It could only happen in France! The Le Mans Classic 2016 (8 – 10 July 2016) brings to life the cars that raced in the Le Mans 24-Hour race between the years 1923 and 1981, that’s 58 years worth of the finest race cars that ever competed in this great race over the years, all racing during one 24-hour period.
The Le Mans Classic was created by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest and Peter Auto in 2002. Since then it has become a not-to-be-missed event for lovers of historic race cars and racing from all over the world.
For the 2016 event, the ACO has compiled a field of 490 cars that raced during that period, dividing them into six grids according to years, to do battle over the full 13.629km circuit. Each grid of cars gets the chance to race three times during the 24-hour period, as clearly you cannot have all 440 cars below on the circuit at one time. Here is how the entrants are divided up:
Grid 1: 1923 to 1939 – 65 cars
Grid 2: 1949 to 1956 – 75 cars
Grid 3: 1957 to 1961 – 75 cars
Grid 4: 1962 to 1965 – 75 cars
Grid 5: 1966 to 1971 – 75 cars
Grid 6: 1972 to 1981 – 75 cars
Introduced this year for the first time is a Group C race (45 minutes) which caters for 47 cars that were manufactured and raced between 1982 and 1993, as well as the Jaguar Classic Challenge (55 minutes) which includes 59 cars that raced between the years 1950 to 1965. Both of these races take place on Saturday.
In many ways this event must be a bigger logistical exercise than the Le Mans 24-Hours which we have just had three weeks ago. All the facilities from the 24-hour race in June have to be installed again, including all the road closures and safety barriers and circuit logistics. From a sporting point of view, the running of each of the races of the different grids has to be assured in the best possible conditions, day and night, rain or shine. This year there is a new factor to be taken into account, the introduction of the slow zones to avoid long safety car periods thus making sure that racing predominates while ensuring optimum safety.
Fortunately for our readers, a fortnight back I was allowed to join a private testing session to photograph six of the cars that will be competing at this weekend’s Le Mans Classic, down at the Pembrey Circuit in South West Wales. Here is a brief description of each:
1978 Belga Rondeau M378 DFV Cosworth: Driven by Devis/O’Connell, this Rondeau originally competed in the GTP class at Le Mans and is powered by a 3-litre V8 Cosworth DFV engine developing around 450bhp.
1968 Chevron B8: Powered by a 2-litre BMW engine, one of the most versatile and successful engines in both roadgoing and race cars, this car (chassis CH-DBE-58) will be driven by a regular on the historic circuits, Tina Kok.
1970 Lola T210: The Lola T210 was a hugely successful race car in its day, being super-light with a potent 1.8-litre Cosworth FVC engine, and driven in the Le Mans Classic by Henrik Lindberg/Frank Jacob.
1975 Lola-De Cadenet T380-DFV Cosworth: Driven by its Danish owner, Henrik Lindberg, this is a well-known racer powered by a 3-litre V8 Cosworth engine.
1984 March 84 G Porsche: Sponsored by the well-known South African swimming pool cleaning company, Kreepy Krauly, the Porsche-powered (3.0-litre flat-six engine) March 84G will be driven by Martin O’Connell.
1988 Porsche 962: Owner Henrik Lindberg will drive this beautifully prepared Tic Tac sponsored 3-litre Porsche 962. This car competed extensively in its day in the Interserie races.
Thanks to Paul and his team for letting me photograph these cars at Pembrey Circuit, and to Phil for his help too!
Written and photographed by Glen Smale