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Epic sounding Le Mans prototypes

By Cameron Kirby, 17 Jun 2017 Features

Mazda 787B cover LONG

Listen to the wail of engines capable of 24 hours of non-stop punishment

DESPITE their lack of muscle, sinew, blood, or brains, engines are filled with all the soul of a living creature.

They have unique personalities and sing their own personalised song. Some are mellow and calm, others belt out roaring ballads while thumping their chests.

Then there are those which have competed at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the most iconic endurance race in the world.

Here, engines are pushed to their limit, racing twice around the clock in an unrelenting assault.

These engines have the souls of warriors, and bellow a harrowing tune that fills the French forests surrounding the Mulsanne Straight.

Through the ages, engines of many different shapes and sizes have taken to the Circuit de la Sarthe, these are just some of the best.

In 1989-1990 the Sauber-Mercedes C11 competed in Group C, powered by a M119 5.0-litre twin-turbo V8 engine. It produced 559kW and 800Nm, and was capable of clocking 400km/h.

Competing against the Sauber was Jaguar’s XJR-12. Under its rear cowl laid a 7.4-litre V12, producing similar numbers to the Mercedes powerplant. The large V12 is heard here screaming around a soaked Spa Francorchamps in Belgium.

A year later, Mazda brought its 4-rotor 787B to the French endurance race. It is the only Japanese car to ever win the event outright, a fact Toyota hopes to change this year. At full song, its wail could probably be heard from one of Jupiter’s moons, and would send banshees running for cover.

Audi is the second-most successful manufacturer to ever compete at Le Mans, with its R8 LMP one of the winningest of its fleet. Competing in 2000, it was powered by a 3.6-litre twin-turbo V8, making 454kW and 700Nm.

Porsche goes one further than Audi, with the most wins of any manufacturer at the event. The 917 is one of the brand’s most iconic sportscars, and powered by a 4.5-litre flat 12 engine. In 1970, it made 432kW, and was capable of 350km/h – incredible for that era.

While the modern era cars may not be as visceral as those that proceeded them (thanks in part to hybrid powertrains), they have their own spaceship-esque sound. Listen to this clip from last year’s test day, and bask in the cacophony of sound. If that’s not enough to give you your fix, tune into this year’s race for what is sure to be a thriller.