NBA superstar LeBron James has been named the official starter for the 100th anniversary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which this year is welcoming American teams to the world’s most prestigious endurance race, this edition being dubbed the Race of the Century.
The NBA’s all-time leading scorer, Lebron said he’s honoured to be included in the celebration of 100 years at Le Mans: “There’s nothing like seeing and experiencing sports at their highest level. It’s an honor for me to be part of this historic moment in motorsport and help celebrate the centenary of one of the biggest sporting events in the world.
“I look forward to kicking off this iconic race and watching its world-class drivers compete on Le Mans’ global stage,” Lebron said in a statement.
The twice-round-the-clock race will be flagged off on Saturday with racing fan LeBron handed the role of honorary starter has since 1949 typically been given to a celebrity. Previous honorary starters include Rafael Nadal, Brad Pitt and Steve McQueen.
Track action at Le Mans resumes Wednesday and the 62-car field this year includes teams from the top class in the United States-based IMSA sports car series. The teams entered are owned by Roger Penske, Chip Ganassi and Action Express Racing, which is supported by NASCAR chairman Jim France.
NASCAR, which owns IMSA, is also heavily represented at the race with its new Next Gen car racing as part of the “Garage 56” project designed to showcase technology. The car is a Chevrolet fielded by Hendrick Motorsports and driven by seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, 2009 Formula One champion Jenson Button and Mike Rockenfeller, who was part of the 2010 overall-winning team at Le Mans.
Akio Toyoda and the other to Mr Le Mans Tom Kristensen honoured
Ahead of this year’s edition of the great race, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) announced they will bestow two prestigious honours one to,current Chairman and Former president & CEO of Toyota Motor Corporation., Akio Toyoda and the other to Mr Le Mans Tom Kristensen.
Akio Toyoda, 2023 Spirit of Le Mans
The Spirit of Le Mans Trophy hails the men and women who embody the values of endurance racing: involvement, commitment, teamwork and sporting endeavour. This year, the award goes to Akio Toyoda, Chairman of Toyota Motor Corporation.
Toyota is the fourth manufacturer to have chalked up five straight wins after Ferrari, Porsche and Audi. The marque has also achieved eight pole positions (1999, 2014, 2017–2022) and has held the circuit lap record since 2017, when Kamui Kobayashi recorded a time of 3:14.791 (average speed of 251.882 kph).
Tom Kristensen, Centenary Grand Marshal
A 24 Hours of Le Mans win is the highlight of many drivers’ career. Tom Kristensen’s first Le Mans win was the launchpad for an outstanding run that took him to the pinnacle of endurance racing for almost two decades. At the 2022 race, the record nine-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans was appointed as Ambassador for the Centenary celebrations.
The next logical step was, therefore, to confer the role of Grand Marshal to “Mr Le Mans” himself. Kristensen will have the privilege of guiding the 62 cars through the formation lap for the Centenary race – round 4 of this season’s FIA World Endurance Championship – shortly before 16:00 on 10 June.
Pierre Fillon, President of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest said on the occasion: “I am deeply honoured to reward Tom Kristensen and Akio Toyoda in this manner and thank them most sincerely for accepting to be here. These key figures are a perfect illustration of what the 24 Hours of Le Mans stands for: innovation, perseverance, success and forward thinking.
“Tom is a living legend of the world’s greatest endurance race and has been a precious ambassador over the last year. Akio Toyoda honours us with his presence at our 100th-anniversary celebrations. We are delighted to present the Spirit of Le Mans trophy to the chairman of a company that embodies the values that we defend. Now, let the race begin!” declared Fillon.