Everyone know the 24 hours of Le Mans. The legendary endurance race created in 1923 in Sarthe, France. 24 hours to give everything, 24 hours to test the physical and mechanical limits of crews. This is where all the rivalries crystallized, as between Ford and Ferrari. The greatest sporting achievements were achieved in Le Mans, just like Porsche’s 19 victories. And it is also there that legends are born, like the movie Le Mans with Steve McQueen in 1971.
Le Mans Classic, a tribute to Le Mans
Peter Auto and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest decided in 2002 to commemorate more than 69 epic years of automotive (now 85) during a weekend every two years: Le Mans Classic was born. In 2002, we were 11 and 8 years old, we drove around circuits but not in Le Mans. In order to not miss another edition we decided this year to attend our first Le Mans Classic.
As soon as we arrived, we were directly immersed in the Le Mans atmosphere. Hundreds of meters of traffic and so many smiles. Unusual, they usually make everyone instantly crazy. Surrounded by Jaguar Type-D, Ferrari 812 Superfast, Alpine A110, Porsche 930, Ford GT40 or Bentley 4½ liters how not to be happy? Those in a hurry sneak-up on a scooters, Solex, mini motorbikes or UFO. The race does not wait.
Biting the dust
When we got to the private box that shares Op to You and eBay France, the Jaguars are biting the dust. The big cats are out on the 24-hours circuit.
A Lightweith E-Type opens the ball followed by two XK120s and a MKII lagging behind. At the same time, a D-Type returns to the pits and leaves immediately. Above the pits, this is the perfect point of view to admire the curves of this splendid coachwork. The sound of 6-cylinder in line resonate all along the straight line: the tone is given!
Shortly after, we got into a Jeep Willys. In all respects identical to our grandfather’s Jeep. Proust madeleine on the stony paths of Sarthe (we used to cross the Southern Alps with that car). Direction the Indianapolis turn! 3, 2, 1 the C Group starts for its first time at Le Mans Classic 2018. The machines from 1982 to 1993 are the fastest of the weekend. Some of them are almost hitting 400 km/h top speed! Rockets on wheels, they pass so quickly in the camber and leave flat out! Making us become more and more deaf. Thirty years later (at thirty we are already classic), the Jaguar XJR-9 are still fighting with the Porsche 962C, except that this time we are born and can almost touch them.
Amazing car everywhere
Back to the paddocks and the joy of walking around the crews. Each grid is a time travel. From the legendary BMW 328 Roadster to the ISO A3/C Grifo Competizione or the Bugatti Type 50: there are real gladiator cars! Further, a Lola T70 MKIII wakes up and it’s all the paddocks that jump to the sound of its huge American V8. The smell of oil and gas are heady, they remind a time when mechanics was not a science but a subtle art.
A splendid Porsche 550 Spyder cuts us off the road, warming up before Porsche’s special 70th anniversary grid, and we head for Little Big Mans. Facing the starting line, the cars seem smaller than usual. The pilots too. Tiny Ford GT40, Alpine A110 or Bugatti Type 35 driven by super small size drivers aged 7 to 12 years old. As in the past, the young riders run to their racing cars and throw themselves into a frantic race… of an unique lap on the Bugatti Circuit! It seems short, but Little Big Mans, on the scale of these small prodigies, is a great challenge and an immense honor. We really would have loved to take part! Too bad we are in our twenties now. Sharing this passion with the whole family is totally Le Mans spirit.
VW Beetle Silver Bug full restored
At the turn of the paddocks, we discover a cute little Volkswagen Beetle Silver Bug edition ! Tribut to the millionth Beetle as evidenced by the rear badge. Gigantic! And eBay France had the good idea to restore it entirely.
The eBay Mechanic Challenge, it is a Silver Bug, a team of apprentice mechanic from the CNVA, François Allain the automotive expert and spare parts only from the eBay website ! They had only 45 hours to renovate this legendary car. Go ! Great initiative that highlights the expertise of young passionate students in the service of automotive heritage. We do not spoil the surprise, you can find all episodes of the first eBay Mechanic Challenge here.
After a day spent in the anthills of Le Mans, Op to you and eBay proposed to take off. From there, everything looks microscopic, the cars look like glitches and the public like ants. We boarded a helicopter to fly over the circuit at sunset! An unbelievable experience discovering the track from so high and fearing when the pilot flies without the hands.
Night and day at Le Mans
Back on the mainland in one piece, we begin our first night at Le Mans. At night everything is even more magical. The Cadillac Series 61 aka « Le Monstre » (nicknamed by the French press in 1950 because it has an unusual body, but actually we like it) or Maserati 250 S fall asleep when Ferrari 512 BB LM woke up !
The race is launched, the sound is like a storm approaching just below your windows. The lightnings are always in pairs and they pass quickly, very quickly.
A Porsche 908/2 gets a makeover while a DeTomaso Pantera Gr.4 is refueling. The two cars go off in a whirlwind and vibrate all the building that houses the boxes. Slowly the public deserts all the stands or almost. They do not know what they are missing. Only big fans are always present for an incredible night. There are still a few crazy hours before the finish at 3pm.
Le Mans Classic is one of the only competitions where all the mythical race cars meet to share the same passion of human and technical feat. More than a race, this is a rare moment of authentic conviviality to share with racing legends as Henri Pescarolo, Gerard Larrousse, Jan Lammers, Klaus Ludwig Jacques Laffite or Paul Belmondo. Pilots, gentlemen drivers, collectors, members of clubs, journalists or amateurs rub shoulders around the circuit, in the paddocks, on the pit lane or under the tents. In fact, you can live or relive the whole history of the “24 hours du Mans” … for a weekend !
The French high mass of motor racing will be celebrated again in 2020 for a new experience that you have to live to believe.
Discover “Le Mans Classic” story at the top of our Instagram profile.
Most importantly keep it #FuntoDrive.