Currently reading: The Brits to watch at Le Mans 2024
What are the chances of a British winner at this weekend’s 24-hour race? We assess the drivers with the best hopes

It’s official: British racing drivers have won the most at the Le Mans 24 Hours over the past century.

Since the first race 101 years ago, a total of 34 Brits have been part of the winning crew at the world’s greatest endurance race, racking up 45 victories between them. The next closest is the French: 28 drivers for a tally of 42 home wins.

But look down the list since 1923, and from the 1960s onwards British winners become an elite club – especially when you break it down further to those with multiple wins. There aren’t many. So who are the most likely contenders to wave the Union flag once more come Sunday afternoon?

Jenson Button, Will Stevens, Callum Ilott, Phil Hanson

A quartet grouped together because they all have two things in common: one, none of them has an overall Le Mans win to their name; and two, they all drive for British privateer Jota.

The Kent-based team runs a pair of Porsche 963s in a striking Hertz livery and is absolutely in with a shot of scoring the manufacturer’s record-extending 20th Le Mans win.

Proof of that was thrown up at the previous World Endurance Championship round, the Spa 6 Hours, when Stevens and Ilott delivered Jota its first overall win at this level - also a first for any customer team in this era.

Yes, a dose of luck was involved, but in such a competitive Hypercar field opportunism is the name of the game.

Stevens is an ex-Formula 1 driver now established as one of the finest endurance racers on the planet, and Ilott is juggling Indycar with a transition to the long game. They share the #12 entry with Frenchman Norman Nato.

In the #38 963, Hanson is the prime example of an increasingly common breed: a young driver who has focused on sports cars since his teens.

Button needs little introduction: can the 2009 F1 world champion echo Fernando Alonso and add a Le Mans win to his glittering career? Hanson and Button share with fast Dane Oliver Rasmussen.

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Nick Tandy

Tandy, like the other contenders here chasing a second Le Mans win, is a trusted pair of hands within the Penske run Porsche works team. But the 39-year-old has spent much of his frontline sports car career in GTs rather than top-class prototypes.

After a gritty grass-roots career that began in Ministox on Britain's short-track ovals, Tandy rose to the international ranks through sheer hard graft.

He landed a big chance in a third 919 Hybrid LMP1 at Le Mans in 2015 and won, sharing with Nico Hülkenberg - making a well-timed cameo from F1 - and Earl Bamber.

Now crewed with Frenchman Mathieu Jaminet and Brazilian Felipe Nasr in Penske's #4 963, Tandy has every right to fancy his chances.

James Calado

Last year, Calado became only the second Brit to win Le Mans for Ferrari - and his predecessor Peter Mitchell Thomson (aka Lord Selsdon of Croydon) only drove for 72 minutes in 1949, so he barely counts.

This year, in the 499P's sophomore season, 34 year-old Calado will bid to join Ecurie Ecosse Jaguar D-Type ace Ron Flockhart as a British consecutive two time winner.

Ferrari should be in the mix once again, as Calado shares the #51 entry with fellow 2023 winners Alessandro Pier Guidi and Antonio Giovinazzi.

James Cottingham

As career paths go, James Cottingham has taken a novel one to reach Le Mans. Most racing drivers transition to historic racing once they grow a few grey hairs and begin to wind down. But this 40-year-old is doing it all back to front.

“If you’d asked me three and a half years ago what I’d be doing now I would have said more of the same: driving historic racing cars,” says Cottingham. “If you’d told me I’d be doing not only Le Mans but the whole of the WEC, I’d have thought you were kidding.”

He is the son of David and Kate Cottingham, co-founders of DK Engineering, one of the world’s foremost classic Ferrari specialists – hence the foundation in historic racing. Still DK’s managing director, Cottingham chose to have a crack at modern GT racing and last year finished runner-up in the British GT Championship. Now he is part of United Autosports’ full WEC line-up as the Leeds-based team takes McLaren back to Le Mans with a brace of 720Ss in the new LMGT3 class. 

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“It’s been a learning experience with the car,” says the bronze-rated driver, “but having done the Asian Le Mans Series over the winter in a McLaren is a massive advantage and has really given me a head start. I’m enjoying it; I’m not daunted at all.”

A class win first time out is a long shot. But keep an eye out for Cottingham all the same.

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