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Scrutineering at Le Mans: A Historic Tradition

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24 Hours of Le Mans
The Porsche 956 LH undergoes scrutineering for the 1982 24 Hours of Le Mans

Scrutineering at the 24 Hours of Le Mans is a historic tradition. But how did it all begin and what exactly happens?

One of the standout moments in the build-up to the 24 Hours of Le Mans is the historic tradition of scrutineering - and the unique way in which the technical checks are conducted. While at other races, scrutineering is a somewhat more sedate affair, at Le Mans the whole paddock moves to the city centre for a public spectacle. All 62 cars and 168 drivers will assemble on Friday 7 and Saturday 8 June - the week before the race - in the Place de la République to be weighed and checked by the technical officials. It is followed by the car parade, with 20 competing cars touring the town centre. But what is scrutineering, when did the tradition start and how can fans attend?

What is scrutineering?

The term scrutineering refers to the mandatory technical, safety and administrative checks which take place in motorsport. All races involve some aspect of scrutineering, whether that’s random or planned, but it’s a different affair at Le Mans. After all the cars have gathered in the Place de la République, they undergo extensive technical checks, which take around 50 minutes per car. There are three phases to this process: The first step involves measuring and weighing the car. Next, the underside of the car is checked and the bodywork is partially removed to inspect safety equipment. Finally, the car’s black box, used to collect data during on track action, undergoes tests. The drivers themselves are also checked. They are weighed and must produce their race licences and equipment to the officials.

When did the 24 Hours of Le Mans’ scrutineering tradition start?

Scrutineering has always been a part of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and is the first major event of race week. Dating back to the first ever race in 1923, its location has changed several times over the years. In the 1920s and 30s, checks were conducted on Rue Victor-Bonhommet - one of the roads which leads to Place de la République, its current location - and later in the Place d’Alger, a nearby square. When racing resumed after the Second World War, scrutineering moved to the Cavaignac barracks, before moving again to the old Rue Paul-Courboulay station from 1951 to 1953. Scrutineering returned to the town centre at the Quinconce des Jacobins from 1954 to 2011, except for when it was held at the circuit from 1961 to 1975 - a move which caused outrage among locals, who were unable to attend without a ticket. It moved to Place de la République in 2012, just metres from its original location, and remains there to this day. Since 1995, fans have also enjoyed a drivers' parade through the town, meeting fans and signing autographs.

Where does scrutineering take place?

Scrutineering takes place in the Place de la République in central Le Mans. It is easily accessible by both tram and train.

How can fans attend the sessions?

Scrutineering is free of charge to attend and open to all - you don’t need an event ticket to get a piece of the action. It gives spectators the chance to get up close with the cars and meet some of their favourite drivers.

When does the car parade take place?

The car parade will take place immediately after scrutineering on Saturday 8 June at 3.30pm. The 20 cars involved will stop for a photo with the drivers, the Mayor of Le Mans and the ACO President before embarking on a trip around the town. They will start from Quai Louis Blanc, travelling back towards Place de la République and through the town centre. The parade will then follow the tram line along Avenue François Mitterrand, heading through Tunnel Wilbur Wright before finishing back where it started. It is expected to last for around one hour.

Herbert Linge (right with cap) at the vehicle inspection for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1954

The four 550 Spyders after scrutineering at Le Mans in 1954, with the Porsche team behind them: (from left to right) Rolf Wütherich, Hubert Mimler, Herbert Linge, Kurt Dietrich, Eberhard Storz, Willi Enz, NN, Ludwig Schmid and Bruno Trostmann

The #33 Porsche 908 LH Coupé undergoes technical checks ahead of the 1968 24 Hours of Le Mans

The #20, #21 and #22 Porsche 917 KH Coupé ahead of the 1970 24 Hours of Le Mans

Porsche Type 962 C at Le Mans, 1989: Group picture of the Brun team with all cars, drivers and technicians

A group picture of the team and the two Porsche 911 GT1 Rennversion ahead of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1997

A Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963 is taken for scrutineering at the 2023 24
Hours of Le Mans

The #5 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963 undergoes checks at last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans

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