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