The Hotel de France, steeped in the history of the Le Mans 24 hour race, can be found in Place de la République, a square in the centre of La Chartre-sur-Le-Loir, an attractive town on the Loir river. For anyone with an interest in motorsport and Le Mans, the opportunity to visit should not be missed.
The hotel opened for business in 1905 and remained in the ownership of the same family for four generations. It is located some 40 kilometres, or 27 miles, south-east of Le Mans. Part of the fun of visiting this historic location is the drive or ride down to the hotel, along the quiet D-roads of the region, roads that once roared to the sound of race cars.
From the 1950’s it was used as the headquarters for motor racing teams taking part in the famous Le Mans 24 Hour race. For over 20 years, teams worked long into the night preparing cars at the hotel, ready for the race. The DBR1’s of the Aston Martin team, the Ford GT40’s and Porsche 917’s of the Gulf Oil team are just some of the race cars whose noise has reverberated off the walls of the hotel and around the square, as they were started-up, before being driven on the public roads to the circuit at Le Mans. Incredibly, this practice was maintained right up to the 1970 race, when Gulf mechanics drove the three Porsche 917 race cars to the circuit on the public roads for the last time.
The hotel has enjoyed a long history with the race, making it a mecca for fans of the “24 Heures du Mans”. Inside, the walls are covered in a specially commissioned wall paper, detailing the hotels history and its association with the race, from the racing drivers that stayed there to the iconic race cars that parked outside.
The hotel’s association with motor sport and the Le Mans 24 hours came about when John Wyer, a hardnosed straight talking team manager, discovered the Hotel de France in 1953. Its location and the quality of its food, were deciding factors in Wyer making it his team’s base for the race for as long as he remained actively involved in motor racing. During this period, race cars would be prepared in the hotels courtyard, and then driven to and from the circuit on the public roads, following the D304, the Route de Mans.
It has been, and still is, frequented by the icons of motor racing. Drivers that have stayed at the hotel include Le Mans winners Derek Bell MBE, Jacky Ickx, Phil Hill, Jochen Rindt, Bruce McLaren and Carroll Shelby as well as Sir Stirling Moss OBE, Jackie Stewart and Mario Andretti. Just a few of the many racing drivers, along with film stars and leaders of state, including Steve McQueen, the children of both John F Kennedy and Robert Kennedy and the President France, who have stayed at the Hotel de France.
It would be 1959 before the hotel would see its first victory party, the first of many, when the Aston Martin DBR1, driven by Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori, won the race for the Aston Martin team managed by Wyer.
In later years, Wyer ran the Ford Advanced Vehicles, and then the Gulf-sponsored JW Automotive GT40, Mirage and works-supported Porsche 917 teams, which were all based at the hotel. Ferrari, Chevrolet and Triumph are just some of the other race car marques that have departed for the circuit from the hotel. In 2009, it also hosted the Aston Martin Owners Club celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the marques win at Le Mans, one of many clubs, along with car manufacturers, to hold functions at the hotel.
The car park in front of the Hotel de France regularly echoes to the sound of sports cars, classic cars and motor cycles, as owners visit the hotel to experience its atmosphere and incredible history.
We look forward to welcoming you!
Images used in the slider above and on the hotel’s facebook and twitter pages are the copyright Hotel de France – consent for use provided on request
The Hotel was refurbished back in January 2014 by Stenball Group Ltd the owner also runs a pub in Surrey called the Barley Mow. Martin is a Motorsports enthusiast and loves Motor Racing he is a shareholder in a Classic car tour company calledClassic Grand Touring.