LE MANS CLASSIC

Classic Porsche en­dures the heat at the great­est classic race event in the world

Classic Porsche - - Contents - Words & Pho­tos: Keith Seume

Held ev­ery two years, Le Mans Classic is ar­guably the great­est his­toric race meet­ing in the world, bring­ing to­gether Le Mans leg­ends on four wheels (and two legs…) from all over the world to com­pete be­fore an au­di­ence of more than 135,000 spec­ta­tors. As an event it is unique and un­miss­able…

So, thatʼs it for an­other two years…two whole years. Thatʼs a long time to wait for what is ar­guably the great­est classic car race event in the world. High praise? Yes, but if youʼve not yet been to the bi-an­nual shindig at the leg­endary French circuit, you might find it hard to un­der­stand what the fuss is all about.

Letʼs put it this way: imag­ine those pho­tos youʼve seen in old mag­a­zines show­ing blower Bent­leys thun­der­ing down the Mul­sanne, or fire-spit­ting 935s slow­ing for Aran­age, all com­ing to life be­fore your very eyes on the same week­end. Throw in a sound track that makes Mr Mc­queenʼs movie sound like a Dis­ney film and there you have it: Le Mans Classic in a nut­shell. And we love it.

Run­ning since 2002, Le Mans Classic caters for all cars that would have been el­i­gi­ble to run in the 24 Heures du Mans up to the Group C era, although this year there was a new class added: Golden En­durance Leg­ends, which wel­comed GT1 and LMP P1 cars of the 1990s and 2000s.

The field is split into var­i­ous grids, or ʻPlateauʼ as the or­gan­is­ers pre­fer to call them, sep­a­rat­ing the cars into groups which would have run to­gether in pe­riod. The ear­li­est cars dated back to 1923, the most mod­ern on track this time around 2014, although from the Porsche en­thu­si­astʼs point of view, the great­est in­ter­est lay not only in the 1950s,ʼ60s and ʼ70s grids, but also the new Porsche Classic Race, specif­i­cally aimed at bring­ing to­gether on track one of the big­gest fields of classic Porsche race cars weʼve seen. You can read about that start­ing on page 50.

The or­gan­is­ers, Peter Auto, claim that this year ʼs event at­tracted a field of over 700 his­toric race cars, along with more than 1000 driv­ers, all com­pet­ing be­fore an au­di­ence of around 135,000 spec­ta­tors – 10 per cent up on last year. In ad­di­tion to the rac­ing, there was an auc­tion cour­tesy of Artcu­rial, an im­pres­sive club dis­play, with a claimed 8500plus cars brought to the track by over 200 clubs rep­re­sent­ing 60 dif­fer­ent mar­ques. Im­pres­sive fig­ures how­ever you look at them!

Although many peo­ple ar­rived by Thurs­day lunchtime, the rac­ing – or strictly speak­ing the prac­tice ses­sions – did­nʼt start un­til Fri­day, with the first of the night­time ses­sions run­ning un­til the small hours. Th­ese ses­sions are where Le Mans Classic re­ally comes into its own, the at­mo­sphere around the pad­dock (and pits) be­ing elec­tric.

It was­nʼt un­til Satur­day morn­ing that the event re­ally got into its stride, start­ing with laps of the track open to mem­bers of the pub­lic on a pre-booked ba­sis. That was fol­lowed by a se­ries of pa­rades in cel­e­bra­tion of the 24 hour race, after which rac­ing proper kicked off with the hour-long Jaguar Classic Chal­lenge. Porsche was­nʼt to be out­done, how­ever, with a pa­rade of sev­eral sig­nif­i­cant cars from the Porsche Mu­seum, led by Porsche No1 driven by Felix Porsche, grand­son of Fer­di­nand Porsche, and co-pi­loted by Felix Lange, grand­son of Fer­di­nand Piëch.

This was fol­lowed by a 911 Car­rera RSR 1971 driven by Derek Bell (five-time winner of the Le Mans 24 Hours), a 911 2.5 ST with Marc Meurer (Porsche France Gen­eral Man­ager) at the wheel, a 906 Car­rera (1966) for Ro­main Du­mas (two-time winner), a 908/3 for Henri Pescarolo (four-time winner), Richard Mille (main part­ner of Le Mans Classic with EFG) in a 962 and the GT1 vic­to­ri­ous in the 1998 race with Stéphane Ortelli (one of the win­ning trio) in the cock­pit. Quite a line-up!

