Return of the Le Mans Classic: 600 racing cars, 200K fans and more

Peter Auto

Return of the Le Mans Classic: 600 racing cars, 200K fans and more

Vintage Racing

Return of the Le Mans Classic: 600 racing cars, 200K fans and more

By

The 10th edition of Le Mans Classic rolls off this week, June 30 to July 3, on the iconic Le Mans 24 Hours circuit. Generally held every two years, the 10th annual Classic should have taken place in July 2020, but the event was postponed due to the Covid pandemic. Thus, it’s been four years since the last event (2018), so endurance racing fans are more than ready to mark the 20th anniversary of the Le Mans Classic’s creation!

Conceived in 2002 by Peter Auto in association with the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, the bi-annual Classic offers a fantastic retrospective of the much-heralded 24 Hour. It has been successful since Day 1, attracting 195,000 spectators in 2018.

Indeed, it’s the world’s largest gathering of historic vehicles, with 600 racing cars and 8,500 collector cars inside the specially prepared interior of the circuit.

In the week leading up to the 10th edition, we’ll take a look at a pair of mouth-watering machines, the first belonging to the Endurance Racing Legends grid and the second to Group C. These two separate fields provide support races to Le Mans Classic and contain some of the most iconic models set to take part…

Endurance Racing Legends

This Bentley Speed 8 is one of the potent machine that claimed victory in the 2003 24 Hours of Le Mans, bringing to an end a 73-year wait for the British manufacturer. It was Bentley’s sixth victory at Le Sarthe, following those of 1924 and 1927-1930. The new generation of Bentley Boys never finished outside the top 5 in the overall classification between 2001 and 2003: Wallace-Leitzinger-van de Poele saw the flag in third place in 2001; came fourth in 2002 before the victorious double in 2003 victory going to Capello-Kristensen-Smith with Blundell-Brabham-Herbert filling the runner-up spot.

Photo: Mathieu Bonnevie

The Bentley Speed 8s had a superb typical British green livery and were designed in Crewe in England.

Powered by a twin-turbo 600 bhp V8, the machines reached speeds of up to 250mph on the Mulsanne Straight. The example entered in the 2022 Le Mans Classic is now owned by Shaun Lynn, who will co-drive.

“I’ll keep this car for a long time as it pleases me from every point of view: its results, its rarity, its aerodynamics and all its technical characteristics,” said Lynn. “It requires skill and precision. It’s a real œuvre d’art—a “Stradivarius.“ But when you put your foot on the accelerator, you have to know how to play with it as the car doesn’t pardon errors.

“Owning it is a real pleasure as is taking part in Peter Auto events,” Lynn added. “I’ve known Patrick Peter for many years and we’ve got a great relationship. It’s always a pleasure to bump into him at these memorable meetings.”

Group C

This particular Peugeot 905 Evo 1 bis from 1992 belongs to Frenchman Érik Maris who will race it on the Sarthe circuit for the second time at the 10th Mans Classic. The ’92 905 is legendary as it gave the French automaker its first outright victory that year driven by Yannick Dalmas, Derek Warwick and Mark Blundell.

Photo: Mathieu Bonnevie

Peugeot 905s took part in 17 races between September 1990 and June 1993, scoring nine victories. The car was conceived, designed and shaped according to the focus of its era, the introduction of the Formula 3.5L bringing an emphasis on speed rather than endurance to the World Sportscar Championship. This new type of “grand prix” racing led Peugeot to abandon the traditional design principles for an endurance car, following in Jaguar’s footsteps to produce a prototype that was much closer to a two-seater Formula 1 than traditional sports prototype, which was allowed by the rules of the time.

The 905 “Evolution 1 bis“ stood out from the first version in terms of its aerodynamics with a large twin element rear wing, an adjustable front splitter, air tunnels around the cockpit to cool the two side-mounted radiators, and an engine that was both lighter and more powerful.

“It’s a childhood dream just to drive it,” said owner Maris. “It’s an iconic car. The sound of its engine, the aerodynamics—everything’s unbelievable. I bought this car six years ago from a good friend who knew I was interested in it [and] it’s my favorite. The 2022 edition will be my fourth Le Mans Classic and my second with this car. It’s 100 percent original.

“To really appreciate the technical qualities of this prototype, you have to drive it quickly,” Maris continued. “It has to be pushed to its technical limits. Unless driven properly the tires and the brakes won’t heat up and you’ll miss out on what is the very essence of the Peugeot 905 Évolution bis…”

For more information on this spectacular summer event, click HERE.

More Vintage Motorsport