Le Mans Classic Porsche Race was one of the high­lights of the week­end

Classic Porsche - - Contents - Words: Robert Bar­rie Pho­tos: Keith Seume

Some­thing clearly was­nʼt right. I had come to Le Mans to watch seventy classic Porsche race cars cel­e­brate the man­u­fac­turer ʼs sev­en­ti­eth an­niver­sary. But where were they? The qual­i­fy­ing ses­sion was due to start and the assem­bly area was empty. Fran­tic en­quiries led to the dis­cov­ery of two vi­tal pieces of in­for­ma­tion. First, he ses­sion had been de­layed. Thatʼs al­ways use­ful to know. Sec­ond, the rel­e­vant pad­dock and circuit en­try point were both some way away.

For any­one who has­nʼt been to Le Mans, itʼs worth stress­ing the sheer scale of the place. It is ab­so­lutely enormous. To go from any point on the circuit to any other typ­i­cally means walk­ing miles. Lit­er­ally. For the record, the cars were to be found on the out­side of the circuit be­tween the Porsche Curves and the Ford Chi­cane. I thought it was a gi­ant camp site down there. Ap­par­ently not.

The de­lay meant I man­aged to catch up with some of the cars and driv­ers be­fore they went out onto the circuit. The lat­ter were in good spir­its. It also meant they, in turn, had the op­por­tu­nity to drive at night – an es­sen­tial part of the ex­pe­ri­ence and a tiny in­sight into the 24-hour race it­self. The straights are long and dark, but the cor­ners and their ap­proaches are well lit.

The event was for cars from the pre-1973–ʼ74 pe­riod. The tim­ing sheet showed Ray­mond Narac on pole in a 3.0 RS, one of the youngest cars in the field, with Ewens Stieve­nartʼs long-tailed 908 just be­hind, and Max Mau­riceʼs 2.8 RSR just be­hind that. Olly Bryant was the fastest of the 2.0-litre 911s in sixth and the top ten was rounded out by a 904 and a 906. A nice cross-sec­tion. Fur­ther back were half a dozen or so 356s, in­clud­ing a trio of pre-as. In a sign of things to come, the tim­ing sheet also showed that a num­ber of lap times had been ex­cluded as a re­sult of speed­ing in a slow zone.

Slow zones are used to avoid send­ing out a safety car when a prob­lem is con­fined to a cer­tain sec­tor of the track. The cars must slow to 80kph as they en­ter the zone and only re­turn to rac­ing speed when they leave it. It sounds sim­ple enough, but seems to have been be­yond some com­peti­tors. I hes­i­tate to judge, but when a for­mer Le Mans winner has three lap times ex­cluded it looks like some­one has­nʼt ex­plained some­thing very well or some­one else has­nʼt un­der­stood it very well or, more likely per­haps, both.

Later, it emerged that some cars with ex­cluded times had also been given grid penal­ties as had some that had­nʼt had times ex­cluded. Again, I hes­i­tate to judge, but note that the hefti­est grid penalty was handed to James Turner, one of the or­gan­is­ers of the 2-Litre Cup. It may be that paint­ing your car

sev­eral dif­fer­ent colours is not the most ef­fec­tive way of con­ceal­ing trans­gres­sions on track…

The 55-minute race was the fol­low­ing af­ter­noon. Any hopes it might be in­ci­dent-free were dashed very early on when the rolling start pace car gave way to a safety car on the open­ing lap. A blown en­gine had left a sub­stan­tial amount of oil on a long stretch of track and the mar­shals needed ac­cess to dust it down.

As the race re­sumed, the lead­ing places re­mained rea­son­ably stable. Or so it seemed. My un­der­stand­ing is that Stieve­nart crossed the line first, fol­lowed by Ray­mond Narac and Marc de Sieben­thal in an­other 3.0-litre RS. How­ever, all three were pe­nalised to a vary­ing, but sig­nif­i­cant, ex­tent.

The of­fi­cial re­sults show Uwe Br­uschnik win­ning in a 910, with Narac sec­ond as be­fore fol­lowed by Karsten Le Blanc in a 2.8 RSR. Adam Daw­son took his road-driven 2.7 RS to an im­pres­sive fifth, just ahead of Bryant, who fin­ished where he started in sixth.

Itʼs a fea­ture of Peter Auto events that the re­sults are also ad­justed by an in­dex of per­for­mance that takes age and en­gine size into ac­count. As is of­ten the way, the ad­justed re­sults were led by the trio of pre-a 356s. Well done to Gabriel Balt­haz­ard, Xavier Dochez and Jean-michel Vil­lot.

For those of us of a classic Porsche per­sua­sion, it was a great oc­ca­sion with a great grid, but one canʼt help won­der­ing whatʼs go­ing on when a quar­ter of the cars and driv­ers in­volved in an event at­tract penal­ties of one sort or an­other. I imag­ine that many – if not most – of the prob­lems were to do with slow zones.

That may have been an un­fa­mil­iar sit­u­a­tion for many com­peti­tors, but it is surely some­thing that needs to be worked on be­fore the next event in two yearsʼ time. For all the lev­ity in some of the ob­ser­va­tions above, there are en­tirely proper safety con­sid­er­a­tions be­hind the penal­ties in­curred. It is a shame that they were re­quired. CP


Main photo: Claude Le Jean (#63) leads the Wun­der­lich/ Gnani 911 (#3) and Dean Desan­tis (#17) out of the Ford Chi­cane. All were driv­ing 2.0-litre 1965 cars

Be­low, left to right: Pit stop for #72, Richard Cook, driv­ing the His­torika-pre­pared 1964 911; Le Mans leg­end Gérard Lar­rousseʼs ST suc­cumbed to en­gine prob­lems, sadly; James Turner ʼs strik­ing 911 (#44) fea­tured a paintjob de­signed by fash­ion guru Paul Smith. It was a pho­tog­ra­pher ʼs favourite

Above: First over­all was Uwe Br­uschnik in his 1967 910, fin­ish­ing over a minute ahead of sec­ond placed Ray­mond Naracʼs 3.0 RS

Be­low left: Er­win Van Lieshoutʼs 911 ST leads Paul Danielsʼ 2.8 RSR onto the pit straightBe­low: The Porsche Classic race was cer­tainly a colour­ful af­fair, with a wide va­ri­ety of ma­chin­ery taking part

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