Hopefully the Le Mans Classic is an event familiar to you now, but here's a brief reminder: now in its ninth running, the Classic takes place every two years and brings sportscar racers from the 1920s to the 1990s together for a weekend of competition. Those races are held during the daytime and the night, with crowds typically half the size of the 24-hour weekend. Plus there's a huge classic car show on at the same time. If that hasn't sold it to you, then nothing will; if Le Mans Classic does sound like your cup of tea, though, then rest assured it's every bit as good as it sounds.
For PH the weekend begins on Thursday, travelling down in convoy ahead of the Friday Classic Service. This year transport was provided by the Alfa Giulia Veloce and Mercedes-AMG C43; more to follow on the former in due course, but it should come as no surprise to find the latter provided the sort of unruffled, composed and comfortable drive down through France anybody would reasonably expect from a £50k Mercedes, even in pre-facelift form.
Presumably the recent update will have modernised the infotainment, and there was a tad more wind noise than expected, but even without those issues yet addressed the C43 - like all of the '43 models, in truth - offers something potent, stylish and capable. Though those after a more authentic AMG experience will remain better served by a '63 derivative.
It would arguably take a Mercedes even more exciting than a 63 AMG to really stand out in the PH Friday Service. Held again at Chateau Rive Sarthe, all in attendance were treated to glorious weather and a superb array of cars: various TVRs, Jaguars and Astons representing the UK, plus some lovely Italian exotica, made a fine day all the better.
Despite other distractions, Le Mans Classic is really all about the racing. With cars split into year-based grids and races not lasting any longer than an hour, there's always something spectacular to see throughout the weekend. More importantly, because the Classic boasts so many cars covering such a vast period of time, any motorsport enthusiast is guaranteed to see at least one thing they love over a couple of days there.
The diversity and variety is what makes the Classic such a special event, because nowhere else boasts such a broad spectrum of significant historic racing cars. From the pre-war Bugattis and Bentleys to the F1-engined Peugeot 905 and everything in between, there are dozens of Le Mans icons all crammed into one weekend. Race cars of all shapes and sizes, with engines ranging from two-cylinder to V12, all brought together in one place to relive former glories and hopefully establish some new ones, too.
To be honest, such was the heat of this Classic weekend, the late evening and night made for better viewing times than during the day. No great effort, really, especially given the improved access to paddocks and viewing areas later in the day. To watch an M1 Procar (to give just one example) being fettled behind the Le Mans pit by a group of earnest mechanics, and to then see it screaming down Mulsanne and belching flames on every upshift, is something incredible to witness.
With the cars running faster in the cooler temperatures, the racing is proper; Classic is no glorified procession. Again it's the calibre of these cars that makes the whole experience such a privilege, much as it is at Goodwood events, only on a larger scale. Lola T70s race GT40s, 911s duke it out with CSL Batmobiles, Corvettes take on Panteras and so much more. Sitting at Arnage corner with the sun going down on a glorious summer's day with the very best of 60s Le Mans racers (as was running at the time) thundering away, really is an experience like no other.
In addition, while the motorsport is the main reason to attend Le Mans Classic, there's plenty else to divert your attention to. Chiefly that's the various classic clubs in attendance over the weekend (and hosted on the Bugatti circuit), but also the incredible old cars found on the campsites. As always, the PH/1st Tickets camp didn't fail to impress, with standout cars including an Aston Martin DB7 Zagato, a Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud, some very committed campers in Caterhams and a few delightful old Mercedes SLs. Thanks to all of you for attending, and kudos for making the journey in such amazing automobiles.
So there it is, Le Mans Classic weekend. Great if you only love classic cars, fantastic if you only really love historic motorsport, and absolutely staggering if you're a fan of both. While the very high temperatures may put a few potential attendees off (along with its every-other-year scheduling, which means it always clashes with either the World Cup or European football championships), there's nothing that can compare to the Classic for sheer class of car, both on the track and off it. We'll see you there in 2020, of course.