The challenge of the greatest endurance race in the world, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, is simple: whoever goes furthest wins. However, any suggestion that this contest is merely two laps of the clock is wide of the mark. When the 24-hour Rolex countdown clock begins on Saturday 18 June 2016 at 15:00, the teams will begin their quest to conquer the unrelenting 13.629-kilometre (8.46-mile) Circuit de la Sarthe, combining endurance with speed, while racing not only each other, but also their greatest adversary – time. It is this constant endeavour to defy physical limits and boundaries that binds Rolex so closely together with endurance racing at Le Mans and the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Time is all-consuming at Le Mans: it is the drivers’ and teams’ fixation. Racing against the clock calls for split-second decisions and finishes that separate champions from the defeated; Le Mans is regularly won by seconds, not laps. Similarly, target tyre life isn’t measured in laps, as it is in many other racing series, but in hours; if an endurance tyre can last three refuelling stints at Formula 1® speeds, it will have amassed crucial minutes of track time. A car can lead the race with hours or minutes to spare, but the slightest tactical misjudgement or even the most benign mechanical issue can cost crucial time and see hopes of victory vanish. Efficiency in the pit lane is vital too, both the number of stops and how long they take – pit stop avoidance is preferred. Out on track, it takes a driver’s nerve and race-craft to know when to push, even after several hours behind the wheel. Teams must function like clockwork – their precision and level of commitment throughout this gruelling race perfectly reflecting Rolex’s commitment to the watchmaking industry and in turn to motor sport.
Performance is essential at Le Mans, in fact it is defined there: a combination of reliability, strategy and efficiency, at breakneck speeds over 24 hours of racing or nearly 5,000 kilometres. An endurance team will spend months preparing for the magnitude of Le Mans, an endurance competition that became a sprint race long ago. Nothing is to be expected or taken for granted – mixed conditions, the specific challenges and idiosyncrasies of day and night racing and the long hours that stretch before the drivers in their pursuit of victory. Given the exceptionally rich heritage of Le Mans, all drivers understand the enormity of winning it – this is not just two laps of the clock. If time is kind to them, not only will their names be written into the motor sport history books in perpetuity, but they will also commemorate their victory with the most coveted racing crown, the timeless Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona, which has become synonymous with motor sport success and renowned as the ultimate racing driver’s watch.
As a nine-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner and Rolex Testimonee, Tom Kristensen understands what it means to win this unique and scintillating race better than anyone: “The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the ultimate race against time, where every second counts. In a way, it is a short and simple journey – you just have to drive the furthest in 24 hours, but if you appreciate the distance you cover and how many challenges you overcome in that time, you realize how unique this race is.
“When it comes to winning Le Mans, even though everything happens in split seconds, you have so much energy and you are so focused on wanting to do well as a team that you remember every moment. Cherishing these moments, from crossing the line to celebrating with your team, is what it is all about – that is what we are racing for, that is the true spirit of Le Mans. Winners here have a very special story to tell and what better way to remember their experience than with a Rolex Cosmograph Daytona that they can treasure for the rest of their lives.”
Rolex shares with motor sport a passion for performance and innovation, constantly pushing the boundaries of what is possible. This natural association has shaped Rolex chronographs, such as the legendary Cosmograph, born to race in 1963. A few years later Rolex added the name ‘Daytona’ to the dial to mark its association with the Daytona International Speedway. Since then this iconic chronograph has enjoyed an impeccable track record and given its deep-rooted connection to Daytona, both in name and performance, is now known simply as the ‘Daytona’.
The ‘Daytona’ has evolved since the sixties with the most recent development taking place in 2016. A superbly sculpted, smooth and lustrous high-technology monobloc Cerachrom bezel in black ceramic has been introduced in place of the engraved metal bezel. This visual and technical evolution represents a nod to history and the 1965 model, also fitted with a black bezel insert, but in Plexiglas. Not only does the ‘Daytona’ embody Rolex’s long-standing and privileged ties to the world of motor racing, but it also represents the sport’s ultimate accolade thanks to its reliability and performance.