Le Mans Classic this weekend

Le Mans Classic was created in 2002 by Peter Auto in association with the Automobile Club de l’Ouest. For the first time it provided an incredible retrospective for lovers  of exceptional motor cars of the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours. The first meeting was a big success and since then  its renown has grown in leaps and bounds over the events held so far: it has become a must-attend for spectators and participants every two years. The seventh running of  this not-to-be-missed biennial event for historic cars will take place in July in front of an increasingly large number of faithful fans (109 000 spectators in 2012 despite bad  weather!). They all come to admire the cars on the track and in the paddock that have written the history of the Le Mans 24 Hours, and to join in this fantastic celebration of  the motor car.

Four-hundred-and-fifty entrants are selected by Peter Auto to provide variety and historic consistency among the six grids of cars that follow one another on the track for  the 24 hours. A huge selection of vehicles, many of which have remarkable pedigrees, take to the track and recall the  historic duels in places redolent of no-holds-barred battles: Arnage the Hunaudieres, Mulsanne, Indianapolis, Tertre Rouge, etc. Le Mans Classic revisits these names that dot  the 13,629-km circuit usually reserved for the renowned Le Mans 24 Hours.Once again the clubs, which are welcomed in the very heart of the event, will be given a priority environment. 8000 cars representing 160 clubs and 80 makes turned up  for the 2012 Le Mans Classic. A certain number of them took the opportunity to do a lap of the track providing a glittering parade that delighted the public.

Among the other high points of the weekend is the prestigious Concours Le Mans Heritage Club, which consists of 30 hand-picked cars, all of which have taken  part in the Le Mans 24 Hours between 1923 and today; the Artcurial Car Auction with over 100 vehicles on display, and Little Big Man with 100 mini-racers in the hands of  budding drivers aged between 7 and 12, who will do a lap of the Bugatti circuit after a Le Mans-type start. And of course, the exhibitions galore and entertainment  play a major role during Le Mans Classic and each event has its innovations.

In 2014 it will be the cinema Drive In and a retrospective devoted to cars that embody the major steps in technical evolution that have marked the legendary Le Mans 24  Hours.

The 450 cars are divided up into six grids, each one corresponding to a particular period, to give spectators and entrants alike  evenly-matched fields in terms of performance and historic relevance. The models selected are those that have taken part in the Le  Mans 24 Hours between 1923 and 1979 with priority given to cars that actually raced at the time. Ten cars take part in both  daytime and nighttime practice as reserves for each grid so that they are ready to fill in for any withdrawals and retirements of  other vehicles. The classic Le Mans herringbone-style start as given between 1923 and 1969 will be organised for grids 1-2-3-4. The  others will have flying starts

GRID 1 (1923-1939) The famous cars that made their name in the pre-war period in the Le Mans 24 Hours are back on the playing fields of their former exploits: Alfa Romeo 8Cs, 2- litre Speed Aston Martins, 4.5-litre Bentleys, BMW 328s, Bugatti 35s, 37s and 51s, Invicta Ss, LG45 and V12 Le Mans Lagondas, Lorraine Dietrich B3/6 Sports, works  Talbot 105s embodying their makes’ successful outings at Le Mans are all down to run. Among the cars present is an Aston Martin Ulster that came eighth in the 1935  24 Hours, the Citroën C4 Roadster from 1932, the renowned French manufacturer’s only entry for Le Mans, the Delage D6-70 Special, 4th overall and 1st in its category in  1937, the Delahaye 135 S, 2nd overall in 1937, an offset single-seater Talbot Lago that raced in the Indianapolis 500 Miles in 1941, 1946 and 1947, after which it saw the flag in 2nd place in the 1950 Le Mans 24 Hours. Over the years this grid has also attracted a number of less auspicious, but nonetheless interesting cars from an historical point of view like the MG  Magnette K3s, Morgan 4/4s, Salmsons, Le Mans Singers, HRG 1500s plus one of the Peugeot 402 Darl’mat. Overall, this grid is full of an outstanding variety of makes and models making it an original retrospective of this period.

