Although the temperatures have hovered around the 30° C mark each day of the event, it feels a lot warmer as a sunny 2018 Le Mans Classic got underway. As the clock ticked past noon on Friday, the grand stands were already beginning to fill up, as the classic Le Mans racers are a great attraction to many.
Thursday was spent going through the various grids in the paddock, in search of Porsche sports and racing cars. It was not a difficult task, as this is where the Porsche enthusiast will find just about every racing model you could wish for, up to 1981. Although that date stops just short of the mighty Porsche 956 and 962 era, there is a special race on the programme for the Group C cars on Saturday, so you won’t miss a thing.
In fact there are so many Porsches in Grids 3 through 6, with a smattering in Grid 2, that we could not bring you all of them in this brief pre-race preview. But over the weekend and in our event roundup next week, we hope to show you many more in action.
On Friday afternoon at 14h00, an open-air driver interview session was held in the Le Mans Village, featuring several previous Le Mans winners. Names such as Jacques Laffite, Rene Arnoux, Romain Dumas, Derek Bell, Jan Lammers, Klaus Ludwig and many more were present. As can be expected, French was the dominant language, and so we have an extract of what Derek Bell had to say: “I think that Patrick Peter has done such a great job and along with the ACO, they have created this amazing event for France. We have a couple of events at Goodwood in the UK that have become spectacularly good with classic cars. In Germany we have the Oldtimer Grand Prix and in America they have Rennsport Reunion and the Daytona Classic. These events are bringing cars out of the garages where they have been sitting in storage, and now they are being brought out and restored. This is providing a lot of work for our restoration industry and for companies like Porsche, Ferrari and other manufacturers, who now have to find spare parts for these cars.”
“We have developed this into something that we hope the generations will continue in the future. It wasn’t that long ago that a manufacturer asked me at one of these events, ‘is it going to carry on, this interest’? I believe it is, because if you look around the audience here today, there are all sorts of ages and generations. What we have now is an amazing foundation for the roots of the future of the world of motor sport, and we hold the keys for this,” Bell concluded.
Practice/Qualifying on Friday evening saw a sad retirement during the Grid 6 session. The events of the day were running late, and so it was around 20h00 that a fire broke out in the #7 JPL Porsche 935 while approaching the first chicane. Apparently the car had been smoking while running up towards the Dunlop Bridge, but it was when the driver braked to enter the first left-hander of the Esses that a huge tongue of flame was seen coming from the rear of the car. Just a mile or so later, as the car approached the first chicane, it burst into flames, causing the red flag to be shown. But I am glad to report that the driver was ok. About thirty minutes ensued where there was no track action while the car fire was extinguished, the oil was cleared up on the track and other repairs done at the scene of the incident. The session resumed and finished around 21h00.
This morning (Saturday) I headed out to Indianapolis and Arnage, courtesy of one of the trusty Navette Media (media shuttles), to photograph the Group C cars. For this writer, the Group C cars remain the most exciting and innovative race cars of the modern era. They look good, sound good, and go like anything. Between the years 1982-1992, Porsche probably made more money through its customer racing department than at any other time, because they sold so many 956/962 cars (130 in total) to customer racing teams. These days, the 911 Carrera Cup and Supercup series exceed this figure annually with ease, but back in the ‘80s this was big business as Porsche sold components and spares to maintain this sizeable flotilla of race cars.
After all the dust had settled from the qualifying sessions, the pole positions of the various starting grids looked as follows:
|Grid 1||17||G. Burnett||Talbot 105||1931||5:50.20|
|Grid 2||21||C. Monteverde, G. Pearson, A. Smith||Jaguar D-Type||1955||5:04.654|
|Grid 3||20||C. Monteverde, G. Pearson, A. Smith||Jaguar Costin||1959||4:51.328|
|Grid 4||17||S. Lynn||Ford GT40 MkI||1965||4:36.789|
|Grid 5||62||G. Lopez, R. Meaden||Lola T70 Mk III B||1969||4:13.225|
|Group C||88||I. Vercoutere, A. Mueller||Jaguar XJR-12||1989||3:49.332|
|Porsche Race||70||R. Narac||911 Carrera RS 3.0||1974||4:54.258|
The Group C race was punctuated by several hold-ups, one Safety Car session in particular where cement powder was spread on the track at Indianapolis and Arnage. However, despite these interruptions, the Group C cars were still the class to watch and although a Porsche did not win, it was a true pleasure to see eight 956/962 race cars in action.
The Porsche Classic Race Le Mans is currently underway, and is being led by the #5 Porsche 908 LH (1968), this being the last event before the start of the first Grid 1 race on Saturday.
With no sign of rain on the forecast, it looks as though the cars are going to be competing in a fair weather, dry race.
Written by: Glen Smale
Images by: Virtual Motorpix/Glen Smale (You will find more images from the weekend on www.virtualmotorpix.com over the next few days)