About 90 years ago, 1923 to be exact, it was the first time the Circuit de la Sarthe was used for a 24hour lasting endurance race. Without any doubt, it grew into one of the largest sports-events ever, with over 300.000 visitors during the race, not to mention the millions following on tv and the internet. In those long history, some great cars and pilots took the challenge, and numerous heroic stories can be told. Unfortunately many pilots paid the dream to compete in the 24h of Le Mans with the highest price possible and didn’t survive.
In it’s 7th edition yet, the Le Mans Classic brings the cars of back then back to the track.To be eligible for participating in the Le Mans Classic, a car has to have competed in a Le Mans 24h , or failing that, to be identical to one of the models involved. It is not allowed to have changes done in engine, brakes, or any other technology! In 6 grids, the complete range of cars one competing in the Le Mans 24hours, race like they used to do back then when they were the protagonists of the Le Mans circus. To make it even more authentic, the different 45minute races are spread over a 24hour period. Without interruption, after the finish of one grid, the next grid is preparing for start, which makes it feel as if you were at the actual 24h race.
Among the 1000+ drivers, this year, some former Le Mans 24hours winners :Gijs van Lennep (1971 with Helmut Marko and 1976 with Jacky Ickx) and Gerard Larousse (1973 and 1974 with Henry Pescarolo). Among the other victorious drivers in the line-up were Jurgen Barth (1977 with Jacky Ickx and Hurley Haywood), Andy Wallace (1988 with Jan Lammers and Johnny Dumfries), Marco Werner (2005 with Tom Kristensen and JJ Lehto, 2006 and 2007 with Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro) and to complete the fireworks 5 time winner Emanuele Pirro (2000, 2001 and 2002 with Tom Kristensen and Frank Biela, 2006 and 2007with Frank Biela and Marco Werner)
Next to the tracks, lots of action with the Artcurial Auction of automobilia and cars. Thousands of people defied the rain to show their vintage cars to the public or even have a ride on the famous Le Mans track. After all, we all want to feel what the racers feel when driving the straight, or cornering the Arnage. Dozens of shops brought their goods, from vintage clothing to watches, pictures and artwork to books. Anything related to the vintage car world was present to bring a wonderful atmosphere to Le Mans, despite the rain.
As we all know, Porsche has a strong connection to the Circuit de la Sarthe and the Le Mans 24hours, with 16 overall victories. So you shouldn’t be surprised you could find lots of Porsches at the Le Mans Classic too. From the Porsche 356 pre A’s over Porsche 550 Spyder and Porsche 904’s, stunning restored Porsche 906’s, the Porsche 907 from Willi Khausen racing team that was piloted by his good friend Jurgen Barth, the always present Vogele’s Porsche 908 and the Carlos Monteverde Porsche 917. One of the most brutal looking race-cars ever produced by Porsche, the 911 RSR turbo with its huge tail and spoiler attracted much attention, not in the least because the very rare car (1 of 5) was not used as a show car but raced as back in the days without remorse. Truly stunning to see.
Unfortunately Sunday it was raining cats and dogs, making it both unpleasant for the spectators, and uncomfortable and dangerous to drive for the pilots. Despite that soaking weather, I’m pretty sure everyone left the premises with a big smile, looking forward to another edition in 2016, hopefully in bright sun.