This is madness! No this is Le Mans Classic 2016!

Is the hot temperature responsible for such an incredible Le Mans Classic 2016? The fair weather helped a lot. For everything else, you just had to enjoy the amount of cars gathered and the talent (or its absence) of the drivers.

This week will be dedicated to Le Mans Classic, because there is a lot to share about such an event. We will start with a general presentation.

Out of the track, impossible to decide where to go at Le Mans Classic 2016

Let’s begin with what was available out of the track. Classics are here, from everywhere! It starts from the campsites of Le Mans Classic 2016, especially in the Camping du Houx, where were gathered most of the racing teams.

Then, we reached the Bugatti race track. The “small” circuit of Le Mans welcomed clubs. There was any kind of car you could like. Once again the Porsche club was the largest here, with more than 1,000 cars.

The other clubs set up all around the track. Some of them presented a large amount of cars, like the GT40 club. Some “multibrand” clubs brought a lot of cars as well. Their members might have been attracted by the driving sessions available (I was in one of them, and it’s really enjoyable).

At the end of the club area, you could find a large area gathering Alpines, including the latest Vision concept. They were facing Porsches that escaped the Museum to be exposed here and the huge tent of Arcturial.
The Parisian auction house chose Le Mans Classic 2016 for a beautiful sale. The Ferrari 250 GT SWB went over €7 millions but didn’t reach the reserve price… We’ll talk about the sale soon.

Behind, there was an area that you could easily miss. It was recreating a queue on the Nationale 7 road and a little 50’s campsite.

Let’s enter the paddocks. You had to pay an extra fee to be able to enter, and had to present your pass to enter. However, there is a little issue, there are far too many people authorized to enter for the teams to work with enough space. It’s hard for the audience to see the cars, with such a crowd. For the “stars”, like the Ford GT40 or the Ferrari 250 LM, we had to try several times during the week-end to be able to get pictures.
The Group C had a huge tent on the Bugatti circuit, however, they only got there on Saturday evening, spending most of the time in the paddocks instead.

The activity in the pit lane was worth looking at, as well. There were two ways of enjoying it: fighting your vertigo directly above, or on the other side of the track.

On the other side of the paddocks, you could find the Village. It gathered artists, part sellers, clothing, books, etc. Anything for the car enthusiasts, luckily they were everywhere!

On the upper side of the Village, you could find the Le Mans Héritage Club show. It featured cars that raced Le Mans throught the ages.

Car manufacturers offered nice shows as well. Alfa Romeo/Fiat were introducing the new Giulia and new 124 alongside some of their most known ancestors, while BMW was celebrating its 100th anniversary. You could also enjoy the car transporter show, set by the FFVE. You could see the Ferrari lorry that you can see quite often at Retromobile, or the famous Ecurie Ecosse lorry carrying a Jaguar D-Type.

On Friday, it was quite easy to move from one point to another and enjoy the visit. However, on Saturday and Sunday, it was really hard to move, unless you were an early bird.

On the track of Le Mans Classic 2016

This definitely was the main attraction of Le Mans Classic 2016. Any off-track ride, any overtaking, any contact was followed by cheers. We will provide you the results of each grid in the days to come.

Let’s start with the two grids that were somehow out of the competition during Le Mans Classic 2016. However, they were not out of the show. The first one was probably the most expected grid: the Groupe C Racing. There were a lot of cars that made the glory of the 24 Hours between 1982 and 1992. If 48 contenders were planned, “only” 42 actually raced. The absence of Jaguar was particularly noticeable. So was the absence of the Mazda 787B, which won 25 years ago.
The cars were capricious. And when you see how many people are needed just to start one, you understand why the Sauber-Mercedes spent such a little time on track, why the Lancia LC2 did not join the actual race or why the Nissan R90 CK did not finish, despite leading the race. In the end, the reliable but fast Porsche 962 ruled the race.

The other out of competition grid was dedicated to Jaguar. the XK engine dominated that race, with D-Types competing against C-Types, E-Types and several XK. It was neither the most impressive nor the most expected grid, but it offered a really nice race with really nice cars, even if they were competing in other grids.

