The number of historic racing cars that continues to increase event after event, drivers coming from all over the world plus more car clubs, exhibitors and activities all confirm the undeniable growth of Le Mans Classic since its creation in 2002. This biennial event, an exceptional mega-sized retrospective of the history of the iconic 24-Hours race, jointly organised by Peter Auto and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, has fired the enthusiasm of a growing number of collectors who come to take advantage of this unique opportunity to race on the big Le Mans circuit. And, of course, the same goes for the public who flocked to the event in even greater numbers than at previous Le Mans Classics as proved by a new attendance record of 135 000 spectators, all generations combined, present at this weekend’s races. This figure represents an increase of 10% compared to the 2016 retrospective!
At 16:00, the chequered flag brought down the curtain on the 9th staging of Le Mans Classic. All the ingredients were assembled for this exceptional celebration of the motor car to continue the success of the previous meetings: glorious weather, 24 hours retracing the history of the greatest endurance race in the world over a period from 1923 to 2014 with more than 700 historic racing cars, over 1000 drivers from 30 nationalities, ten former winners of the 24 Hours, nine grids for the races as well as parades and demonstrations on the track; without forgetting the presence of 8 500 cars brought along by 200 clubs representing 60 makes, the commemorations of Porsche’s 70th anniversary and the 40th of Alpine’s outright victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours, the Artcurial auction, the Le Mans Heritage Club’s concours, Little Big Mans and two hundred exhibitors dedicated to the world of historic cars and the motor car in general, etc.
The weekend kicked off on Friday with day and night-time practice for all the entrants. In the village, the public was invited for the first time to attend a conference to which Pierre Fillon (President of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest), Patrick Peter (founder of Peter Auto) and nine former winners of the Sarthe event: Derek Bell, Jürgen Barth, Romain Dumas, Loïc Duval, Jan Lammers, Gérard Larousse, Klaus Ludwig, Stéphane Ortelli, and Henri Pescarolo were invited: he holds the record for the highest number of outings in the race with 33 crowned with 4 victories. Also on hand were other well-known French drivers like René Arnoux, Jacques Laffite, Jean Ragnotti and Paul Belmondo. This conference was the theatre of a rare moment of sharing around a common passion, which the crowd and drivers greatly appreciated, especially the latter who discovered that their renown among the fans remains as strong as ever!
The festivities really got off the ground on Saturday morning with the on-track action that never stopped from that moment onwards. After the opening parades of cars from clubs and from the Le Mans Heritage Club with 24 cars that had left their mark on the history of the Sarthe event, the Jaguar Classic Challenge kick-started the weekend’s races. On the track were almost 60 cars that had forged the Coventry make’s legend (Type Cs, Ds, Es XKs plus MKIs and MKIIs. The race lasted 60 minutes and victory went to English driver Martin O’Connell in his E-Type.
(All photos shoot on Kodak Tri-X film with a 50mm 1.4)