France: Le Mans 24 Hour Endurance Race

2022 will mark the 90th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours Endurance Race organised by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO). The race will take place between 11th and 12th June 2022 at the Circuit de la Sarthe near Le Mans, France. The featured image is of a French stamp issued in June 1973 commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the race, designed by the talented stamp engraver, Georges Bétemps.

The first Le Mans 24 hour endurance race was held on 26–27 May 1923 and has been held annually since then at the Circuit de la Sarthe near Le Mans France. The race has been cancelled ten times including 1936 (Great Depression) and between 1940 and 1948 (World War II). The event was noted for its ‘Le Mans start’ in which the drivers were separated from their vehicles and at the starters signal, were required to run across the track, start their cars without assistance and drive away. Due to safety concerns, from 1971 the ‘Le Mans start’ was superseded with the ‘rolling start’.

Unlike many other forms of motorsport, the winner of Le Mans is determined by the car that covers the greatest distance in 24 hours – last years winners completing 371 laps and more than 5,000km. The event represents one leg of an unofficial prestigious Triple Crown of Motorsport – the other events being the Indianapolis 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix. Indeed, there has only ever been one driver to win the Triple Crown; Graham Hill secured the win at le Mans in 1972, Indianapolis 500 in 1966 and the Monaco Grand Prix in 1963, 1964, 1965, 1968 and 1969. Since 2012, the race has been a part of the FIA World Endurance Championship.

The featured stamp was issued in June 1973, denominated 60 centimes and commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the race. It was recess printed in two colours, blue and carmine brown and was designed by the talented stamp engraver, Georges Bétemps. Bétemps started engraving stamps in 1946 with his first issues being a number of values of a definitive set issued in Cameroon – his first French stamp did not appear until 1961. He is perhaps most noted for his designs featured on French Tourism and Europa issues. By the time of his death in 1992, Bétemps had been responsible for the design and engravings of more than 1500 stamps. The Le Mans race has appeared on the stamp issues of several countries including Belgium, Mali, Mexico, Sierra Leone and Togo.

To view postal issues of France, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.

Published by nigelmandsphilatelycom

Nigel Matthews has been a philatelist for more than 30 years. He has a particular interest in the postal history of the Caribbean including associated British Commonwealth countries (incl. Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Leeward Islands, Monserrat, St Lucia, St Vincent, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks & Caicos) as well as Cuba, Danish West Indies, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Martinique, Netherlands Antilles and Puerto Rico.

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