Georges Durand was born in Fresnay-sur-Sarthe in 1864, and grew up in a modest family of Sarthe weavers. At the age of 20, he moved to Le Mans and began a career as a stenographer. In the course of his encounters with other people, he discovered the automobile, and quickly developed a passion for this new sector, which was booming at the time.
Like a “sportsman”, he joined the first auto-cycling clubs (Union Auto Cycliste de la Sarthe, Touring Club de France), took part in car races throughout France, and took part in several airplane and balloon flights. An entrepreneur at heart, he founded the Automobile Club de la Sarthe (now the Automobile Club de l’Ouest) and the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race, inaugurated in 1923.