The circuit had been widened at the approach to the Esses, adding grass runoff after the Dunlop Curve.
Porsche had a new program for the future Group C regulations in 1982, and had persuaded Jacky Ickx out of retirement. The main reason for entering Le Mans was to test a new engine for the upcoming new car. This 2.6L engine was derived from an Indianapolis 500 engine which never raced. The new engines were fitted in a pair of 936 chassis. Ickx shared one of the updated 936s with Derek Bell; Jochen Mass, Vern Schuppan and Hurley Haywood drove the other.
The race was run in very hot weather, but the engine test was successful: after the first hour, Ickx and Bell had built a large advance and remained at lead for the rest of the race. They won by an even greater margin than in 1976- 14 laps. Ickx had won Le Mans for the 5th time- surpassing a record set by fellow Belgian Olivier Gendebien in 1962.
The race was marred by the deaths of a driver and a marshal during the race in separate incidents, and also several marshals were injured in these incidents. 40-year old Jean-Louis Lafosse violently crashed his Rondeau in the early stages on the Mulsanne Straight while following the Lola T600 of de Villota/Edwards/Fernández and was killed instantly. No cause has ever been determined although a piece of debris is seen flying away from the car just before the Rondeau suddenly steers to the right, along with pre-crash photographs showing evidence of damage from an off-track excursion, suggesting suspension failure as a possible cause. Two marshals were seriously injured in Lafosse's fatal accident. Thierry Boutsen, who would go on to drive and win in Formula One, had earlier escaped a large accident in the second hour, destroying his WM-Peugeot but without causing injury to himself; race marshal Thierry Mabillat was killed in the accident after he was struck by a piece of the broken guard rail; and 2 of his colleagues, Claude Hertault and Serge David, were seriously injured but survived; the latter lost an arm.