Sunday, 8 July 2018

LE MANS CLASSIC - Sunday's Jox Jottings

The rather more relaxed atmosphere at The Classic meant that your team ambled off for beer, food and decent night’s sleep. A stark contrast to the main event when it was quite normal to stay up and be ‘active’ for 36 hours or so! We are getting “mature” even so this is civilised..

On Saturday evening we headed off for our annual pilgrimage to Fillé to wish our favourite French hound “Grim” well and sip some beer in the little village bar. Hannibal Smith in  “The A Team” had the famous quote “I love it when a plan comes together”... They didn’t have a favourite quote that covered  when a plan falls apart! Fillé was closed for business due to village fête ... hence no bar, no Grim ... no hope!  Instead we landed on our feet close by in L'Auberge du Rallye. It is no longer ferociously expensive and is very tasty.  As a bonus there was a superb firework display in the village. Job done!

Back to the main event. As we have said before it is virtually impossible to tell you what is going on. OK that is a cop out but it is true. For example we were impressed by Tommy Dreelan and Aaron Scott winning the fantastic Group C race in their Leyton House Porsche 962 and were about to write it up, until we heard they had been handed a one lap penalty and had actually come home 23rd! It seems the driver of #25 Mike Lyons in his Gebhardt C291 had formally protested due to Tommy passing the red light at pit lane exit just as it turned red! Needless to say Lyons went on to win !!    You may recall the Gebhart Group C car, it raced with sponsorship from Momo. It started life with an Audi power unit that was later replaced with a Ford Cosworth 3.5 litre V8 DFR.  The Porsche is of course immortal!! (I am biased).

The whole penalty system is impenetrably complex not helped by some drivers who happily incur huge penalties for skipping their pit stop window because they want to enjoy being out on the circuit! Pit stop timing clearly isn’t a major issue since owner drivers are ... how shall we say ... not always in a state of peak physical fitness and pit stops can be challenging. Interesting to see a stunning Porsche 356 Spyder with no roll over bar and the driver safely (?) secured with lap strap belt! Rather him than me.

The only real problem spectators are facing is the heat. Plus where to watch and avoid walking too far. It has hardly dropped below 30° and has spent most of the day around 33°. Spare a thought then for the photographers out there and of course that stalwart band of marshals. 

For us the star performers start with the Porsche 917 and Ford GT40. However the level of preparation and presentation everywhere is really stunning. All the same we do wonder what on earth Cadillac and their no doubt brilliant design team had in mind when they produced the Series 61 “ Le Monstre” in 1950. The #39 car burbled around looking very peculiar  it seems that the concept of aerodynamics and design might have been in their infancy. Plus the well known adage “ if it looks right it is right” doesn't really seem to apply here but thank goodness the likes of Derek Drinkwater chooses to keep this 5.4 litre V8 beast up and running..the man is a hero! Talking of Cadillacs it is great to see one of the big Series 61 saloons #34  out there racing. Maybe it would be more at home running in the original Carrera Panamericana.

Proving that anything goes and all are welcome  is the tiny flat four 600cc #52 Panhard Dyna X84 that finished 66th in its group cheerfully acting as a mobile chicane and completing half as many laps as the winners . ( Not good value for his entry fee !!) Mind you it had a nerve jangling top speed of 101 km/h (62.7585 mph!)  and the winner of his grid was 240 km/h ( 149.129 mph). The Mulsanne Straight must have seemed endless at that speed. It is not the winning that counts .. it is the taking part !!

Tony Light, our source of useful information ,has worked out that the times put in by the Grid Six leader #33 1976 Toj SC 304 driven by the Swiss driver Yvres Scemama would have got him onto the back row of this year’s Le Mans 24hrs grid. Back in the day these cars raced under the Warsteiner banner powered by 2.0 litre Wassermann BMW M12/7 engine.  