But the week­end was­nʼt only about pa­rades and one­mar­que rac­ing, for the bulk of the week­endʼs com­pe­ti­tion

“BUT THE WEEK­END WASN’T ONLY ABOUT PA­RADES…”

com­prised the afore­men­tioned ʻPlateauʼ which saw the cream of the worldʼs finest classic race cars on circuit in spir­ited (some­times a lit­tle too spir­ited) ac­tion.

Plateau 2 saw the first of the Porsches take to the track over a se­ries of three races, each in­evitably dom­i­nated by the D-type Jaguars. Porsche 356s gained top 20 places in each race, but gained no higher than 10th place.

Pla­teua 3 saw the likes of the Porsche 718s and later 356s take to the track, with the dom­i­nant cars be­ing the likes of Lo­tus XVS and As­ton Martins. Bri­tish fa­ther and son team Bill and Will Stephens did well to fin­ish in the top 20 in their Car­rera Speed­ster against some very stiff op­po­si­tion.

Plateau 4 was the play­ground of the mighty Ford GT40S, with Porsche 904s tag­ging along be­hind. The most mem­o­rable re­sult in this group as far as we were con­cerned was Paul Stephens and Rob Hyet­tʼs win in the GTS11 class in what was Paulʼs first Le Mans out­ing. To say that Paul was a lit­tle emo­tional at the end is an un­der­state­ment! Well done to all con­cerned.

Plateau 5 would, if there was any jus­tice for Porsche fans, have been the hunt­ing ground of the Porsche 917, but it was the Lola T70 which reigned supreme. For many, though, this was the premier grid of the week­end, and we can un­der­stand why.

Plateau 6 saw the Porsche 935s out on track, although they had to play sec­ond best to a swarm of Lo­las. But who can for­get their flame-spit­ting an­tics in the night ses­sions?

The Group C race was a fan­tas­tic dis­play of horse­power, with a lonely Porsche 956 and 10 962s do­ing bat­tle with the im­pres­sive Jaguar XJRS in all their forms. It took us right back to the late 1980s when the 962s dom­i­nated the class…

Once again, Le Mans Classic left us spell­bound, too hot (it was over 30°C for most of the week­end) but gasp­ing for more. Too bad we have to wait un­til 2020 to wit­ness this great spec­ta­cle once more. Make your plans now… CP

“ONCE AGAIN, LE MANS CLASSIC LEFT US SPELL­BOUND”

44

Main photo: Le Mans Classic is a Porsche en­thu­si­astʼs dream. Ro­main Rocher at speed in his Car­rera 6Right: Well, Le Mans would­nʼt be Le Mans with­out the driversʼ sprint, would it? Bot­tom, left to right: Fri­day and Satur­day morn­ings saw the chance for mem­bers of the pub­lic to drive round the leg­endary circuit. Pre­book­ing only, though…; One of the great things about Le Mans Classic is the pad­dock ac­cess – hereʼs the class­win­ning RSR driven by Michael Roock and Uwe Alzen; nigh­t­ime pit ac­tion is al­ways ex­cit­ing; Vin­cent Tourneur gives us a wave from the seat of his spe­ciallyadapted Speed­ster (see is­sue #13 of Classic Porsche for the full story)

Above: Uwe Br­uschnik backs his 910 out of his pit space in the night time qual­i­fy­ing ses­sion for the Porsche Classic Race, which he went on to win

Be­low left: Grand­stand and ad­join­ing VIP space give a won­der­ful view of the track. Weather was hot – al­most too hot – top­ping 30°C for much of the week­end

Be­low: A pen­sive Reiner Becker at the wheel of his Car­rera RSR

Above left: Ter­rail/ae­ber­hard 1974 Car­rera 3.0 RSR awaits its turn on the track in the night qual­i­fy­ing ses­sion for Plateau 6Above right: Rus­sell Kemp­nich ran the sole 956 in the Group C race – by com­par­i­son, there were 10 962s com­pet­ing

Be­low left: Paul Stephens and Rob Hyett were con­sis­tently among the quick­est 911s on track, head­ing the GTS11 class at the fi­nal count­down in Plateau 4Be­low: And so the flag comes down on an­other great event. Hereʼs to LMC 2020. See you there!

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