GRID 2 (1949-1956) The post-war period was a turning point in motor car technology as improved engine development and the science of aerodynamics began to play an increasingly  important role. The result was quicker cars designed and entered by increasingly professional works teams. Henceforth, the on-track battles were much more  closely-fought between the entrants. This is the scenario that the drivers in this grid at the wheel of different models of the Aston Martin DB series, the C and D-Type  Jaguars, Maserati A6 GCSs and 300s, Austin Healey 100 Ms, Lancia Aurelias, Lotus IX, XIs, Porsche 356s and Triumph TR2s are determined to replay. Among them is an  Aston Martin DB2/4, which will be driven by Hernando Da Silva Ramos, 60 years after his outing at Le Mans in a similar model. The Frenchman of Brazilian origin (elected to the Le Mans 24-Hours Hall of Fame in  2013) drove in Formula 1 in the mid-50s for Gordini followed by a Cooper and a Maserati 250F. In 1959, he won the Touring Car category in the Tour de France Automobile with a  Jaguar Mk I. Also entered are two Type-C Jaguars like the cars that won in 1951 and 1953 plus an ex-Jim Clark D-Type, one of the Coventry cats which scored a hat trick in 1955, 1956  and 1957. A very rare 1100 cc Kieft Climax from 1954 will delight the specialists! Finally, the Boucherons will again share the 1950 Fiat 1500 Spéciale, the ideal embodiment of the family racing spirit.

GRID 3 (1957-1961) Abarth Simcas, AC Ace Bristols, Alfa Romeo Giulietta SZTs, Aston Martin DB4 GTs, Austin Healey 3000s, Chevrolet Corvette C1s, Deutsch-Bonnets, Ferrari 250 GT  Berlinettas, D and E-Type Jaguars, Lister Jaguars, a host of Lotus XIs, XVs, Elites, Maserati 250 Ss, MG As, Morgan +4s, Oscas, Porsche 356 A, B and 550s A 1500 Ss  and Tojieros and Triumph TR3s make up the bulk of grid 3. Spectators will be able to see an Austin Healey 3000 ‘‘DD300’’ a model entered by the works at Le Mans in  1960, 1961 and 1962, a D-Type Jaguar that won the 1955 Le Mans 24 Hours driven by Englishmen Mike Hawthorn and Ivor Bueb, a unique flat-iron Lister, a rare Peerless GT winner of its class in 1958, plus a 1959 Triumph TR3S, one of three cars built  by the factory, and the only survivor in its original configuration.

GRID 4 (1962-1965) This grid shows the arrival en masse at Le Mans of cars made in the USA with  several Shelby Cobra 289s, Ford GT40s and Shelby GT 350s. Among these are works  GT40s entered at the time by the well-known Filipinetti squad and the unique GT40  roadster. Among the Cobra 289s, the crowd will be able to see and hear the one  driven by American Elliott Forbes-Robinson, winner of the 1997 and 1999 Daytona  24 Hours, as well as another in the hands of Michel Lecourt and Raymond Narac representing the IMSA Performance team, which has racked up an impressive string of results in modern endurance racing. As was the case at the time, the Americans will be up against their European rivals starting with the Ferrari 250 LMs, the two of which are at Le Mans Classic this year including the car that won the 1965 Austrian Grand Prix in the hands of Jochen Rindt, and the other the 1964 Reims Grand Prix driven by Graham Hill. One of these 250 LMs will be entrusted to Argentinean Luiz Perez Companc who has raced in the Le Mans 24 Hours  several times. Also present are a number of Ferrari 275 GTB/Cs, an authentic ISO Grifo 3/C from 1963 with an impressive set of results, an Alpine A210 (1st in its class and in  the Index of Performance in 1969), a rare Elva GT 160, all of which help to add to the  variety of this grid.

