The mention of Le Mans may immediately bring to mind four-wheel racing for many motorsport fans, but the Le Mans Bugatti Grand Prix Circuit, located 5 kilometers south of the city of Le Mans and 200 kilometers southwest of the country’s capital Paris, has actually been a host to motorcycling racing since the late 1960s.
Named after the French automobile designer and manufacturer Ettore Bugatti, the circuit is a permanent race track built in 1965 within the famous Circuit des 24 Heures. It utilizes a part of the bigger circuit, which includes the Ford Chicane, the pit complex, and the straight with the Dunlop bridge, and has a separate, purpose-built section.
While it was consistently a part of the MotoGP calendar for several decades, it had to take a hiatus after a serious accident involving Spanish rider Alberto Puig during the 1995 French MotoGP. Le Mans returned to the fold in 2000 after several improvements were undertaken to ensure the safety of the riders.
Apart from MotoGP, the circuit currently hosts the 24 Hours of Le Mans motorcycle race, the FIA European Truck Racing Championship, as well as the French Touring Car and GT races. Rounds of the Superbike World Championship, International Formula 3000 Championship and the German Touring Car series DTM were also previously hosted at the Bugatti Circuit.
The 4.2 kilometer, 13 meter-wide, clockwise track consists of 5 left-handed corners, 9 right-handed corners, and a longest straight of 674 meters. The tightness of the track, with the dominance of first gear corners, tests the riders’ late braking and hard acceleration skills. The venue can comfortably hold up to 100,000 spectators.
Jorge Lorenzo is the rider with the most premier class wins on this circuit, while Marc Marquez currently has the most number of pole positions.
Major events coming up at Le Mans in 2021
- May 14-16: Le Mans hosted the fifth round of the 2021 MotoGP season. The French MotoGP was won by Jack Miller for Ducati.
- June 12-13: 2021 Le Mans 24 Hours Motos (Motorbikes)
- August 21-22: 2021 Le Mans 24 Hours (WEC)
- The Le Mans Classic has been postponed to 2022
How to get there
The best ways to get to Le Mans are by road or train.
The closest airport is at Tours Val de Loire (TUL), but this only has a limited number of flights with Ryanair. For a better selection of flights, you are better of flying into one of the airports in the capital, Paris, then taking the train to the circuit.
Le Mans is approximately 200km southeast of Paris. Driving on the A11 should take around 2 to 2.5 hours, while the fastest direct trains departing Gare Montparnasse take less than an hour. Book on SNCF. The earlier you book, the cheaper your ticket will be. From Gare du Mans, you can take a direct tram to the circuit.
More information about how to get to the circuit is available here.
Where to stay
The circuit is open all year round and also houses an impressive museum. Guided tours are available on Saturdays from May to October.
- Guided Tours: available on Saturdays at 15:00 from May to October. Include visits to race direction, the press room and the podium. Cost €12 for adults, €5 for children aged 12-18 and FREE for under 12 years old. More info here – tours must be booked in advance (English language tours available).
- 24 Hours of Le Mans Museum: open every day, all year round from 10:00-18:00 (opening hours are extended to 19:00 from May 1 to September 30), the museum has a large collection of racing cars stretching back to the onset of racing in the region over 100 years ago. Entry costs €8.50 for adults (€6 concession). You can also purchase a combined ticket for €10 that allows you to conduct your own self-guided tour of the circuit – a map with 11 points of interest is provided. Entry to the museum is free for ticketholders at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. More info here.
- Porsche Experience Centre: also located at the circuit, you can check out the exhibition of classic racing cars and do some shopping in the Porsche boutique. Track days are also available – see separate tab. Click here to learn more.
Le Mans offers a range of driving and passenger experiences year round, and the circuit is also home to a Porsche Experience Centre.
- The following driving and passenger experiences are available on lemansdriver.fr (French language site only):
- Prototypes: Get behind the wheel yourself or get driven by a professional driver in a Pescarolo Le Mans prototype! Passenger experiences are priced from €179 and driving experiences from €269. Passenger rides are also available on the full 24 Hours circuit on race weekend from €790. Demand is high for all passenger and driving experiences at Le Mans and available slots do get booked out well in advance.
- GT Cars: Porsche passenger laps are available from €160 on the White Circuit and from €645 on the full 24 Hours circuit on race weekend.
- The Porsche Experience Centre at Le Mans, opened in 2015, offers track days, tuition and driving experiences throughout the year.
- Several go-kart tracks are also located close to the circuit. More information (in French only) is available on lemans-karting.com.