Le Mans Classic 2018: The story so far...
The races are running, the camping BBQs lit and it’s all the fun of the fair: the 2018 Le Mans Classic is go. We bring you a flavour of the action on and off the world-famous track.
Weather-wise, it’s a scorcher – though not as stiflingly humid as 2010, when the temperature hit 35deg C at sundown. The organisers – the ever-impressive Peter Auto, with generous sponsorship from Le Mans fanatic Richard Mille – have once again pulled out all the stops. On Saturday morning, in addition to 2016’s individual Jaguar and Gp. C races, there’s now a sprint for classic Porsches and a spirited ‘demonstration’ by Global Endurance Legends that almost brings the story of racing at the famous circuit of La Sarthe up to date.
For those yet to attend the modern 24 Hours, the sight of recent Audis, Peugeots and Toyotas screaming past the pits, rocketing under the Dunlop Bridge and on to Mulsanne has been quite an eye-opener.
Naturally, the older cars are the stars and this year the sensation of the paddocks was the presence of four Porsche 917s. The two 917Ks in 1970-71 spec have been seen before, but a pair of 1969 ‘as-homologated' cars are making their Le Mans Classic debut. As always, the grids run in chronological order, so the Grid 5 race won’t be starting until after 10pm today. With double Le Mans winner Romain Dumas at the wheel of one 917, and the quick pairing of Nicolas d'Ieteren/Joe Twyman in the newly restored John Woolfe long-tail (above), it’s going to be sensational. And that’s before you add in the wailing Matra and a host of Lola T70s and later GT40s.
Other cars we liked? The rare and unusual (a signature of the LM Classic) 1957 Alfa Romeo SVZ ‘double-bubbles’ – like the one above, and one was from Japan – the multiplicity of Porsche 904s and 906s, and the Alpines and Panhards: the local talent that rarely makes it outside France.
And sights and sounds? The Bizzarrini transporter display – commercial vehicle cognoscenti might dispute its age but boy, did the set-up look good. The clubs, the manufacturer presence from Renault, the occasional military fly-past and the interesting trade stands – all made an impression and contributed to the ‘quality’ image of the event that is its hallmark.
Over at Artcurial (above, left), the atmosphere in the saleroom on preview day was businesslike, if not packed to the rafters. The heat and a little matter of a World Cup knock-out game for the French national team did not help, although a big screen showed the match. The cars looked good, better than before, we’d say, and Matthieu Lamoure reported much pre-sale interest on the Swedish 300 SLs. You can read an interim report elsewhere on K500.
Do check early next week for an overview of the Le Mans Classic and a full run-down of the results at Artcurial with all the usual K500 analysis. In the meantime, enjoy a sample of what's been going on at Le Mans these past two days...