Dailysportscar visits the Le Mans Classic
A relatively recent phenomenon in motorsport are the big historic festivals. In the UK, Goodwood; with the Festival of Speed and the Revival meeting, Silverstone Classic, and a host more besides, draw big crowds with a mix of on-track action and a festival atmosphere in the paddock and around the circuit grounds. The major European events have been building in popularity too: Spa-Francorchamps has the Spa Six Hours and Spa Classic events, Nürburgring’s Old-timer Grand Prix, Angouleme’s Circuit des Remparts and many more. The biggest, and arguably one of the very, very best is the Le Mans Classic – held every two years, this is the only event, aside from the Le Mans 24 Hours itself, that is permitted to use the full 24 Hours race circuit, with local roads closed to allow round the clock action.
I was invited with my colleague Dave Lord, to attend the Le Mans Classic 2018 event as the guests of Travel Destinations, to take a look at what, for both of us, was a very different event in very familiar surroundings! We were accommodated in the Travel Destinations Flexotel Village – and whilst the container-like accommodation is perhaps not the most aesthetically pleasing, it proved to have massive advantages over the more traditional camping option. With comfortable overnight accommodation for two, plenty of storage space and a secure lock on the door it was an ideal operating base for the extended weekend.
Very high temperatures over the full Le Mans Classic meeting might have left some sweltering – indeed our friends on the campsites reported that their tented accommodations were challenging in the conditions – but the tree-lined Flexotel Village wasn’t too bad, and our room was great when we installed a fan! Make no mistake these were extreme conditions – 30-34 degrees across the whole weekend! Our bathroom accommodation was in the central toilet and shower block – showers with perfect temperatures, kept spotlessly clean throughout the weekend- although for those after more privacy, a little more outlay saw some customers choose upgraded Flexotel rooms with their own bijou bathroom facilities!
As the Le Mans Classic came alive on Friday, then the Flexotel Village filled up nicely, and the ambience became immediately apparent – very relaxed and very friendly – individuals, couples and groups of friends either chatting quietly outside their rooms with a glass of red wine or a beer, or clustering around the central marquee where food and drink was available late into the evening – together with a big screen TV – pretty much essential during the latter stages of a World Cup! There were, I am very pleased to report, no rowdy groups, no fireworks – just people enjoying their, and each other’s company, and it was never, ever, crowded – a host of ordinary cars (ours!), sporty, exotic and classic cars parked alongside the rooms – Everything from an MGA, via a Jensen Interceptor and on to Lamborghinis, Ferraris and a beautiful Jaguar D-Type Replica – Just perfect!
As for the Le Mans Classic event itself – Wow!
700 cars from 1923 to the present day, competing and displayed on track with some 1000 drivers – including some VERY big names. Competition continued through the night with the six main – age-defined groups of cars having 3 x 45 minutes races – with the addition of races for the iconic Group C cars (simply glorious!), Jaguar and Porsche period one-make encounters, plus a pair of very well attended demonstration runs for the “Global Endurance Legends”, for cars from the 90s and noughties – with a short season of races for these splendid machines coming in 2019!
The ‘Le Mans Classic Village area’ was packed throughout with eateries, bars and exhibitions, a fine selection of stalls selling books, models, vintage bits and bobs and much more besides doing a roaring trade – I stumbled (thankfully not quite literally) across Derek Bell signing copies of his latest book at one stall.
And then there’s the ‘set dressing’ and the other main Le Mans Classic attraction – Thousands of classic cars in the club displays on the infield and around the shorter ‘Bugatti’ circuit – all friendly and welcoming, all with a common spirit to revel in petrolhead heaven. Love Renault Alpines? There were simply dozens, Porsches? Hundreds – Something more obscure? Believe me it as likely in there somewhere! Best of all if you regularly attend the big UK, or US historic festivals, there was plenty here that you likely haven’t seen before.
Around and between all of this the Le Mans Classic VIP shuttles were all Citroen 2CV or the Mehari derivative; the competing drivers shuttled around in a bewildering variety of VW ‘buses’ – and the public shuttle buses to take fans out to the more far flung viewing spots were ‘period’ too! Competing cars were escorted through the event either by Gendarmes in period uniforms on historic police motorbikes (with the ever-present whistle!) or by actors dressed 1940s US Military police on rumbling Indians and Harleys complete with the wailing siren – Evocative stuff.
Better still if the scale of the event, or just the heat, got the better of us, it was a short walk back to the Travel Destinations Flexotel Village, where, even in the thick of on-track action, there was an oasis of calm – the cars could be heard – but you could hear yourself think, grab a drink or have a nap – the Flexotel’s sound insulation proving ideal for the task.
If you love the historic scene then the Le Mans Classic is a simply unmissable event – We’ll be coming up with excuses for another invitation – You should pencil it into your 2020 calendar too- and then get on the phone to Travel Destinations to reserve your place!