The flag has just dropped on the 2016 Le Mans Classic. Figures released by the organisers show that the event was the most successful to date, with more than 120,000 attending the weekend to celebrate the history of the legendary endurance race.
My first Classic Le Mans was in 2006, when little brother and I took my old 911 SC Cabriolet down to Le Mans, in convoy with other 911s including a 3.2 Carrera and 964RS. With no more than 60,000 people attending the 2006 event, it was a really terrific weekend, apart from when we were bumped out of our hotel to a less salubrious location to keep the Aston Martin Owners’ Club happy. After that, I decided to rent a house and share it with friends in future. We did that in 2008 and for my most recent Le Mans Classic in 2010, and it proved to be the perfect solution.
2010 was a boiling hot year on track: the soles of my shoes were melting in the paddock. With 96,000 people and their cars attending that weekend, traffic was a nightmare all around the city. My Orange Carrera 3.0 arrived with no fresh air blower, having burned it out in the Alps a few days earlier, and Jamie’s Renault 8 also suffered from fuel boiling all weekend. It was still great to see so many friends, but a far cry from the relaxed atmosphere of 2016.
When the weather is not too hot, the atmosphere throughout a Le Mans Classic weekend is terrific – especially if you go down with a big group of friends – but the racing can be quite hard to follow, as the long lap spreads the field out and gives little impression of the battles taking place on track. The racing is closer at some of Europe’s many other historic festivals, including the Spa 6 Hours and Zandvoort Historic Grand Prix.
All things considered, I can understand why so many people return to the Le Mans Classic every two years. It is a great start to a touring holiday in France, and family men can just about get away with it if they rent a house nearby with a pool for the wife and kids to hang out in.
For me, three years watching the racing satisfied my desire to experience spectating at Le Mans for the racing eras I am most interested in. There are lots of other historic racing weekends across Europe with plenty of Porsche content and equally open access to the paddocks, where traffic jams and overheating engines are not the order of the day, so I have been to quite a few of those in the years since my last Le Mans Classic.
Reference: Ferdinand Blog found here.