GRID 5 (1966-1971) This grid provides a mouth-watering selection for specialists and  enthusiasts due to the presence of numerous cars that have raced in the  Sarthe Classic and, sometimes, have scored outright wins. It’s the case for  the fabulous Porsche 917 which triumphed in the 1970 race driven by  Hans Herrmann/Richard Attwood. Then there’s the Porsche 907 that  came 5th in 1967 with Jo Siffert/Hans Herrmann, the Ford GT40 MkII that  rounded the Blue Oval’s famous triple in 1966 with Ronnie  Bucknum/Richard Hutcherson, the Alfa Romeo T33/3, 4th in 1972 with  Nino Vaccarella/Andrea de Adamich, one of the ex-NART and Filipinetti Ferrari 312 Ps, which shone in the USA at Daytona and  Sebring, an authentic ex-NART Ferrari 512 S (2nd at Daytona in 1970), an ex-Jean-Pierre Jabouille/Patrick Depailler Alpine A220 and  the Matra MS 660-01, which did not win the Le Mans 24 Hours, but came first in the Paris 1000 km with Jack Brabham and François Cevert. Among other interesting rarities are the 1968 Costin Nathan 1000 GT (wooden monocoque) and the Nomad BRM Mk2 from  1968. Also on the list are Le Mans regulars Chevrolet Corvette C3s, Chevron B8 and B16s, Lola T70s, Porsche 906, 907, 908, 910  and 911s. Among the drivers entered for grid 5 are two former Le Mans 24-Hours  winners, Eric Hélary (1993 Peugeot 905) et Jürgen Barth (1977 Porsche 936) who are down to drive a Chevrolet Corvette C3 and a Porsche 907 respectively. Jacques Laffite (6 F1 GP victories) is down to drive a Porsche 910, Nani Galli (ex-F1 driver between 1971 and 1973, 4th in the 1968 Le Mans 24 Hours in an Alfa Romeo T33/2) will be at the wheel of an Alfa Romeo T33/3 without forgetting Paul Belmondo in a Ford Ford GT40, Emmanuel Collard, Porsche 910 and Xavier Pompidou in an Mk2 Nomad.

GRID 5 (1966-1971) This grid provides a mouth-watering selection for specialists and  enthusiasts due to the presence of numerous cars that have raced in the  Sarthe Classic and, sometimes, have scored outright wins. It’s the case for  the fabulous Porsche 917 which triumphed in the 1970 race driven by  Hans Herrmann/Richard Attwood. Then there’s the Porsche 907 that came 5th in 1967 with Jo Siffert/Hans Herrmann, the Ford GT40 MkII that rounded the Blue Oval’s famous triple in 1966 with Ronnie Bucknum/Richard Hutcherson, the Alfa Romeo T33/3, 4th in 1972 with Nino Vaccarella/Andrea de Adamich, one of the ex-NART and Filipinetti Ferrari 312 Ps, which shone in the USA at Daytona and Sebring, an authentic ex-NART Ferrari 512 S (2nd at Daytona in 1970), an ex-Jean-Pierre Jabouille/Patrick Depailler Alpine A220 and the Matra MS 660-01, which did not win the Le Mans 24 Hours, but came first in the Paris 1000 km with Jack Brabham and François Cevert. Among other interesting rarities are the 1968 Costin Nathan 1000 GT (wooden monocoque) and the Nomad BRM Mk2 from 1968. Also on the list are Le Mans regulars Chevrolet Corvette C3s, Chevron B8 and B16s, Lola T70s, Porsche 906, 907, 908, 910 and 911s. Among the drivers entered for grid 5 are two former Le Mans 24-Hours winners, Eric Hélary (1993 Peugeot 905) et Jürgen Barth (1977 Porsche 936) who are down to drive a Chevrolet Corvette C3 and a Porsche 907 respectively. Jacques Laffite (6 F1 GP victories) is down to drive a Porsche 910, Nani Galli (ex-F1 driver between 1971 and 1973, 4th in the 1968 Le Mans 24 Hours in an Alfa Romeo T33/2) will be at the wheel of an Alfa Romeo T33/3 without forgetting Paul Belmondo in a Ford Ford GT40, Emmanuel Collard, Porsche 910 and Xavier Pompidou in an Mk2 Nomad.

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