Grid 1 1923-1939 Final Results ( Provisional)  after all 3 races: 
1st #17 G. Burnett Talbot 105 
2nd #20 G. Burnett/M.Birch Talbot 105 
3rd #21 R.Spencer Bugatti T35B 

Grid 2 (1949-1956) Final Results ( Provisional)  after all 3 races
1st #21 Carlos Monteverde/Gary Pearson/A. Smith Jaguar D Type 
2nd #3 C. Joy/S. Trenery/P. Simon Jaguar D Type 
3rd #16 R. Wilson/MartinStretton Maserati 250S  

Grid 3 (1957-1961) Final Results ( Provisional)  after all 3 races
1st #68 Roger Wills/D Clark Lotus XV 
2nd #16 Lukas Halusa Ferrari 250 GT Breadvan 
3rd #5 Hans Hugenholtz Lister Jaguar Costin 

Grid 4 (1962-1965) Final Results ( Provisional)  after 3 races
1st #61 Diogo Ferrao Ford GT40 
2nd #17 Shaun Lynn Ford GT40 
3rd #64 James Cottingham/Joe Twyman Ford GT40

Grid 5 (1966-1971) Final Results ( Provisional)  after 3 races: 
1st #38 Jacques Nicolet Duckhams Ford 
2nd #3 T. Seiler/M. Seiler Lola T70 Mk III 
3rd #22 Stuart Hall/Roald Goethe Lola T70 Mk IIIB  

Grid 6 (1972-1981) Final Results ( Provisional)  after 3 races
1st #33 Yves Scemama Toj SC 304 
2nd #17 R. Büsst/D. Freeman Chevron B31 
3rd #21 U. Beck Porsche 935 K3 

Final thoughts? We are sure this has been the busiest year that we have ever attended.. it was certainly very (uncomfortably ?) hot maybe even hotter than four years ago. It remains a difficult event to spectate only because there is so much going on over such a wide area, we don’t know the answer to this one, maybe a bicycle? Beer has become outrageously expensive, we had a drink at very pleasant Auberge in Fille and the beer was half the price than in Arnage or at the circuit... Traffic in the main areas around Le Mans Circuit feels worse than for the main event. Unusually the main entrance worked well. I have decided the ‘Kiss me quick’ little trains are very handy if you can get onto one. Finally this ageing decrepit athlete (??) is not designed to function or walk far in the heat (but that is personal !) Young fit healthy people will probably survive. Thoroughly enjoyable and a great event. In two years time we will be back.

Make your ferry, hotel and campsite bookings as soon as you can, it will be even busier then and there will be no football to worry about !

Text: Jock SIMPSON
Pictures: Kristof Vermeulen

LE MANS CLASSIC 2018 - Jox Jottings' return to Le Mans

I wasn't able to get to the 2016 event but your team was well represented. So having missed a tat year I have to confess that I am being constantly being amazed this year. It is heaving with “Brits  On Tour” in an astonishing variety of machinery. I suspect there are no Morgans currently in UK, they are all here in France. As are all the TVRs, Porsche etc etc. However new French legislation that has just come in will cramp everybody’s style because they have lowered the speed limit on all two-lane highways to 80km/h (50mph) from 90km/h (56 mph). But maybe some of you found this out the hard way, it wasn’t widely publicised. 

Having parked the odd rally car untidily I am not sure 6 mph would have made much difference, but let’s see if it works. Their hope is it will reduce the alarmingly high fatality rate on French roads. It will remain in place for two years and then they will review the situation. But note they wont be changing any signage as far as we know. But this is still the place to dust off your classic and come on down.

The social demographic has changed a fair bit so now the original classic owners have been joined by modern Ferraris, Porsches and even the odd indecently quick Bentley or two. Until the police call a halt there has been a re-emergence of plenty of madness and tyre smoke in Arnage. We thought Les Gendarmes had put a stop to all this but so far they simply stand by and watch… very ‘unfrench’ !

Keeping up with the track action has been tricky to say the least, after all there are over a thousand drivers ( read that right!) and we reckon around 750 racing cars. Possibly reinforcing the status of the event there are no less than ten previous outright Le Mans winners here racing. Before you ask the list is as follows.. Werner, Mass, Lammers, Ortelli, Dumas, Bell, Larrousse, Duval, Pescarolo and Ludwig. 

