We've said it many times. There is no better way to see the classics than doing what they were created for. Even more so if we talk about competition classics. Those who have interpreted not a few of the best pages of motorsport in circuits as iconic as Le Mans. This being the case, every two years we have the opportunity to relive the historic moments of this endurance race at the Le Mans Classic. One of the best events on the European calendar for fans of the competition, putting vehicles with unquestionable importance both historically and technically on the asphalt.
In fact, just three weeks ago the 13,65 kilometers of the current track at Le Mans were made available to the classics. Being able to see a whole museum on wheels where, honoring tradition, there is no lack of everlasting Le Mans-style starts. With the pilots running towards their vehicles from the left bank of the asphalt. Jumping into the cabins to interpret one of the most exciting and dangerous career starts out of all those who have seen any type of automobile competition. In this way, the adrenaline is triggered even for the most layman. All this to make Le Mans Classic a show without palliatives.
Yes, there is a problem. And it is that, where can one turn his attention when he is surrounded by so many icons of the four wheels? In the end, in this last edition it was possible to see the Mazda 787B with a rotary engine from Group C or the Ferrari 250 GT Breadvan with his rear Kammback. Well, since reviewing everything would require a voluminous book, we have decided to focus on the country that is home to the Le Mans track. France. Therefore, we will take a brief tour of some of the best Panhard and Alpine stamped parts seen at the last Le Mans Classic. «Prenons la piste!”
PANHARD, BEFORE MILITARY VEHICLES
With the permission of brands like Honda or Alfa Romeo, the truth is that French manufacturers have some of the best industrial histories in motorsport. And no, we are not exactly referring to the financial results. But to the novelistic and diverse of its becomings. Thus, while Peugeot is not understood without coffee grinders or bicycles, Panhard made interesting cars before devoting himself to the military world after being absorbed by Citroën. In fact, already in 1932 it began to have weapons within its range of products, relegating the production of sports cars to the background.
After the war, however, Panhard returned to significant car production. More focused on mass sales than on the most performance segment, with models like the Dyna X. A modest but practical utility suitable for the years after World War II, thanks to which the company survived despite undergoing a radical shift in the type of car to be produced. However, there was obviously something left of that passion for circuits and high-end. For this reason, not only private teams but also the factory itself adapted units of the Dyna X for the competition.
Specifically for Le Mans. Where they obtained important successes at the beginning of the fifties. Profitable thanks to the mechanical development achieved in the races, which reverted to more powerful engines for its series models. In fact, in that process the DC Dyna is considered key. Created in 1962 by and to compete in Le Mans, entering it in the category of up to 850 cubic centimeters with its boxer twin. All this leading to the standard CD and not the other way around. Just contrary to the norm that dictates modifying serial models. Thus evidencing the importance that Panhard continued to give to racing.
ALPINE IN LE MANS CLASSIC, CONNECTING WITH THE OLD GLORIES
One of the most interesting questions attached to the resurrection of any brand is how this produces a new interest in its past. However, in the case of Alpine the truth is that a constant memory never ceased to exist. Even more so in the Le Mans Classic editions. And it is that, although he resisted reaching the top of Le Mans until in 1978 the turbocharger of his A442 dictated the law, the truth is that already in the sixties it had been present with models like the A210. Successor to the M65 and its 1.3-litre Gordini engine for just 669 kilos, it already increased its displacement to one and a half liters in 1966.
Thus, the Alpine A210 became one of the most interesting models in the entire history of Le Mans. Certainly a surprising statement at first, since it was not one of the first in the global rankings. Nevertheless, at Le Mans 1966 he achieved a triplet in the efficiency index. That is, the relationship established between performance, consumption, results and displacement. All this going from 270 kilometers per hour with an engine that did not exceed 1,5 liters. Undoubtedly a real success seen in the light of the current concern about consumption and reduced displacement.
In addition, beyond this and other Alpine models, at Le Mans Classic we could see an interesting Spanish presence. And it is that, reviewing the photographs of one of the starting grids, the Lancia Aurelia B20 GT of the Repsol Classic Team can be glimpsed. Always a most interesting vehicle. Being the first great example of Gran Turismo, suitable in this unit for a good performance on the circuit thanks to its lower suspensions. A delicious finishing touch for this brief photographic review by Unai Ona at Le Mans Classic. We have already put the watch on sale with an eye on 2024 because, remember, this appointment is biannual.
Photography: Unai Ona