TEXT: JAVIER ROMAGOSA / PHOTO: UNAI ONA / VIDEO: MANAGE MOTOR AND KUKFILMS
Le Mans Classic it's taking place right now, and the sound coming to my ears from the track is indescribable. A mix of rhythms ranging from the more or less leisurely melody of the pre-war period to the scandalous roar of the prototypes sport late 70's. It's been like this all weekend, as a scorching sun fell on me and I bathed in sweat, intoxicated at the same time by the strong odors of benzene.
Blessed smell. With so much energy efficiency we are forgetting what modern dinosaurs smell like. It is inevitable, the spirit of the times; But that is why it is so important to immerse yourself in this type of experience, to reconnect with a mechanical universe that has been left behind. And, above all, with one of its aspects that involves greater genius and artistic awareness: motor racing.
The Le Mans 24 Hours Circuit needs no introduction, it is one of the meccas of motorsport. A place to make a pilgrimage at least once in your life. And here we are, four colleagues who have traveled 1.200 kilometers in just over a day in a Fiat Ducato and who have been praying ever since to eat more than just sandwiches. Life is not easy here, the distances are very long and there are many, many people. You have to coordinate very well so you don't miss anything.
Because there is so much to see: From the races to the paddock, through the fair and the club parking, among other things. If you perish, I'm going to start by telling us a little about the different grills:
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Le Mans Classic Races
- Plateau 1: 1923-1939. Dedicated to the pioneers of the 24 Hours. Bentley trucks, Bugattis (there is a huge Type 50), Talbot, Aston Martin, Delahaye, Alfa Romeo 8C, BMW 328 or even a Mercedes SSK, among others, have just finished racing. They are rather slow, just as the 24 Hours should be in the beginning: endless straights in which to push the machines to the limit and thus prove, in case of being able to finish, an unbreakable resistance.
- Plateau 2: 1949-1956: Back to Le Mans after World War II. It is the glorious era of pilots like Luigi Chinetti, Hermann Lang, Froilán González or Mike Hawthorne, and the almost incontestable dominance of Jaguar and its Type C and D. Things are going much faster here now; the precious bachettas of the brand of the feline, Maserati and Ferrari fly over the asphalt. So do the Cooper and Lotus of the early days, with another type of much more modern beauty.
In this category, whose race is currently being contested, there are also a large number of X-files. Do you know what a Kieft, a Deutch-Bonnet, a Monster, a Jowett or a Callista is? Check out the photos above!
- Plateau 3: 1957-1961: Grid whose exit to the track is currently being prepared and in which, although it is an extension of the previous one, for example increases the number of Porsche and Alfa Romeo present. In the opinion of this humble servant, the Ferrari 250 GT, an Aston Martin DP 212 -very rare-, a Porsche 718 or several Giulietta Zagato from the house of Arese, among others, stand out. A must mention is the Abarth-Simca of the Spanish Repsol team, a true giant killer whose natural habitat is the red zone on the lap counter.
- Plateau 4: 1962-1965. It exemplifies the beginning of the mutation of the racing car towards a prototype far removed from the production cars. Under the influence of Cooper, Lotus and Porsche, the engines are progressively installed in a central position, between the seats and the rear axle. Little by little, this will transform them into the beasts we know today. The Ferrari 250 LM or the Ford GT40 are transitional cars that coexisted with old-school examples like the Shelby Cobra. A curious variation is that of the Bizzarrini, whose mechanics are practically placed in the front central position, or the aerodynamic Alpine (!) M65.
- Plateau 5: 1966-1971. It is the legendary era of the Porsche 917, but also of the impressive English Chevron and Lola that took over from the Cooper and Lotus. In the races of this category, ear plugs are already becoming necessary if you are going to spend a long time near the cars ...
Or airplanes, because there is a Howmet TX with turbine engine! This is another of the attempts of the 60s to apply this aeronautical technology to the car. Its origin is American and, so far, it has been the only turbine prototype to win a race (specifically two at the SCCA). 350 hp, 57.000 rpm on the rev counter and without gearbox. What do you think (look above)?
- Plateau 6: 1972-1981. Wild grill that continues in the same vein as the previous one, full of Porsches, Lolas and Chevrons. The BMW M1, CSL and Alpina make their appearance, and also rarities such as two Mirage, a Cheetah or a Toj.
Do you know that they have been competing for almost 19 hours? The races began yesterday at 4 in the afternoon and, although there are races of around 45 minutes, they will continue uninterruptedly until 4 today. The participants who wanted to have been running all night. And until two or three in the morning there was a great atmosphere here, full of people and cars parading through the paddock. Without a doubt, the night is one of the components of the magic of La Sarthe, and PeterAuto knows how to take advantage of it very well.
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The Thousand Incentives of Le Mans Classic
Finally, regarding the races, say that also there are sleeves of Group C, the most extreme protos of the 80s and 90s; and of children's cars Animated by two and four stroke engines that would leave you with your mouth open. They are so close to the originals! Toys certainly for rich children, but seeing them by the hundreds simulating a Le Mans-type outing is truly impressive.
Because, as I said at the beginning, in Le Mans Classic There are not only races and a heart-stopping paddock, but also a large number of services and a retro fair dedicated to the automobile in which you can find from specific products to clothing stores and, of course, a large number of cars, motorcycles and buses on display. In the vicinity of the Bugatti circuit there is also a huge parking area crowded with clubs of classics; In reality, there are a thousand off-track attractions that justify the purchase of the ticket.
In short, we recommend that you do not stop attending the next edition that will take place in 2020. It is really worth it, at least once in a lifetime.