Le Mans Classic: An ongoing success

The 7th Le Mans Classic, co-organised by Peter Auto and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, fulfilled all its promises and attracted a bigger crowd as the 110 000-spectator barrier was broken. The weather also smiled on the event on Friday and a blue sky and high temperatures greeted the people who arrived for the early-morning opening of the gates of the circuit.

Thus, the spectators who had already flocked to the circuit were able to enjoy the village and its numerous sideshows and exhibitions to the full. These included the Le Mans Heritage Club, the major French coachbuilders, the Technological Innovations, the many clubs (180 car clubs representing around 80 makes with 8000 cars), and later on in the evening the new Drive-In cinema whose theme was the motor car with classic films like Un Homme et Une Femme, Bullitt, Le Mans et Weekend of a Champion. At 15h00 daytime practice began followed by the night session for the 450 historic cars and more than 1000 drivers from all over the world (30 plus nationalities) including seven former Le Mans 24-Hours winners.

On Saturday threatening clouds covered the Sarthe. However, the start of Little Big Mans given by Jamaican Yohan Blake (second-quickest runner of all time over 100 meters and a Richard Mille partner) took place in the dry. It was an all win-win parade and it provided the opportunity for Alain Figaret – the official clothing supplier for these budding drivers aged between 7 and 12 - alongside Richard Mille and EFG, to reward the fair-play and team spirit of the youngsters taking part. Once the miniature racers (almost 100) had set off on their parade lap their life-size counterparts in grid 1 (pre-war cars 1923-1939) were getting ready for the official start of the 7th Le Mans Classic. At 17h00, Sébastien Loeb (nine-time world rally champion and a Richard Mille partner), who attended this event for the first time, lowered the French flag unleashing men and machines to tackle the 13,629 km Le Mans 24-Hours long circuit. The race for the six grids covering the periods from 1923 to 1979 got under way and continued until the next day. The parties in the paddock took on another dimension, and the crowd was invited to plunge into the heart of this magic retrospective of the greatest endurance race in the world.

A few hours earlier the first blows of the auctioneer’s hammer had sounded in the Artcurial Motorcars tent. After the Automobilia sale that began at 11h00 came the one for motor cars at 14h00. Under the hammer of Maître Hervé Poulain, who was celebrating his 40 years of car auctioneering, the sales totaled 13 264 345 euros including 13 057 760 euros for the part devoted to collectors’ cars. A record at Le Mans Classic! Over seven hours, 148 lots of Automobilia and 111 lots of collectors’ cars were auctioned. The highest price achieved was for a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster (1961) with hard top sold for 1 115 600 euros. 82 % of the lots went with a third of the cars exceeding 100 000 euros. More than 2000 people attended the auction creating a light-hearted ambiance and they cheered enthusiastically as the bidding scaled the heights. Among those present were 15 % Americans and 52% Europeans (outside France) as well as 250 clerks on Artcurial live bid.

Another highlight of the event was the very prestigious Concours Le Mans Heritage Club bringing together 30 hand-picked cars, which had all taken part in the Le Mans 24 Hours between 1923 and today. The jury, made up of numerous specialists from the world of the motor car, awarded the following prizes on Sunday afternoon.

- 1st in class 1923-1939: Bentley Speed 6 ‘‘Old N°1’’ 1929 (Bentley Motors Limited)- 1st in class 1949-1957: Talbot Lago Grand Sport ‘‘Chambas’’ 1948 (José Manuel Fernaninz)- 1st in class 1958-1965: Osca 1000 1961 (Roland d’Ieteren)- 1st in class 1966-1971: Alpine A210 1966 (Geoffroy Peter)- 1st in class 1972-1981: Porsche Turbo RSR 1974 (Carlos Monteverde)- 1st in class 1982-2014: BMW V12 LMR 1998 (BMW Group France)- Prix FFVE: Gordini T15 S 1953 (Jean-Louis Hamoniaux)- Prix FIVA: ASA RB Type 613 1300 GT 1966 (Lucas Laureys)- Special Prize: Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa 1958 (Michael Malone)- Prix d’Excellence: Rover BRM 1965 (Stepfen Laing/Heritage Motor Center)

The Concours Clubs rewarded numerous winners and handed out the following prizes:

- Grand Prix d’Excellence: Club Riley- 2nd prize: Club Hotchkiss- 3rd prize: Les Amis des Automobiles Michel Hommell- FIVA prize: Talbot Owners Club- FFVE prize: René Bonnet and Matra Sports- Special prize (cars of over 30 years of age): Swallow Doretti Owners Club- Special prize (cars of under 30 years of age: Viper Club

The 7th Le Mans Classic came to an end on Sunday at 17h00 after consolidating its success and thrilling its loyal public both on the track and in a village packed with sideshows and increasingly diversified and comprehensive exhibitions carefully chosen to plunge the visitors into the magic of the history of the motor car. The accessibility and proximity of men and machines did the rest. Rendezvous in 2016 for an even richer 8th event!

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