Organisers Peter Auto have announced a provisional entry list for July’s Le Mans Classic, an impressive 490-cars entered across the six categories, ach representing a defined time period in the history of the Le Mans 24-Hour race and covering the period from 1923 to 1981.
As ever priority has been given to cars that have actually raced in the event in their particular era, and for each grid ten reserves take part in the day and night-time practice sessions to be ready to fill a place left vacant by the withdrawal or retirement of another car. A Le Mans-type start as used between 1925 and 1969 will be given for grids one to four, with drivers running across the track to their cars, while the two most modern categories having rolling starts.
Track action begins on Friday 8th of July with practice and qualifying for the Le Mans Classic runners as well as the support races which include the popular Group C series and a race for Jaguar XK models. The support series race on Saturday the 9th of July prior to the start of the Classic itself, the Group Cs racing at 11.45am local time.
GRID 1 (1923-1939)
Some classic cars that represented famous makes which raced at Le Mans in the pre-war era are entered, including Alfa Romeo 8Cs, 2-litre Speed Aston Martins, 4.5-l Bentleys, BMW 328s, Bugatti 35s, 37s and 51s, Invicta S and the LG 45 and V12 Le Mans Lagonda and several works Talbot 105s representing the make’s entry for the race in successive years.
Among the numerous models entered is an Ulster Aston Martin that finished eighth in 1935, an ex-works 3-litre Speed Bentley from 1925, the 1932 Citroën C4 Roadster, the make’s only entry in the Le Mans 24 Hours, the Delage D6-70 Special, fourth overall and first in its category in 1937, an ex-offset single-seater Lago Talbot, which raced in the 1941, 1946 and 1947 Indianapolis 500, and then went on to finish second in the 1950 Le Mans 24-Hours.
Over the years this grid has been enriched by lesser- known cars that are still very interesting from an historical point of view: MG Magnette K3, Morgan 4/4, Brooklands Riley, Singer Le Mans, HRG 1500 and a 1938 Peugeot 402 Darl’mat.
GRID 2 (1949-1956)
The post-war period marked a turning point in car technology with better developed engines and more attention paid to aerodynamics. The result was faster cars entered by increasingly professional works teams with some famously close the on-track battles.
This grid features Aston Martin DBs, Jaguar C, D and XKs, Maserati 300 S and A6 GCSs, Austin Healey 100 Ms, Lancia Aurelias, Lotus IX and XIs, Porsche 356s and Triumph TR2s. Among the cars one in particular stands out, the D-Type Jaguar that won the 1955 Le Mans 24 Hours in the hands of British drivers Mike Hawthorn and Ivor Bueb. This year it will be driven by a real Le Mans 24-Hours specialist, Andy Wallace victorious in the Sarthe in 1988 in a Jaguar XJR-9LM. In 1951 and 1953 the race was won by C-Type Jaguars, two of which will also be on the grid.
GRID 3 (1957-1961)
AC Ace Bristols, Aston Martin DB4 GTs, Austin Healey 3000s, DB HBRs, Chevrolet Corvette C1s, a Cooper Monaco T49, Ferrari 250 GT Berlinettas, Lister Jaguars, a horde of Lotus XIs, XVs, Elite, a Maserati 300 S, MGAs, Morgan+4, an Osca 1600 GT Zagato, Panhard CDs, Porsche 356 A, B and 550 Spyders, a Tojero Climax and a Triumph TR3 make up the core of grid 3.
Among cars to watch out for the spectators is the unique Lister Jaguar ‘‘Flat Iron’’ from 1958, a Lister Jaguar Knobbly, a rare Peerless GT, which won its class in 1958, a Deep Sanderson 301, an ex- Le Mans 1958 MGA Twin Cam as well as a Triumph TR3S from 1959, only three of which were built by the factory in this specific configuration.
GRID 4 (1962-1965)
This grid illustrates the increase in the number of America-built cars entered for the Sarthe event as it includes several GT40s, Shelby Cobra 289s Shelby GT 350s and Chevrolet Corvette C1s & C2s. Among these are numerous ex-Le Mans GT40s and the unique GT40 roadster.
In the pack of Cobra 289s, Michel Lecourt’s car will be one to follow as it has racked up an impressive set of results in endurance racing. Back in that era the main opposition to the American cars came from European machines and it is again the case in 2016. Leading the charge is Ferrari with a 250 LM, winner of the Sebring 12 Hours in 1964, the famous 250 GT Breadvan from 1961 and several 275 GTBs.
There are also E-Type Jaguars including chassis 49 FXN, one of the two low-drag specials built as part of the run of 12-lightweight cars produced in 1963. Porsche will be represented by numerous models including several 904/6 GTSs. Three Alpines will also be present two of which are M63s (the first car developed by the Dieppe firm for sports car racing), plus an M65 for the irrepressible Jean Ragnotti. Simca Abarths, Alfa Romeo TZs, Mini Marcos GTs, a René Bonnet Djet and a rare Elva GT 160 will add to the variety of this grid.
GRID 5 (1966-1971)
Fetauring a number of cars that raced in the 24-Hours in period, this grid has some classic entried including two Alfa Romeo T33s, a T33/2 and T33/3, a model that finished fourth in 1972 driven by Nino Vaccarella-Andrea de Adamich.
Also racing is a Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Spider NART 1972, an ex-Le Mans 312 P from 1969 and a Daytona Gr. IV. Representing the Alpine name is an A210 (a model that won its category at Le Mans from 1966 to 1969), and an A220 built to clinch outright victory, but which failed to do so. Other entries include 906, 908 and 910 Porsches, plus B8, B16, B19 and B21 Chevrons and T70, T210 and T212 Lolas.
GRID 6 (1972-1981)
The most modern of the six Le Mans Classic grids,, for 2016 its period has been extended by two years from 1979 to 1981 to bridge the gap to Group C. It comprises a number of models that marked their era starting with the Alpine A442 which, in A442B designation, gave Renault its first and so far only outright victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours driven by Didier Pironi and Jean-Pierre Jaussaud.
The A443 was part of the last generation of prototypes designed by Renault in that era in its battle for victory in the 24 Hours against its main rival, Porsche and the A443 will again be driven by Jean Ragnotti. The 1976 Inaltera, the first prototype designed by Jean Rondeau, is also on the entry list with Henri Pescarolo and Anthony Beltoise (whose father was one of the team’s works drivers at the time) at the wheel.
Rondeau will be represented by an M378, which finished ninth overall in 1978 winning the GTP category. This car holds the record for the highest number of starts in the Sarthe (10).
Another car that will attract a lot of attention is the Gulf Mirage M6 that won the Spa 1000 km in 1973. Former cars from the very popular NASCAR Championship a Ford Gran Torino and a Dodge Charger as well as a Chevrolet Monza, Porsche’s great rival in IMSA, will add the distinctive thunder of their big V8s to the music! Other entries include two Ferrari 512 BB LMs, the Moynet LM 75 and several Porsches including 924s and 935s plus BMW M1s and 3.0 CSLs, B31, B36 Chevrons, T290, T292, T298 Lolas and the De Cadenet T380.