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Le Mans, 30th of June - 3rd of July, 2022

It has been 4 years that we went to Le Mans for the Classic edition of the 24 hours. After the cancellation of the 2020 event, we had to wait 2 more years to celebrate the 10th edition of this unique race event. 20 years after the first edition in 2002 the Classic has become the biggest premium race event for classic cars in the world going all the way around the clock in 6 different race classes. With 4 more support races before the actual 24 hours and 3 races per grid this sums up to 22 races in addition to the qualifying and practice sessions starting Friday. A whopping number of more than 1000 drivers and about 750 race cars in the entry lists attracted more than 200000 visitors to make their way to La Sarthe this first July weekend. With glorious weather forecast but fortunately not on the heigh of the heat wave over Europe the stage was set for another great edition.

When arriving Wednesday afternoon while the first cars entered the paddocks the extent of this weekend was still barely visible as apart from the actual races the huge amount of club cars visiting over the weekend and the exhibitors in the village ranging from small vendors to the factory displays of Mercedes-Benz make this weekend one of the biggest on the continent. There are several race series all over the year attracting the usual racers from all over the world but the prospect of racing the famous endurance race track especially in the night adds up to the experience one can have in a race car. With the grids spanning the years 1923 (the first edition) to 1981 there is something for everyone and cars ranging from the leisurely ran pre-war cars lapping in up to 10 minutes to the fastest late 1970s in just 4 minutes.

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As said above the actual race is divided in 6 grids and all of them have their own paddock, where the cars are checked by the scrutineers and get their race number and transponder on Wednesday and mainly Thursday where the majority of cars arrived. The tents hosted about 80 cars per race group and there was plenty of activities all over the next days of mechanics fixing smaller and larger problems. Having the first look around for the highlights of the race groups showed that although some of the star cars of previous editions were missing the overall quality is still very high. Just as at the F1 Historic races at Monaco this is a unique experience that seems to attract more owners and racers than any other event, even when the seasoned entrants already experienced this a few times in the past.

Normally one would expect the Grid 1 to go out first but both the practice sessions as well as the races started with Grid 4 to 6 followed by the first Grids. The main reason for that is to have the pre-war cars racing less in the night as they basically start before sunset and have their morning race just before dawn when the light is coming back.

Over the entire afternoon the drivers had the chance to acquaint to the track and some of the cars were only seen once or twice as they suffered mechanical issues early on.

Early in the evening when the sun set there were more qualification session for the Group C and Porsche racers in glorious light before the night practice sessions were held. One of the highlights of the evening certainly was the demonstration lap of the first Japanese Le Mans winner, the Mazda 787B whose rotary engine could be heard well in advance, especially as the car was all alone on track.

Finally, after the sun was gone the night practice sessions started just after 10pm and the last car of Grid 3 took the chequered flag just after 4am leaving little time for sleep the night before the actual 24 hours.

Friday was the day when the track action started and with no less than 4 support races the track was hot already early in the morning as the Group C racers went out at 9:35 for their qualifying session. For many the Group C era is one of the most exciting ones in the Le Mans history and back then with the lack of the chicanes on the Hunaudieres those cars hit the 400 kph mark back in time. And although driven a little bit slower today and with the chicanes they were still the fastest cars on track this weekend. Fans could admire a few Porsches 956 and 962, several Jaguar XJR with the iconic Silk Cut livery as well as a duo of the very last Group C winners, the Peugeot 905s.

After the Group C cars there were single marque races for Jaguar and Porsche as well as for the Endurance Legends that features the newer Le Mans cars like the beautiful Bentley Exp Speed 8, Maserati MC12 or the Aston Martin DBRS9.

After the support races had their first qualifying sessions the actual race grids had their first go up the Dunlop Chicane and leaving the Circuit Bugatti going through Tertre Rouge to go out on the very fast Hunaudieres straight, through Mulsanne, the Indianapolis section, Arnage and the Porsche curves before going back on the main straight though the Ford Chicane. As said the lap times varied from over ten minutes to just about 4 and so the races differed a lot from grid to grid.

On Saturday morning the infield started to get really busy as the majority of club cars arrived, the official numbers of the organizers showed about 8000 classics and young-timers parked on the fields sorted by marque. Largest gathering was without doubt the Porsche display with hundreds of cars lined up sorted by age.

For those arriving early the support races could be seen before the clock was approaching the 4pm marque, the traditional start of the 24h. But before the big ones were let loses it was the Little Big Mans that took the heart of the spectators when the kids were lined up opposite to their miniature replicas going for a proper Le Mans start and all the way up to the Dunlop bow. It was easy to see that they got the competitive spirit of their racing dads as they were going for it. After that the real action started with the sole Le Mans start of the Saturday of Grid 4 as Grid 5 and 6 were from the time when the running over the road was already abandoned.

The races went on all over the night with far less incidents than in the past and only few safety car laps were needed and the red flag was also sparely used. With the light fading also the majority of the spectators left and as unlike the “normal 24h” there is less action on the fun fair most of them left the circuit either to the hotels in the area or to the camping places on the track. Most of the drivers had their caravan with them in the infield to have some sleep in between the races depending on what race groups they were entered. So, when the night fell over the track unfortunately the grand stands emptied more and more.

But soon after the sunrise early in the morning over Grid 2 the infield and the spectator areas got busy again when the cars had their last race of the day. With the last races being reserved to the older cars the Le Mans style start was back on Sunday afternoon to give a proper final of the racing marathon over the weekend. Unfortunately, the race ended literally with a bang as in the very last race of the weekend the unique Ferrari 250 GT Breadvan smashed in the chicane leaving the car badly damaged. Fortunately, the owner’s son climbed out of the car unhurt but the car will need another rebuilt in the months to come.

