Celeb Drivers: ‘24 Hours of Le Mans’ Hits the Big 100!

Race Car from the 1971 film 'Le Mans'
LE MANS, 1971

Here’s one race that never runs out of gas. 24 Hours of Le Mans will celebrate its 100th anniversary on Saturday, June 10.

For a century now— 100 years! — drivers have converged in (or around) Le Mans, France, to participate in this 24-hour, endurance competition. Unlike other auto races, the goal of the race is not to see which car crosses the finish line first; instead the goal is to see which car can cover the most amount of distance in a 24-hour period of non-stop racing. Originally, the competition was designed to promote technical innovation and encourage continued development in the automotive industry. The average-distance covered over this period is usually just over 3,000 miles, which is around 350 laps around the track. The Le Mans circuit has been updated over the years to ensure safety, but one distinguishing characteristic is that sections of the circuit are still made up of public roads. Another difference between the Le Mans race and most other races is that there are three drivers per team, each driving anywhere from 45 minutes to 4 hours at a time.

Any driver who wants to hold the Triple Crown of motor racing must win all three races: Indianapolis 500, the Monaco Grand Prix and Le Mans.

Where to watch 24 Hours of Le Mans and how to find MotorTrend:

If you are looking to stream 24 Hours of Le Mans MotorTrend is the place, as all 24 hours of the race can be watched, along with pre- and post-race coverage.

The race begins at 10AM ET on Saturday, June 10. Lebron James was named the official starter of the 2023 race.

MotorTrend can be found on these satellite TV channels, in additional to being available on many cable TV platforms like

DISH: Channel 246
DIRECTV: Channel 281

Celebrities Who Raced in Le Mans

Paul Newman: 1979 

Like most people know, Paul Newman was not only a star in Hollywood for films such as Cool Hand Luke and Slap Shot, he was also a very respected member of the racing community. Newman drove the Porsche 935 in the 1979 race and finished first in his class along with second overall. Below he’s pictured in the 1969 documentary Winning.

Paul Newman in the fillm Winning (1969)

Everett Collection

Fabien Barthez: 2014

Fabien Barthez is known for his professional soccer career playing goalkeeper for world-renowned club Manchester United along with the France national team. After his career in soccer Barthez decided to pursue his passion of race car driving and got behind the wheel of a Ferrari 458 in the 2014 race.

Fabian Barthez the Panis Barthez Competition co-owner/driver talks at a press conference before qualifying for the Le Mans 24 Hour race at the Circuit de la Sarthe on June 16, 2016 in Le Mans, France.

Ker Robertson/Getty Images

Patrick Dempsey: 2009, 2014, 2015

Patrick Dempsey, an American superstar who is best known for his role as ‘McDreamy” in the hit show Grey’s Anatomy, is also considered a pretty serious racer in his spare time. Dempsey has raced in Le Mans three separate times with his best finish coming in 2015 where he finished second in his category. “With an actor, unless you’re writing and directing and creating your whole world, there’s no control. But as soon as you cross the starting line in a racing car, you know it’s down to you. It’s very humbling, very inspiring—and the challenge is there of pushing yourself past normal limits,” Dempsey told The Times.

Actor Patrick Dempsey of the Dempsey Del Piero-Proton team is surrounded by media and well wishers on the grid before the Le Mans 24 Hour race at the Circuit de la Sarthe on June 22, 2013 in Le Mans, France.

Ker Robertson/Getty Images

Mark Thatcher: 1980, 1981

Mark Thatcher, the son of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, has spent his days as an English businessman along with a long career in racing cars. He spent the 1970s racing on the amateur scene before giving the Le Mans race an attempt in 1980. He gave the race another go in 1981, but neither produced memorable results. Thatcher is pictured below with racing driver Davina Galica sitting on the bonnet of a new car prior to competing in the World Championship race at Brands Hatch, England, in 1980.

Racing drivers Davina Galica and Mark Thatcher, son of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, sitting on the bonnet of a new car prior to competing in the World Championship race at Brands Hatch, England, February 29th 1980.

Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Michael Fassbender: 2022, 2023

Michael Fassbender, the Irish actor best known for his roles in movies such as X-Men, 12 Years a Slave and Inglorious Basterds, will return to this year’s race in the No.93 Porsche 911 RSR-19. He struggled mightily in his first appearance at the race crashing three separate times and finishing in 51st place out of 62 competitors.

Michael Fassbender of Ireland and Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR-19 attends the drivers autograph session during previews to the 100th Anniversary Le Mans 24 Hours race at the Circuit de la Sarthe on June 06, 2023 in Le Mans, France.

Ker Robertson/Getty Images

Steve McQueen: Never

Contrary to popular belief, Steve McQueen never fulfilled his dream of actually racing in Le Mans. McQueen, instead, starred in the 1971 film Le Mans, which was about the race, and depicted just how dangerous the race can actually be. “Racing is life. Anything before or after is just waiting,” he famously said. Although McQueen was known to have dreams about one day actually competing in the race his death in 1980 came before he ever got the opportunity.

Steve McQueen in the 1971 movie Le Mans

Everett Collection

Nick Mason: 1979, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1986

Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason is the celebrity who tops the list for most frequent celebrity driver in La Mans with five races under his belt. He took the podium in 1979 and 1980. “I probably drove about seven hours of the 24, amounting to well over 500 miles. From that I learned just why Le Mans is one of the toughest races and how it proves the mettle of a car and a driver. Surprisingly, as an amateur you can receive an enormous amount of support from the professionals,” Mason told ESPN. Out of 55 drivers in the 1979 race, his team placed 18th. He’s pictured below in 2009 at The Goodwood Festival of Speed in Chichester, England.

Rock Star Nick Mason of Pink Floyd drives the 1937 Auto Union type D during day two of The Goodwood Festival of Speed at The Goodwood Estate on July 4, 2009 in Chichester, England.

Mark Thompson/Getty Images