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Report: Le Mans Classic 2012

400 historic racing cars split into six grids, with three races apiece over 24 hours, going for broke, wet and dry, on the legendary Sarthe circuit. Not forgetting the Mulsanne ‘kink’!

Report: Le Mans Classic 2012

Report: Le Mans Classic 2012

Two major events on the same weekend: Silverstone or Le Mans: which will it be, F1 or classic sports racers? No contest! With 400 entries, La Sarthe hosts the biggest historic festival in the World, the most amazing cross-section of sports racing cars anywhere, pounding the hallowed asphalt over an action-filled three-day weekend.

Whatever your penchant, whichever epoch turns you on, there’s sure to be plenty to entrance you. Entries are divided into six grids - ‘plateaux’ - according to the original era the cars competed in, with three races for each grid, timed so each one gets a shot in the dark: racing takes place over 24 hours, kicking off at 4.00pm on Saturday, and the results are calculated on aggregate. All weekend long there’s a wonderful aural soundtrack, typified by the engine exhaust notes of the period.

Grid 1 is for pre-war beasts from 1923 to 1939, populated by outrageous monsters like the Bentleys and Talbots. Grid 2 contains post-war cars from 1949 to 1956, a Jaguar benefit moderated by a few Maseratis, Mercedes-Benz and an Aston or two. Grid 3 channelling 1957 to 1961 brings out the nimble Lotuses, Porsche 356s and Ferrari 250 GTs, while Grid 4 encompassing 1962 to 1965 reflects the mid-engined transition with a bevy of GT40s ranged against front-engined Cobras, Iso Bizzarinis and 275 GTBs. Going from 1966 to 1971, Grid 5 sees Lola T70s ranged against Porsche 906, 907 and 917, with a medley of GT40s, Chevrons B8s and B16s and, finally, Grid 6 from 1972 to 1979 features Corvettes, Porsche 935s, BMW M1s and Lola T298s. All races include a mandatory pit stop and driver change, though a few intrepid souls run solo but still have to pit mid-race.

Grids 2 and 4 began with the traditional Le Mans start, drivers sprinting to their cars, lined up in echelon against the pit wall: the enthusiasm was there, but a coming together in the final race caused an anticlimactic rolling start, which is how the other races started. There were often clear winners and, by and large, the fastest cars and crews showed well in each of their races: Grid 1’s Bronson/Burnett/Evans’ hunky Talbot 105 sounded indecently healthy, though the sleek Traber/Trenery Talbot Lago won on aggregate, while a 4.5-litre blower Bentley was a strange car to find Derek Bell co-piloting - causing him more of a sweat than the 962: and that’s the beauty of Classic Le Mans, you’re pleasantly surprised all the time.

In Grid 2, Gary Pickering’s D-type was quicker than its sibling rivals, though the Carlos Monteverde D-type was a good 2nd from the Mulder/Simon/Kleisel 300SL Merc in 3rd place. In Grid 3 the overall honours went to the Wills/Twyman/Pirro Lotus 15, with the 1959 Le Mans-winning Aston Martin DBR1 of Fisken/Leventis 2nd. Predictably, the GT40s dominated the high numbers in Grid 4, though it was less clear which of them was fastest: Lynne’s ‘Tessie’ was an early leader from Voyazides’ and Hugenholtz/Hart’s similar cars, though the Elva-BMW 1600 GT of Burnett/Ames/Evans was impressively quick all weekend. Not everyone was fazed by the frequent showers; ‘I even enjoyed the GT40 in the wet,’ declared Manu Pirro.

Lola T70s, Corvettes, Chevrons and Ferrari 512s fought for supremacy in Grid 5, with Bernard Thuner’s solo-driven T70 Mk IIIB, the Metzger/Piquet Corvette and the Stepak/Bourdin Alpine A220 separated by only 1.5s at the flag in the first counter. One rarity was the Porsche gem, a 907 coupé of Richrath/Putz which placed 13th overall, while one Brian Redman was co-pilot in the Alfa Romeo T33 that came 14th. In Grid 6 the sports prototypes of MacAllister (Gulf Mirage) and Guenat (Lola T286) disappeared into the distance on the first lap, with a Porsche 936 and a raft of 935s jostling with BMW M1s in hot pursuit. Nice to find Gérard Larrousse aboard the 11th-placed 911 Carrera RS.

