15 July 2016

This is what 70 years of Le Mans history looks like Pt. 1

This is not the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race. This is the Le Mans Classic, which features 24 vintage races over the preceding 24 hours. And on Sunday, July 10th, at 4 p.m. local time the checkered flag fell on the last heat.

Although the 24 hours obviously separate the victors from the punters, the festival really begins three days prior as scrutineering of more than 550 racecars starts on Thursday. Hosted every other year at the Circuit de la Sarthe, this was the Classic’s eighth running. With some of the roughly 120,000 spectators dressed in varying period attire, the celebration focuses on the yearly event’s history. Competition, through day and night, is open to all cars built between 1923 and 1993, which have actually raced in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Scrutineering involves the typical safety inspections, but at the Classic it also verifies and considers the cars’ historical background. The on-track competition isn’t simply an unobtainium parade for the wealthy. Not completely anyway, as the vehicles’ cumulative value is in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

For instance, in Group 5 this year, a 1968 Lola T70 Mk3 defeated a ’69 Lola T70 Mk3B by only twelve-thousandths of a second, along with the rest of the field.

The cars are divided into six era-based classes allowing all teams three races to hash it out. Whichever team has the lowest cumulative time wins their group. Hometown favorites include Alpines, Matras and Delages but other nations are well represented too. This year saw nine Ford GT40s in attendance as well as at least one Chevy Corvette. Several 1960s Ferraris along with C- and D-type Jaguars were present and Porsches were visible throughout the later groups. Smaller names like Frazer-Nash also compete spiritedly.

In addition to the six racing groups there were multiple exhibition races, including Group C (Le Mans prototype racers from the 1980s and ‘90s) and third-scale racecars piloted by kids.

Among the 1000 [grown-up] racers that descended on the French countryside to battle in the 24 45-minute races, were several former Le Mans racers and winners. “For me it’s a real joy to [sic] coming back to Le Mans,” said Jürgen Barth, winner of the 1977 24 Hours of Le Mans. Time to start planning for 2018.

For Pt. 2 please click here.

10 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Victor Cromie Cambridge MA July 20, 2016 at 20:36
    It is always disturbing to see an illustration of an AC Ace described as an Austin Healey. If such a simple and obvious error is published, how can one have faith in other statements by Hagerty ? And with so many important and historic cars running, some of which competed there when new, was a car illustrated that did not run in period ?
  • 2
    Bob Peters Prairie Village KS July 20, 2016 at 21:52
    That picture in not a Healey
  • 3
    Peter J Cavanaugh Norwalk Connecticut July 21, 2016 at 08:06
    Sorry guys but the cover photo is NOT an AH 100S! It looks to me to be an AC either Bristol or Ford 6cyl powered
  • 4
    Peter J Cavanaugh Norwalk Ct July 21, 2016 at 08:11
    Sorry guys the cover photo is NOT of a AH 100S but rather an AC most likely a Bristol but perhaps Ford 6 clyindered powered!
  • 5
    Hal R Lucas Florida July 21, 2016 at 09:09
    The green car in the photo at the top, is NOT an Austin-Healey. It is a AC Bristol which was a 2L car with an aluminum body and independent rear rear end. It was the top 2L car of the late 50s and early 60s.
  • 6
    Hal R Lucas Florida July 21, 2016 at 12:00
    The green car shown in the photo above is not an Austin-Healey. The car is an AC Bristol which was a 2 liter, aluminum bodied, independent rear end car. In the late 50s and well into the 60s if was the top 2 liter production car in competition.
  • 7
    Rambler Dave Clawson, Mi. July 22, 2016 at 15:47
    John Young's "Healy 100S" in the first photo appears to have been rebodied as a AC Ace or AC-Bristol!
  • 8
    Hal R Lucas Florida July 22, 2016 at 09:08
    The green car above is an AC Bristol which domated 2 liter production class in the late 50s to the middle 60s. It is not a Austin Healey.
  • 9
    Roger Meiners Milford, MIchigan July 24, 2016 at 13:40
    That's not an Austin-Healey 100S. It's an AC (probably with a Bristol engine, because that was the preferred power plant for racing)
  • 10
    Mike Silverman Scottsdale AZ July 31, 2016 at 18:18
    Fellas: #57 car in your photo/caption is not a Healey 100S; it's an AC Bristol.

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