BMW in the world

Unique rules and traditions

Although the 24 Hours of Le Mans was part of the World Sportscar Championship for most of its existence, it has regularly had rules which differed from those used in other series, partly due to the length of the event. Some rules are for safety reasons, while others are for the purposes of competition. For many decades, cars were required to run at least an hour into the race before they were allowed to refill fluids for the car, such as oil or coolant, with the exception of fuel. This was an attempt by the ACO to help increase efficiency and reliability. Cars which could not last the first hour without having to replace lost fluids were disqualified. Another rule that is unique to Le Mans is a requirement for cars to be shut off while they are being refueled in the pits. Based not only on the notion that it is safer and less of a fire hazard to do so, this also allows for another test of reliability, because cars have to test their ability to restart many times under race conditions. Another element of this rule is that mechanics are not allowed to work on the car or its tyres while it is being refueled, which has led teams to adapt innovative ways in which to decrease the time of these lengthy pit stops. As an exception to this rule, drivers are allowed to get out of the car and be replaced by another driver during refueling. At Le Mans, there are various traditions. One of the longest lasting is the waving of the French tricolor to start the race. This is usually followed by a fly-over featuring jets trailing blue, white and red smoke. A similar flag tradition is the waving of safety flags during the final lap of the race by track marshals, congratulating the winners and other finishers. The 24 Hours of Le Mans was the venue for the first known instance at a major race of a winning driver celebrating by spraying champagne instead of drinking it.[5] When Dan Gurney won the 1967 race with co-driver A.J. Foyt, the two drivers mounted the victory stand and Gurney was handed a magnum of champa ne. Looking down, he saw Ford CEO Henry Ford II, team owner Carroll Shelby and their wives, as well as several journalists who had predicted disaster for the high-profile duo. Gurney shook the bottle and sprayed everyone nearby, establishing a tradition re-enacted in victory celebrations the world over for the next 40+ years. Gurney, incidentally, autographed and gave the bottle of champagne to a LIFE magazine photographer, Flip Schulke, who used it as a lamp for many years. He recently[when?] returned the bottle to Gurney, who keeps it at his home in California. The first race was held on 26 and 27 May 1923 and has since been run annually in June with exceptions occurring in 1956, when the race was held in July and 1968, when it was held in September due to nationwide political turmoil earlier that year (see May 1968). The race has been cancelled twice: once in 1936 (labour strike during the Great Depression) and from 1940 to 1948 (World War II and its aftermath). The race weekend also usually takes place on the second weekend of June, with qualifying and practice taking place on the Wednesday and Thursday before the race, following an administrative scrutinizing of the cars on Monday and Tuesday. Currently, these sessions are held in the evening, with two separate two hour sessions held each night. A day of rest is scheduled on Friday, and includes a parade of all the drivers through the centre of the town of Le Mans. A test day was also usually held prior to the event, traditionally at the end of April or beginning of May. These test days served as a pre-qualification for the event, with the slowest cars not being allowed to appear again at the proper qualifying. However, with the cost necessary to transport cars to Le Mans and then back to their respective series in between the test and race weeks, the test day was moved to the first weekend of June for 2005. The notion of pre-qualifying was also eliminated in 2000, when all competitors invited to the test would be allowed into the race.