Of course, Le Mans Classic is entirely dedicated to sports cars in contrast to other major historic meetings such as Goodwood, Silverstone or Laguna Seca. The main part of the meeting is what the French called the plateau, the six groups of period cars, from 1923 to 1939. Each of the six groups races three times during the two days – once on Saturday, then at night and again on Sunday . Most of them had an amazing network of more than seventy cars.
For readers unfamiliar with the format – and it’s been four years since the event last happened – the overall score is based on the combined time of all three races of approximately 45 minutes. Consistency is definitely the key word, and in one category the overall winner was someone who didn’t finish first in any of the three qualifying races. Just to add more to the fun, you can nominate one, two, three or even four drivers.
Each race has a mandatory 90-second pit stop so you can either change drivers or give each race to each other, with different combinations possible. In addition to the overall rating, there is also a performance rating indicator that takes into account factors such as the vehicle’s age, capacity, etc., but the main focus is certainly on the outcome on the road.
Keeping track of it all is a work in itself, with cumulative scores not showing up on timescreens and results only available online, so the best way to watch is to simply sit back and watch the scene.
Plateau 4: 1962-1965 cars
Contrary to expectation, Plateau racing started with Group 4 from 1962 to 1965 cars. Impressively, 60-year-old Ford CEO Jim Farley put his GT40 on top. Incidentally, the second and third grids were determined not in the order of finishing the previous race but in the order of lap time. After three races over the two days, the winner was Portuguese driver Diogo Ferrao in his GT40 after a really tough mid-race on the night. Farley came home in second overall, and German Emil Breitmayer climbed to the full GT40 podium. The Cobras of Michel Lecourt and Raymond Narck finished fourth, ahead of former CART Indy rider, Dutchman Niki Pastorelli in the only Ferrari 250GTO. Unfortunately Lukas Halusa has crashed the famous Ferrari 250GT ‘Breadvan’ causing massive £25m damage to the car. Fortunately he was not injured in the violent shunt.
Plateau 5: 1966-1971 cars
This was followed by Plateau 5 (1966-1971), where Nelson Piquet suddenly appeared, driving a small Porsche 914, understood to have raced primarily in Mexico. He finished 40th overall with two Brazilian friends. Up front, the overall winner after all three races was the Lola T70 driven by British pair Nick Slip and Alex Montgomery. He won two races in a superb 1969 Ferrari 312P driven by German GT3 Audi racer Remo Lips. This car powered by Amon/Andretti is the car involved in the tragic John Wolfe accident in 1969. Remo won two races but had problems in the first nine laps. Shaun Lane might have won but the T70GT ran into mechanical issues as did the similarly quick example of father and son duo Dutchman David and Oliver Hart.
Various issues with other T70s and later model GT40s mean that well-known historic racer Henry Fletcher scored an impressive second overall in his smart 2-liter Chevron B19. Other impulses of note came from Xavier Micheron with the Ascot Collection Howmet TX jet-turbine car. He finished 13th overall. At number eight was Brett David Hinton partnering with brothers Dean and Damon DeSantis’ Lola T70. David runs the popular Daytona 24 Classic that is modeled on the Le Mans event. Behind him was racing dentist John Sheldon in his Chevron, and those with long memories will remember that he survived a major accident here at the Aston Martin plant in 1984.
Plateau 6: 1972-1981 cars
The Plateau 6 was a group with surprise winner Ludovic Caron in the 1975 Chevron-BDG B31 from Beat Eggimann in a rare Cheetah G601 with Philip Bruehwiler third in the Chevron B36. Texan Chris McAllister’s beautiful 1972 Mirage M6, which finished second here in the period, won the third of the three races but had problems earlier. Winner Four years ago, Yves Schamamma, in the gorgeous Gold Warsteiner Toj, won the first race but faltered in the night.
Plateau 1: 1923-1939 cars
The nominees for the older car class were Gareth Burnett’s Talbot AV 105s and Michael Birch, a two-time winner here previously. They loyally dominated the opening three races but then got hit by the fuel pump and other problems, leaving the win for a 1925 Bugatti from Duncan Petaway and Tim Dutton before the Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 to Martin Halusa and Alex Amis. The car like American Rob Kaufman couldn’t repeat the overall win it scored in 1934 when it was driven by Philip Etancellin and Luigi Chinetti. Kaufman, part owner of Ganassi Racing, is back in the 10th house.
Plateau 2: 1949-1956 cars
In the Plateau 2 Cars from 1949 to 1956, it was Martin Halusa’s son Lucas who took the win with Alex Amis in a 1954 Jaguar D type OKV1, the car that finished second here in 1954. Father and son Matias and Carlos Seleque raced in the works The previous Aston Martin DB3S (reg 62 EMU) was in a while by Stirling Moss among others including Peter Collins and Paul Frère, who finished second here in 1955 – so there’s some synergy at hand.
Plateau 3: 1957-1961 cars
The last race was Plateau 3 (1957 to 1961) which gave a good win for Ole Bryant in the Lotus 15 family. Ole won the first two races but went to the third and final race – the very last of the day – knowing he had a gearbox problem. But he had enough margin to sponsor him at home while allowing James Cottingham and Max Girardeau at Ecurie Ecosse Tojeiro-Jaguar to take the last flag of the meeting. Joe McCurry recruited LMP2 racer and “son”, Harrison Newey as his co-driver and helped the car finish second in this race and overall in a 1956 Jaguar Model D while James Wood was fourth in another Lotus 15.
In all the races, there were many rare and exciting cars that might not have achieved the best results but were exciting to watch racing around the track – cars like my two 7-liter Ford Mk4s, high-fin Alpines that used to win the CPI, twisted CDs and slick cars. DB Panhards and the exotic British cars that raced here like Deep Sanderson and Mini Marcos – with Jem Marsh’s son Chris at the wheel – TVRs and Morgans.
And so a great spectacle ended, and the ACO chief Fillon, who also raced the Lotus Elite with David Clark, not only announced a crowd of over 200,000, but confirmed that to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Le Mans 24 Hours, the Classic will return next year. Book your tickets now.
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