Le Mans Classic 2018 Showcases New Ferrari GTs
Report from Arnaud Meunier
For the ninth time, the Le Mans Classic allowed us to relive the great history of the Le Mans 24 Hours race. Organized by the A.C.O and Peter Auto, this large program extended beyond the track as a festival of both the car and the car race. This 2018 edition celebrated 70 years of Porsche, the 25th birthday of the triplet Peugeot 905, and 40 years of the Renault victory at Le Mans. To round out the weekend, several tests and demonstrations took place: Group C, Classical Jaguar Challenge, Classical Porsche Le Mans Race and a parade of Global Endurance Legends which included GTs and prototypes from 1990 to 2000.
Also exciting was the opportunity to see several Ferraris that had participated in GT and Endurance Championships, particularly the 360 N-GT (JMB racing champion in the 2001 FIA GT with Pescatori/Terrien), the 458 GT AF Corse (2014 WEC season), and the 550 GTO Prodrive (Le Mans in 2003, finishing 5th in the LM GTS class).
This weekend drew record crowds of nearly 135,000 spectators and prefect weather. While the main show was on the track, there was also plenty to see in the paddock (interior of the Bugatti circuit), including multi-marque representation of more than 8,000 cars, multiple exhibitors and other animations. Among the Clubs present, the most notable was the European Ferrari Club 400 which succeeded in bringing together twenty specimens, probably the largest gathering of 365/400/412 ever seen in the world!
After Friday’s qualifying, things became serious on Saturday at 4:00 pm, starting with the departure of the 6 “Plates” or Groups in the Le Mans Classic, which included models identical to those that participated in the Le Mans 24 Hours between 1923 and 1981. Each Group included 76 cars. During the weekend, each Group had several races, daytime and nighttime.
Group 1: Pre-War. Gareth Burnett in the Talbot 105 achieved a better time in the qualifications with a 19 second advance on second, but ranked 17th after having gained in races 2 and 3.
Group 2: Post-War to 1956. Jaguar Type Ds raced against Maserati and another Lotus XI. Clive Joy (who also participated in Group 3 with his 250 GT Berlinetta Scaglietti and in Group 4 with his 250 LM ex-Maranello Concessionaires) gained the two first races with his Type D n°3. Carlos Monteverde gained the final ranking with his Type D n°21, echoing the Jaguar victories in Mans between 1955 and 1957.
Group 3: 1957 to 1961. During this time Ferrari won the Le Mans race three times, so it was not a surprise to see no less than five 250 GT Berlinetta Scaglietti, including the 1811GT (present at the 1960 race), and the 2445 GT of Arnold Meier and 2819 GT of Martin Halusa (present at the 1962 race). This last at the wheel of Breadvan made sparks by gaining the first race with nearly 30 seconds in advance on the Lotus XV of Roger Wills and David Clark. In the second race, the Lotus XV arrived first and Breadvan was only fifth at 30 seconds. The third race determined the final ranking. Martin Halusa started as the leader and outdistanced the Lotus XV, but a few minutes before the finish, there was a dramatic turn of events as the Ferrari lost time and came second, both in the race and the final ranking.
Group 4: 1962 to 1965. This group effectively illustrated the rise to power of the machines made in the USA at the time. Ford GT40s dominated its adversaries in each race, placing in the first three spots of the final ranking, the winner being Diogo Ferrao. For Ferraris, the 275 GTB could hardly compete. The 250 LM of Clive Joy came in 8th in the first race, but gave up in the second.
Group 5: 1966 and 1971. The first two races were dominated by Mr. John of B. and Soheil Ayari in the Ligier JS3. In the third race, Carlos Monteverde led with his 512 M ex-Escuderia Montjuich (seen in Le Mans in 1971 and in the same year finished second at the Tour de France Auto with José Juncadella and Jean Pierre Jabouille). Carlos raced magnificently but his legendary ardour caused him to lose too much time to the leader, who was Jacques Nicolet and his Duckhams Ford, who gain the race and the final ranking.
Group 6: 1972-1981. Here, the silhouettes of the Porsche 935 and Ferrari 512 BB LM come into play with prototypes like Lola and Alpine or Mirage. Five Ferrari appeared in this Group, including three that ran in the 24 Hours. The fastest was Mr. John of B. and Soheil Ayari who came in sixth in the final ranking, in front of Diego Meier and Remo Lips. The final winner was Yves Scemama on a TOJ.
The Le Mans Classic represents a unique opportunity to experience the vast circuit of Le Mans apart from the yearly 24 Hour race. Thousands of pilots from thirty nationalities had the privilege, as well as hundreds of enthusiasts in the clubs parades. We must now be patient because the next edition will not take place until 2020! And maybe will you be there with your Ferrari…
A complete report on the 2018 Le Mans Classic, with a chart of the Ferraris entered, the drivers, the results, and the all important chassis numbers, will be in the October 1 issue of Cavallino. Subscribe today.
Images from Arnaud Meunier.