I have been on the biannual pilgrimage to Le Mans Classic since retiring from corporate life in the early part of this century. The event has grown and grown over the years and is now of a truly monumental scale. Last weekend there were over 800 cars competing on the track in 11 races with 235,000 spectators in attendance.
Off the track were 9,200 classics and sports cars to feast the eyes on, ranging from humble early voiturettes to the very latest supercars. My focus, as always, was the on track action as am a strong believer that cars look at their best when travelling at high speed.
This year broke with tradition in one sense, which is that it took place just 12 months after the previous event. 2023 was the centenary of the first 24 hour race so this was highly appropriate. It also means that the next race will be in 2025 thus avoiding the previous clashes with Football World Cup finals that occur every other even numbered year. I can recall Le Mans being a ghost town on the Sunday evening of a previous Classic when France made it to the final.There were a number of highlights for me, the greatest one being the the Benjafield Challenge where a record breaking 73 Bentleys built between 1923 and 1931 lined up for a Le Mans start followed by a furious race. The cars and their drivers represent the epitome of the famous “Bentley Boys” of the period and it is always a pleasure to be int heir company. My good friend Clive Morley was able to advantage of being on pole position to take a clear lead early on. Less than ten seconds later things were much more fraught further down the grid and it was amazing that no cars appeared to be damaged in the melee that occurred. Everyone seemed to want to occupy the same patch of tarmac. This may be the worlds most valuable traffic jam? For a time the race became a classic one between Clive’s light and nimble ( 3litre chassis and 4.5 litre engine) and faster but heavier Blower of Martin Overington, Clive emerged as the winner.
Other highlights included parade laps by 24hours winner, including:
The Ecurie Ecosse D Type JaguarTwo Ferrari’s from their dominant period in the early 1960’s
A Porsche 917And the screaming rotary engined Mazda form 1991 The real beauty at Le Mans really starts to glow as the sun sets. The opportunity to take photos at dusk is a real treat, especially it is when some of my favourite cars, like Cobras, and GT40’s come out to play.
The GT40’s in particular seem to have a healthy glow to their brakes as they head for the chicane
And as darkness takes over things are truly seen in a different light:
Tiredness also takes over at this stage – though fortunately the Chateau that my friends in the AC Owners Club rent every year is close to the track and has comfortable beds so that becomes the last delight of the day.
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