Around the Clock in Real Time on PS1: Remembering 2000's Le Mans 24 Hours

Le Mans 24 Hours Infogrames Eutechnyx Title Screen PS1.jpg
Endurance racing is among the most popular disciplines in sim racing today, and just like in real life, 24-hour races are among the biggest challenges. In 2023, most racing simulations feature a full day-night cycle to make real-time 24-hour races possible - but did you know there was a game that pulled this off on the very first PlayStation console based on the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2000?

Simply titled "Le Mans 24 Hours" in most of the world and "Test Drive Le Mans" in the United States, the Infogrames and Eutechnyx title portrayed no Le Mans edition in particular, but its car roster is made up from the 1997 and 1998 grids - so one of the prime ages of sports car racing is represented in the game, including the Toyota GT-One, BMW V12 LM, or the Marcos Mantara GT2.

The cars are divided into the GT2, GT1 and Prototype classes, each featuring eight vehicles and in most cases named after their teams rather than their actual car types. As an example, instead of a Ferrari 333 SP, players can race a JB Giesse LMP1 or a Pilot Racing LMP1 as both teams entered one of the V12-engined prototypes in 1998. Cars need to be unlocked by playing Championship mode, where new contracts are offered to players depending on their results.

Le Mans & 5 Fictional Tracks​

Only one real track is present in Le Mans 24 Hours, that being the namesake French circuit, but five others are also on board. All of these additional circuits are fictional and named after parts of the Circuit de La Sarthe, such as Tetre Rouge, Maison Blanche, or Bugatti - the latter not being a rendition of the actual Le Mans Bugatti circuit, however. The Le Mans track is not quite accurate to its real counterpart of the 1990s, likely a result of hardware limitations. It is shortened considerably, but does feature most of the iconic parts of the track.


Speaking of iconic tracks: One such example greets players when they start the game up already. The intro sequence of Le Mans 24 Hours features "Bohemian Like You" by The Dandy Warhols laid over clips of racing action at Le Mans. It fades out after shots of the podium at the end of the race - but there is actually a second part to it, which unlocks after winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

From 12 Minutes to 24 Hours​

To go racing, players have the choice of different race lengths, as 12 and 24 minutes as well as two and 24 hours are possible - the full length of the race can be replicated, and mid-race saves are possible. While the handling of the game is undoubtedly arcadey, it does feature several endurance-specific elements depending on the difficulty level players choose: Amateur does not have damage or tire wear, Professional includes them.

Le Mans 24 Hours Infogrames Eutechnyx Track Selection Screen.jpg

The track itself may be shortened, but the race can be run to the full distance in Le Mans 24 Hours.

Racers have to look out for their engine as well: A temperature gauge tells them how far up they should set the adjustable rev limiter - running too long with the maximum limiter setting will overheat your engine, leading to damage or even a retirement. Damage can also be incurred from collisions with competitors or the barriers.

The latter can easily be clattered into when an oil flag is displayed - yes, those are in a 2000 PS1 game about an endurance race as well! Once the flag with the yellow and red stripes is shown, treacherous conditions lay ahead, as it is very easy to lose the car in these spots - especially since the oil cannot be seen on track.


While the Circuit de La Sarthe may be shortened - or rather compressed a bit - in the game, the day-night transition is seamless, which is remarkable for a 2000 PS1 title. There is no need for the game to rely on a loading screen to transition from day to night - a feature that was not even originally in Assetto Corsa (released 2014) until mods changed this.

Unfortunately, Le Mans 24 Hours has not exactly aged well: The PS1 era graphics do look like they are over 20 years old, and the framerate drops once multiple cars are on screen at the same time do not help with that. The AI is undoubtably flawed and not really aware of the player's car, meaning it is easy to crash into them - especially if they suddenly retire and stop on track. It cannot be denied that it is mighty impressive to be able to race a full 24-hour race on the PS1 - a console that is soon turning 30 years old.

Your Thoughts​

Have you ever played Le Mans 24 Hours (or Test Drive Le Mans)? What are your memories of the game? And do you still sometimes watch the intro sequence to get that sweet nostalgia feeling? Let us know in the comments below!
About author
Yannik Haustein
Lifelong motorsport enthusiast and sim racing aficionado, walking racing history encyclopedia.

Sim racing editor, streamer and one half of the SimRacing Buddies podcast (warning, German!).

Heel & Toe Gang 4 life :D

Comments

Totally loved it, from the great title music by the Dandy Warhols to the feature that allowed save while in pits to the wild AI which really got crazy fast once you had passed them. Played it on PC for hours on end. Tried to do a 24h stretched over many days but lost interest afetr about six hours or so as the field was just too small (20 cars?) and you were quite alone quite often. Only other real drawback at the time: There was no cockpit camera, so I always used the hood camera as the closest sub.
 
PS1? Sorry don't know anything about consoles (left with Pong in '79), but that title described in the article I raced vividly a couple of years just after PC release.

Was a bit in douby whether the PS1 version was another game, but title theme music, car park and track variance has convinced me that this was the racing game I raced on PC by then.
 
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Still have a DVD of this game, it was really ahead of its time and the transition from night to day and vice versa was very good on my then computer. But can I get to work now ...no way!
 
Yes I played it on Playstation and dreamcast loved everything about it, still have it laying around somewhere :)
 
Premium
I loved this title and also sportscar gt too (it was that, Gran turismo and Microprose GP that got me into sim racing all those years ago)

The intro movie is a who’s who of sports car and gt racing, some of whom are no longer with us sadly (I saw Michele Alboreto… now he was a driver and a half)
 
Is this the game where Tiff Needell would say "was that really necessary?" or "that was a nasty shunt!"? If so, I played this a bunch back in the early 2000s on PS1. Enough that people who were in the house back then still quote those lines at me as an inside joke from time to time about motorsport :roflmao:
 
How many times I´ve played this game in the early 2000s. It's okay that it used to crash more than work on my pc, but even so, it was very good.

People forget how revolutionary this game was, being one of the first car sim games to be able to make the day-night cycle in a single session. Anyone who remembers the sunset at the Maison Blanche or Le Mans circuits will know what I'm talking about
 
Premium
Looks like an interesting old game to try out. I have been looking into Gran Turismo and discovered that GT 5 has a 24H Le Man's event. Has any one tried it?
 
You know you have Win98/XP emulators running on Win10/11?

Remember fine suggestion a year ago on YT but cannot find it at the moment. In the meantime try and check out Linus' and Anthony's take here:

My problem is not that the game doesn't start, but it always crashes when I try to start a race. Until the menu comes to us, it's after that it always goes out
 

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