Between races there were marque parades, with club members out on track in 800 different cars. Of the manufacturers, Porsche was most prominent, with Derek Bell driving a 962 from the Zuffenhausen museum, Gérard Larrousse in the ‘psychedelic’ 917, the Moby Dick 935 for Henri Pescarolo, and the Sunoco Can-Am 917/10 for Vic Elford - in the event undriveable on slicks in the wet, even for sideways king Vic. And talking of ancienne pilotes, Richard Attwood and Vern Schuppan, who were running a 917 in Plateau 5, were very quick till Vern had an off.

A brass band on the start-finish straight and a race for children piloting electric scale model cars were among the diversions, augmenting the static displays - Ferrari 250 GTOs - and trade stalls, while a galaxy of vintage buses and army vehicles did taxi duties. The weather played a significant part, dispensing showers and sunshine on Saturday, showers at night and cold and grey most of Sunday till the shone on the last two races. That made life interesting for drivers, especially on the damp track, with plenty of spinners exiting the corners, and a few offs across the board, prompting safety car forays. Big crowds on Saturday evaporated to a modest turnout on Sunday, when racing was every bit as entertaining. Le Mans Classic is biennial, which enhances its exclusivity, and it’s definitely one for your 2014 diary!

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Report: Le Mans Classic 2012
  Report: Le Mans Classic 2012
  Report: Le Mans Classic 2012
Report: Le Mans Classic 2012
  Report: Le Mans Classic 2012
Report: Le Mans Classic 2012
  Report: Le Mans Classic 2012
Report: Le Mans Classic 2012
  Report: Le Mans Classic 2012
Report: Le Mans Classic 2012
  Report: Le Mans Classic 2012
Report: Le Mans Classic 2012
  Report: Le Mans Classic 2012
Report: Le Mans Classic 2012
  Report: Le Mans Classic 2012
Report: Le Mans Classic 2012
  Report: Le Mans Classic 2012
Report: Le Mans Classic 2012
  Report: Le Mans Classic 2012
Report: Le Mans Classic 2012
  Report: Le Mans Classic 2012
Report: Le Mans Classic 2012
  Report: Le Mans Classic 2012
Report: Le Mans Classic 2012
  Report: Le Mans Classic 2012
Report: Le Mans Classic 2012
  Report: Le Mans Classic 2012
Report: Le Mans Classic 2012
Results:

GRID 1
1 C. TRABER / B. TRENERY, TALBOT-LAGO
2 J. BRONSON / G. BURNETT / R. EVANS, TALBOT 105 BGH
3 R. D'IETEREN / J. LALMAND, ALFA ROMEO 8C
4 H. ROTHENBERGER / G. WOITRIN, INVICTA S'
5 E. TRABER / B. TRENERY / J. KNIG, DELAHAYE 135 S
6 T. SWETE, INVICTA S'
7 M. BUGLER / N. JONES, LAGONDA LG45
8 P. CHASE-GARDENER / D. ALLEN, ASTON MARTIN 2-Litre Speed
9 M. BIRCH / P. BAGLEY / J. RUSTON TALBOT 105 GO52
10 P. BESSADE DELAGE D6-70 SPECIAL
11 G. BURNETT / R. EVANS / A. AMES, TALBOT 105-AYL
12 N. CHAMBON / P. RAGEYS BMW 328
13 M. MIDGLEY / R. HOPE / C. WOODGATE, ASTON MARTIN ULSTER,
14 N. PELLETT, TALBOT 105 GO54