Every Grid raced 3 times over the 24h for about 45 minutes, so at the end excluding the formation laps every Grid raced for about 2.5 hours. The cars of each Grid with the same race number are forming a team adding up to the “24h race” although the actual net race time is more like 14 hours. First overall was the team number 64 with the Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 LM of Team Rettenmaier, the Austin-Healey including 5-times Le Mans winner Emanuele Pirro, a Lola MKI of Duchene, a Ford GT40 of Farley, the Chevron B19 of Jack and finally the Osella PA5 of Turriziani / Mazzoleni. They finished 140 laps combined giving them a 3 laps lead over the next placed team.

After an exhausting 3 days in Le Mans, we had thousands of photos to sort and prepare for our report that might include the most complete gallery of the racing Grids sorted by race number in addition to some night action and ambience from the support races. It should give you a good impression of the action this weekend.

For those who are eager to join the action either on track or as a spectator here are the good news: you do not even have to wait for four years, not even two years this time. With the Le Mans 24h celebrating its centenary next year the Classics will be back as well on the first weekend of July again. We are counting down the weeks to get back and witness the racing, especially the one from dusk till dawn...

Images ... Peter Singhof

The results for the race Groups from the Le Mans Classic Press Release

Grid 1 (1923/1939)
At the end of the three races, the no. 49 Bugatti T35 driven by D. Pittaway and t. Dutton scored a comfortable victory after a dominant display. Into second came M. Halusa and A. Ames in their no. 16 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 MM Spider Zagato which finished 34 seconds behind the winning car. And in third was the no. 10 BMW 328 Roadster of A. Otten and M. Griffiths locked in battle with the no. 52 Alfa Romeo until the chequered flag fell!

Overall Classification:
1. D. Pittaway and T. Dutton / 1925 / Bugatti T35 / n°49
2. M. Halusa and A. Ames / 1932 / Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 MM Spider Zagato / n°16
3. A. Otten and M. Griffiths / 1939 / BMW 328 Roadster / n° 10

Grid 2 (1949/1956)
The no. 16 D-Type Jaguar driven by L. Halusa clinched a comfortable win with more than two minutes in hand over the no. 36 Aston Martin DB3S crewed by Argentineans C. Sielecki and M. Sielecki. A French team completed the podium, C. Godard and F. Godard in their no. 11 Cooper T39. Despite the T39 Cooper’s small cubic capacity, its chassis and the remarkable skills of its two drivers made the difference!

Overall Classification:
1. L. Halusa and A. Ames / 1954 / Jaguar D-type / n° 16
2. C. Sielecki and M. Sielecki / 1955/ Aston Martin DB3S / 1955 / n°36
3. C. Godard and f. Godard / 1955 / Cooper T39 /n°11

Grid 3 (1957 / 1961)
Even though J. Cottingham and M. Girardo won the third race, overall victory went to O. Bryant and G. Bryant who came out on top in the accumulated results of the three heats in their Lotus 15. Second place went to the no. 65 D-Type Jaguar driven by J. Macari and H. Newey followed in third by the no. 20 Tojeiro Jaguar in the hands of J. Cottingham and M. Girardo.

Overall Classification:
1. O. Bryant and G. Bryant / 1958 / Lotus 15 / n°18
2. J. Macari and H. Newey / 1956 / Jaguar D-type / n°65
3. J. Cottingham and M. Girardo / 1959 / Tojeiro Jaguar / n°20

Grid 4 (1962 / 1965)
The Ford GT40s dominated this grid and they clinched victory in each of the three races. Portuguese driver D. Ferrao emerged as the overall winner in his no. 8 GT40 with a total of four minutes and 36 seconds in hand over J.Farley (CEO Ford Worldwide) from America in no. 64. And third spot was filled by no. 19 in the hands of E. Breittmayer.

Overall Classification:
1. D. Ferrao / 1965 / Ford GT40 / n°8
2. J. Farley /1965 /Ford GT40 /n° 64
3. E. Breittmayer /1965 / Ford GT40 / n°19

Grid 5 (1966 /1971)
A great battle was expected in Grid 5 between the Ferrari 312 P crewed by R. Lips / D. Franklin and a plethora of well-driven Lola T70s, which ran into a raft of technical niggles. However, a Lola did emerge victorious thanks to no. 37 of N. Sleep and A. Montgomery, which topped the timesheets by just 15 seconds from the no. 25 Chevron B19 with H. Fletcher at the wheel. The final place on the podium was filled by the aforementioned no. 58 Ferrari 312 P driven by R. Lips and D. Franklin.

Overall Classification:
1. N. Sleep and A. Montgomery / 1967 / Lola T70 Mk.3 / n°37
2. H. Fletcher / 1971 / Chevron B19 / n°25
3. R. Lips and D. Franklin / 1969 / Ferrari 312 P/ n°58

Grid 6 (1972/1981)
During the weekend we saw a great duel between the no. 33 TOJSC304 of Y. Scemama and R. Mille and P. Lafargue’s no. 65 Lola T298 . But both cars suffered various glitches and outsiders shone among the front-runners with first place going to L. Caron in his no. 7 Chevron B31. Second place went to the no. 53 Cheetah G601 driven B. Eggiman and into third came another Chervon, the no. 41 B36 in the hands of P. Bruehwiler.

Overall Classification:
1. L. Caron / 1975 / Chevron B31/ n°7
2. B. Eggimann / 1976 / Cheetah G601/ n°53
3. P. Bruehwiler / 1976 / Chevron B36 / n°41