2018 Le Mans Classic Review Part One

In the first of this three-part special feature, Speed Chills View review the 2018 Le Mans Classic, an event firmly established in the motorsport calendar. Take a look at some of the pictures and the roundup of all the on-track action from the weekend.

The Le Mans Classic made its debut back in 2002. At the time, it was a financial disaster for Patrick Peter and Peter Auto, the organisers. Back then, just 30,000 people came to spectate the event over one weekend in September. However, that first event sparked an interest and word began to spread. 16 years later, the Le Mans Classic has firmly established itself in both the historic racing community and motorsport community as a whole with over 140,000 people expected to attend this year with 10 previous winners of the Le Mans 24 Hour set to compete including Roman Dumas, Loic Duval and Jochen Mass.

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The Le Mans Classic is a truly special event. Le Mans is one of the few tracks in the world that is steeped in so much history. The 24 Hour itself, was first run in 1923 and all though the track has changed several times since then, this weekend, some of those original contenders have returned.

The entry list for the Le Mans Classic is huge, that’s the only way to describe it. This year there are circa 750 racing cars on track with over a thousand drivers taking part across the three days.

First of all, there are six “Plateaux”, grids too you and I, spanning 60 years of competition, from the early pre-World War 2 era of the 1920s and 1930s all the way through to the early 1980s. In addition to that, there are a number of separate races for classic Jaguars and Porsche along with a dedicated grid to the mighty Group C era of the 1980s and early 1990s.

New for 2018 is the Global Endurance Legends Series, at this stage, they only featured for two 30-minute parade sessions, however expect a lot more from them in the coming years. The Masters Endurance Legends series held its first UK race at Brands Hatch earlier this year having been unveiled late in 2017.

In short, the Le Mans Classic is the only event in the world where you can watch anything from Pre-War Bentley’s and Bugatti’s all the way through the classic sports car era of the 1960s to Group C and beyond to the early days of LMP alongside GT1 and GT2 of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

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The action began on Friday morning, 70 cars from the newly formed Global Endurance Legends Series took to the circuit behind the safety car for the first of two 30-minute sessions and what an incredible site it was. The field was led by a bright Yellow Ferrari 333SP in the hands of Michel Lecourt and despite it being a parade, it quickly became apparent a number of small battles were emerging, Andy Bruce in the Spark McLaren F1 GTR for one, going three abreast down the Mulsanne Straight with the Panoz Esperante GTR-1 and a Porsche 993 GT2 Evo at almost 180 miles an hour. Le Mans 24 Hour veteran Emmanuel Collard made his return to Le Mans in the very Toyota TS020 GT-One that he drove here back in 1999 with Martin Brundle and Vincenzo Sospiri. Unfortunately, the car retired part way through the race however the sister #3 car finished second that year behind the #15 BMW V12 LMR of Yannick Dalmas, Joachim Winkelhock and Pierluigi Martini.

A number of fan favourites from previous years also took part in the parade including the ex-Colin McRae Ferrari 550 GT1, the 2003 Bentley Speed 8, the Audi R8 and Peugeot 908. Manufacturers from the modern era of the FIA World Endurance Championship were well represented across the GT1, GT2, GT3 and LM GT categories including the Aston Martin DBR9 GT1, Ferrari F430, AF Corse Ferrari 458 GTE and Porsche 997 GT3 RSR.

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Next up, it was the return of the mighty Group C cars, a fan favourite for obvious reasons at the Le Mans Classic. A number of iconic liveries and brands made a welcome return to Le Mans including a host of Silk Cut liveried Jaguar XJR’s, Peugeot 905’s and Porsche 962’s. Regular FIA Masters Historic Formula 1 driver Michael Lyons returned in the 1991 Gebhardt C91, taking victory in the only race of the weekend. Shaun Lynn, father of Aston Martin factory driver Alex Lynn took second place in the 1987 Jaguar XJR-9 from the 1989 XJR11 of Ralf Kelleners and Ivan Vercourtere. They made for a spectacular sight this weekend with some pretty close racing throughout the grid. The ground effect aero causing the cars to stick to the track as they made their way down Dunlop Hill or through Porsche Curves at incredible speed was mind blowing. The 908 Peugeot’s were a highlight for many during the Group C sessions, their naturally aspirated V10’s screaming akin to an early 90s Formula 1 car with up shifts that sounded like canon fire, piercing the ear drums of anyone trackside at the time.

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