Le Mans (film)

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German title Le Mans
Original title Le Mans
Country of production United States
original language English
Publishing year 1971
length 104 minutes
Age rating FSK 12
Director Lee H. Katzin
script Harry Little
production Stu Nisbet, Jack N. Reddish
Steve McQueen
music Michel Legrand
camera René Guissart Jr.
Robert B. Hauser
cut Ghislaine Desjonquères
Donald W. Ernst
John Woodcock

Le Mans is an American film about the 24-hour race at Le Mans of 1970 , based on an idea of the main character and co-producer Steve McQueen . The premiere of the film by director Lee H. Katzin did not take place until October 9, 1971. Along with the 1966 Grand Prix , it is considered one of the most famous racing films and is a document of motorsport of that era.


In Le Mans , the traditional 24-hour race of Le Mans is dealt with, which is held in the city ​​of the same name in northwest France . With the exception of a few flashbacks, the fictional film with the character of a documentary is limited to the (fictional) race of 1970, for which scenes from the real race were used. It is about the rivalry between the US racing driver Michael Delaney in a Porsche 917 , who caused a racing accident the year before, in which his friend and racing colleague Piero Belgetti was fatally injured, and his German rival Erich Stahler , in a Ferrari 512S , who deliver a bitter duel on the Le Mans racetrack. Delaney is traumatized, his feelings are in a conflict between a sense of guilt and sporting ambition, but he still starts again at Le Mans. As the second storyline, a liaison develops between Delaney and the widow of his unfortunate friend, Lisa Belgetti , who is also burdened by Belgetti's death . The film conveys to the viewer, partly through a documentary style, the daring and the dangers that many prominent racing drivers had to pay with their lives, but also the still original motorsport of that era. Behind the extensive and for this time spectacular race shots, some of which are interspersed with fast cuts, dialogues and action take a back seat. In the first 36 minutes, not a word is spoken by the actors, only the track announcer can be heard.

History of origin

Gulf-Porsche 917
Ferrari 512S
Porsche 908/02

Originally, the film was already published in 1966, the height of the rivalry between Ford and Ferrari , and was in competition with Grand Prix of John Frankenheimer thought. However, the shooting was delayed due to ailments of the main actor McQueen. In 1969, Porsche and then Ferrari each built the 25 copies of a new five-liter sports car required by the rules. This enabled customer teams, including McQueen's company, to purchase current racing cars from the works teams. The idea for the film came from Steve McQueen himself, who originally planned an authentic documentary about the 24-hour race. When no major producer could be found for the project, he founded the production company Solar Productions with a few other investors in order to make the film. McQueen, himself an enthusiastic amateur racing driver , who, among other things, came second in the 12-hour race at the Sebring International Raceway in Florida in 1970 at the World Sports Car Championship, originally wanted to compete with Jackie Stewart himself in a Porsche 917 at the 24-hour race in Participate in Le Mans, which he was denied.

Large parts of the film were nevertheless made during the 24-hour race on June 13 and 14, 1970. The Porsche 908/02 that took part in the race , which McQueen drove at Sebring and which was now driven by Herbert Linge and Jonathan Williams , was included equipped with three cameras that recorded more than 10,000 meters of film material during the race. By changing the film roles during the pit stops, the racing team lost a lot of time and was not rated, although it was one of the fewer than ten vehicles that made it through the 24 hours. In addition to the original recordings of the race, scenes were later filmed. For this purpose, several racing greats and original vehicles were recruited, including the Porsche works driver and McQueen friend Jo Siffert as well as Vic Elford , Herbert Linge, Derek Bell , Rolf Stommelen and Herbert Müller . In addition, McQueen is said to have sat behind the wheel of a Porsche 917 in numerous re-enacted racing scenes. In the accident scenes, cheap Lola T70 chassis with corresponding attachments were destroyed. Driver David Piper lost a lower leg; this victim is mentioned in the credits.

After a production period of over a year, Le Mans could not be presented until October 1971. Overall, despite impressive images, rapid cuts and elaborate production (the filming lasted more than half a year), the film was not a great success with the public due to a subordinate plot and meager dialogues, but is considered a milestone in the genre of racing film.


source rating
Rotten tomatoes

The film received mixed to mostly positive reviews and achieved a rating of 70% on Rotten Tomatoes , based on 10 reviews, and 80% from the audience with around 5,800 votes. At Metacritic , a Metascore of 52, based on five reviews, was achieved. At IMDb , the film received 6.8 out of a possible 10 stars from around 8,000 votes. (As of October 17, 2019)

“Atmospherically dense and sometimes spectacular images from the 24-hour race in Le Mans, combined with a rather rudimentary game plot. Originally conceived by actor and amateur racing driver Steve McQueen as an elaborate documentary, later adapted to the conventions of Hollywood dramaturgy for reasons of public appeal - unfortunately at the expense of the tension. ”- Lexicon of international film


  • Five days before the film's premiere, on October 24, 1971, Jo Siffert died in a racing accident during a non- world championship Formula 1 race at Brands Hatch, England .
  • Unlike in the film, the actual 24-hour race of 1970 was not dominated by the duel between Ferrari and Porsche , but by the duel between the Porsche teams Gulf-Wyer-Porsche and Porsche Salzburg , the latter with the victory of Hans Herrmann and Richard Attwood won. The duel between the Porsche 917 K and Ferrari 512S did not exist because the 512S used in 1970 was clearly inferior to the 917.
  • There is a cameo appearance in the film of the four-time Le Mans winning car, the Ford GT40 . In the opening sequence, which shows the traffic streams moving towards the city because of the race, a Ford GT40 suddenly appears in the middle of a street scene with mostly French small cars. The road sign showing the direction to Le Mans can also be seen. He is practically a spectator on the way to the race, which he will no longer compete in 1970. It's Steve McQueen's homage to a famous racing car.
  • The saying " running is life. The rest is waiting " is attributed to Steve McQueen in his role as Michael Delaney.
  • In Germany, the film was first shown in cinemas on October 26, 1971.



In 2015 a documentary was released under the title Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans by John McKenna and Gabriel Clarke , which, with interviews and private recordings as well as film clips and making-of recordings for the film Le Mans, explored McQueen's passion for motorsport and background information on the shooting waits. McQueen's divorced wife Neile Adams , McQueen's son Chad McQueen , involved film crew members and the drivers - especially David Piper, who lost his leg during filming - have their say .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Joerg Agip Kappeller: Racer - Steve Mc Queen in "Le Mans" (Lee H. Katzin, 1971). In: filmtexte.de. Archived from the original on 05-04-2007 ; Retrieved January 29, 2007 .
  2. a b c Le Mans at Rotten Tomatoes (English), accessed on October 17, 2019
  3. a b Le Mans at Metacritic (English) Template: Metacritic / Maintenance / Lack of knowledge in Wikidata, accessed on October 17, 2019
  4. a b Le Mans in the Internet Movie Database (English), accessed on October 17, 2019
  5. Le Mans. In: Lexicon of International Films . Film service , accessed March 2, 2017 .Template: LdiF / Maintenance / Access used