 24 hours, everyone can fight for the win," said the Italian. "Those who make the fewest mistakes will be able to make a difference."

- LeBron James at the start –

Peugeot, which made its return to the premier class after the 2022 edition of the "24 Hours", will field two 9X8s, as will Cadillac which will start Saturday with two prototypes, one of which, the N.3, will be driven by former French F1 driver Sébastien Bourdais, a native of Le Mans.

American driver Gustavo Menezes at the wheel of the Peugeot 9X8 Hypercar WEC during testing on June 4, 2023 ahead of the Le Mans 24 Hours race at the Le Mans circuit in France © JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER / AFP

The Action Express Racing team's Cadillac V-Series.R N.311, entered in IMSA, will also be at the start.

Porsche, whose last participation in the premier class - and the last victory - dates back to 2017, will try to return to success with one of its three 963 prototypes (plus one under the colors of Hertz Jota).

Finally, the American Glickenhaus and Austrian Vanwall teams will try to beat the odds during this historic race, with respectively two and one car.

In all, 62 cars are entered: in addition to the 16 Hypercars, 24 will race in the LMP2 category (more standardized and slower prototypes), 21 in LMGTE Am (driven by amateurs associated with professionals). An "innovative" car will also be present, driven by three drivers including 1 F2009 champion Jenson Button.

Among the other drivers expected, Frenchman Simon Pagenaud, winner of the Indianapolis 500 in 2019, will return to LMP2, twelve years after his last appearance on the event.

The start will be given Saturday at 16:00 by four-time NBA champion LeBron James.

© 2023 AFP