GRID 2

1  G. PICKERING, JAGUAR D-type
2  C. MONTEVERDE / G. PEARSON / A. SMITH, JAGUAR D-type
3  P. MULDER / P. SIMON / H. KLEISSL, MERCEDES-BENZ 300 SL
4  N. WEBB, JAGUAR C-type
5  P. THORNTON / D. GARRETT / A. WILLMOTT, AUSTIN-HEALEY 100 S
6  D. MEILING / T. HEFTY, JAGUAR D-Type
7  M. MIDGLEY / R. HOPE / C. WOODGATE, ASTON MARTIN DB3
8  J. BALLY / B. LESEUR / P. SINGER, MASERATI A6 GCS
9  A. BUNCOMBE, JAGUAR C-type
10  P. JOHNS / C. KEITH-LUCAS / M. FLOYD, JAGUAR XK140 FHC

GRID 3

1 R. WILLS / J. TWYMAN / E. PIRRO, LOTUS 15
2  G. FISKEN / H. LEVENTIS, ASTON MARTIN DBR1
3  V. GAYE, FERRARI 250 GT Berlinetta
4  S. LYNN, LISTER Jaguar Knobbly
5  J. VISSER / J. BAS / J. SINKE, AUSTIN-HEALEY 3000 Mk 2
6  E. PEROU / B. BUCHER AUSTIN-HEALEY 3000
7  J. RETTENMAIER, MASERATI T61 Birdcage
8  F. TROUILLARD / R. RONDONI, LOTUS Eleven 1500
9  D. SINGLETON / D. FRANKLIN / B. de FORTIS, ASTON MARTIN DB4 GT
10  J. EMBERSON / W. WYKEHAM, MORGAN +4

GRID 4

1 L. VOYAZIDES / R. D'ABEL DE LIBRAN, FORD GT40
2 S. LYNN FORD GT40
3  H. HUGENHOLTZ / D. HART FORD GT40
4 G. BURNETT / R. EVANS / A. AMES, ELVA GT 1600
5 J. MERLIN, AC Cobra
6 D. VANANTY / O. de SIEBENTHAL, ISO Grifo A3/C
7 R. SILVA / J. SILVA, FORD GT40
8 D. HART, AC Cobra 9 C. WILSON / N. WILLIAMS, FORD GT40
10 C. FIRMENICH / P. GAUDARD, AC Cobra
11 L. GATHERCOLE / D. GATHERCOLE, LOTUS Elan
12 C. STAHL, FORD GT40

GRID 5
1  B. THUNER, LOLA T70 Mk III
2  R. GOETHE / F. GIROIX, PORSCHE 908/3
3  S. STEPAK / F. BOURDIN, ALPINE A 220
4 S. GUTZWILLER, CHEVRON B16 Mazda
5 R. ROCHER / J. MARTIN, PORSCHE 906
6 M. GODFROY, CHEVROLET Corvette
7 M. DEVIS, LOLA T70 Mk III B
8 E. MARIS / F. MEINERS, ALFA ROMEO T33/3
9 J. GOODMAN, CHEVROLET Corvette
10 F. PERRODO / J. BACHELIER, PORSCHE 910
11 N. PRIMROSE, LOLA T212 FVC
12 J. BRANDENBURG / J. GEORGE / P. FAVRE, CHEVRON B8 BMW
13 H. RICHRATH / I. PUTZ, PORSCHE 907
14 P. READ / B. REDMAN / P. RACELY, ALFA ROMEO T33/3

GRID 6
1  C. MACALLISTER, GULF Mirage
2 M. HINDERER / M. STRETTON / P. HINDERER, BMW M1 
3  D. GUENAT, LOLA T286
4  N. D'IETEREN / J. LECOU, PORSCHE 935 K3
5  S. MEYERS / M. de SIEBENTHAL, PORSCHE 935
6  H. LINDBERG / A. MEYRICK, DE CADENET-LOLA T380 - DFV
7  M. FREISINGER / E. COLLARD / R. DUMAS, PORSCHE 935 Moby Dick
8  C. TRABER / M. DEVIS, PORSCHE 935
9  M. FVENY / S. ROITMAYER, PORSCHE 935
10  L. BULLITT, BMW M1
11  G. LARROUSSE / C. RODDARO / J. GRAND, PORSCHE 911 RSR
12 G. TUMA / J. PACE, PORSCHE 911 RSR 3.0l
13 P. HOTTINGUER, PORSCHE 930 Turbo
14 J. MERLIN, PORSCHE 935

 
 
 
 

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