One change, which might be for the better, is that the ACO now have a 25% share in Patrick Peter’s organisation. In the past Patrick Peter ( remember him from BPR...Barth, Peter, and Ratel ?) did an astounding job running the event maybe now it has out grown Peter’s team and some help was needed from The ACO).

Another aspect of this splendid event are “The Clubs”. These are the various owner’s clubs that occupy every nook and cranny around the circuit. It is an A-Z of classic manufacturers many of which you will know about others might need a voyage through Google. How about this lot.. Amicale DB (117 cars) Martin (70 cars) Rene Bonnet Matra Sport (89 cars) and Roland Pilain (114 cars). These are all put in the shade by Porsches which are everywhere and like Jaguar have a race of their own.

Some statistics are mind boggling , it isn’t everyday you find five Porsche 917 in one place at one time and out racing.. by that standard Ford GT40s seem pretty commonplace, we reckon there are 14 GT40s out there!! In the Group C race there were 12 Porsche 962 and a fantastic number of very evocative Silk Cut Jaguars . Remember the XJR-8-9-11-14 and the rest?

The race format for the main event. This massive entry is broken down into six grids or 'plateau'. These are based upon dates:-

Grid One 1923-1939
Grid Two 1949-1956
Grid Three 1957-1961
Grid Four 1962-1965
Grid Five 1966-1971
Grid Six 1972-1981

During the 24 hour period each Grid gets three 43 mins races …. somebody somewhere will know where the 43 min idea came from!! Many of the teams have two drivers but some heroes do it on their own. Everybody gets the chance to take on Le Circuit du Sarthe in the dark. We imagine this could be ‘challenging’ for the Grid One and Two cars because in those days headlights were in their infancy! At least in the olden days you didn’t have to find the 1st and 2nd chicanes.

If you want to check out lap-times etc look for

To use the immortal words of Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger “ I’ll be back”.. or maybe more relevant is his latest quote “ I may be old but I am not obsolete”...


Thursday, 5 July 2018

Jacky Ickx announced as Honoree for the 2019 Amelia Island Concours d'élégance

"Monsieur Le Mans", Jacky Ickx has been announced as the Honoree for the 2019 Amelia Island Concours d'élégance in Florida.

In his biography of Enzo Ferrari, Brock Yates summed up Jacky Ickx in one perfect phrase writing Jacky Ickx has " . . . the heart of a lion".

"There is something heroic about Jacky Ickx," said Bill Warner, founder and Chairman of the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance. "When things are at their worst Ickx is at his best. Grace under pressure doesn't begin to describe him. He's a racer whose abilities, reputation and record stand with the greatest of all time." "It is an honor to have 'Mr. Le Mans' as our 2019 honoree," said Warner, "Especially on the 50th anniversary of the first of his six Le Mans victories."

Five-time Le Mans winner and 2007 Amelia Honoree Derek Bell said of Ickx, "For me he was the Ayrton Senna of his time".

The centerpiece of Ickx's racing career is six victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Yet that's just the headline. His versatility is legendary. Ickx is the 1967 European Formula 2 Champion and owns eight World Championship F1 victories (and three non-championship wins) plus second place in the 1969 and 1970 F1 World Championships. Ickx scored 37 individual race victories in the World Sports Car Championship and back-to-back World Sports Car Championships in 1982 and 1983. In America he won the 1979 Can-Am Championship, the 1969 Sebring 12 Hours with Jackie Oliver and the 1972 Daytona "24" with Mario Andretti. The versatile Ickx also logged victory in the 1977 Bathurst 1000 and the 1966 24 Hours of Spa, a class win and second overall in the Nurburgring's grinding 84-hour Marathon de la Route plus his legendary victory in the brutal 10,000-kilometer 1983 Paris-Dakar Rally -- "the war without bullets" -- for Mercedes-Benz.

The 2019 Amelia Island Concours d'élegance is scheduled for March 8-10, 2019; exactly one week ahead of the FIA WEC's return to Sebring and the Sebring 12 hours, and an event not to miss if you're in the area !  

Kristof Vermeulen.