They were followed by the “real” races of Le Mans Classic 2016. Let’s start with Grid 1, dedicated to cars that ran Le Mans when tarmac was an unknown product. Some of them even raced with their soft-top, which had to stay in place for the whole race back in the day. If not, they were disqualified, according to the regulations. The cars are real road colossi and the drivers have to grasp the steering wheel in order to drive them properly, even when they are sliding.
As a bonus, those cars had a “Le Mans” start. Even if it was only a simulation that didn’t really open the race. The cars gathered behind the safety car before a more conventional running start. Talbots, Aston Martins and Lagondas were then unleashed, pursued by the other contenders (including some Bentleys or Lorraine Dietrich).

The cars from Grid 2 came from post-WWII. There was a huge amount of Porsche 356s, racing against Jaguar C-Types and D-Types, Maseratis, Lancias, Aston Martins or even a few Ferraris. Some Austin Healeys, Morgans, Lotus XI, and some less common cars such as Callista, DB HBR, Morreti or Allard allowed the grid to offer a nice variety of cars. Concerning the trajectories, it was really variable, some drivers were clean, some left the bast line to avoid being hit, some were enjoying long slides, and others were more… amateur!

The Grid 3 was dominated by a battle for the first places between Jaguar D-Types, Maserati Birdcages and Tojeiro Jaguar. The cars were faster, the sound was more invasive, espacially for the Listers. This grid was a little more balanced, allowing nice duels on the track.
It was a real show, quick and closely fought. Contacts between cars did not seem to be an issue.

The Grid 4 gathered “regular” cars that we see in the Tour Auto every year. The drivers know each other and they did not hesitate to battle fiercely. Usually, you see a brawl between Shelby Cobras and Jaguars E-Types, joined by Ford GT40s from time to time.
However, the long straights of Le Mans give a huge advantage to the Americans. We saw regularly four GT40s at the first places, far ahead of the E-Types that could not use their natural agility to counter the raw power of the Fords. They were followed by Porsche 904s, Morgans and Porsche 911s, and the small Alpine M63 and M65.
It was the last grid to enjoy the Le Mans start, since the next ones never knew it, with the change of regulations.

With the Grid 5, we get closer to what Le Mans looks like nowadays. The Porsche 911s were occupying the GT class, alongside the Corvettes, Chevrons and Ligier JS1. Its big sister, the JS2, was here as well, fighting ahead. There were two Porsche 917s, cars we don’t see much in that kind of event.
They were competing against Lola T70 MkIIIs that we see more often, like at the Grand Prix de l’Age d’Or, where only withdrawal could keep them away from winning. The were followed by smaller Lolas, Chevrons, Porsche 906s or even an Alpine A220.

The Grid 6 was gathering the most recent cars. Once again, there were a lot of Porsche 911, but they were not alone. In the GT category, they were battling against Ferrari BB512 LMs, BMW 3.0 CSLs or even Lancia Beta Gr V. But those were not the most interesting Porsches in that grid. You had to look ahead, with the impressive 935s and their astonishing acceleration. And even further ahead the 936 that was faster than more modern cars!
The sound of the cars was just incredible in that grid. In particular, the Matra MS660, with its V12 offered a high pitch really different from the rough sound of the other cars. That grid was the most enjoyable at night, with the flames going out of the reddened exhausts!

Here is was we enjoyed at Le Mans Classic 2016. Peter Auto offered a really nice time, luckily without rain. Le Mans Classic confirmed its status of main classic car event in France.It’s definitely worth coming at least once.

Several posts will follow soon. Stay tuned!

Posted by Pierre in Non classé, Past events, 2 comments

Grand Prix de l’Age d’Or 2016 : a nice success for nice cars

Last week-end, between Spa Classic and Le Mans Classic, race cars from any era were gathered at the Dijon-Prenois circuit for the Grand Prix de l’Age d’Or 2016. It was once again a success, but it’s not chance.

Throughout the week, organizers, drivers and audience checked the sky. With the bad weather in France the previous days, it was likely to rain during the weekend. It would be a shame if it did…

Fortunately, the Grand Prix de l’Age d’Or 2016 nearly avoided all the showers. The sky was grey, but since Friday afternoon, rain was replaced by clouds and a dry track.

Friday the audience was small, but it was a bunch of enthusiasts. There was only a few car in the club area as well. However, it was radically different the next day. Collectors saved the date for the Grand Prix de l’Age d’Or 2016. People came to see the Group C cars and the clubs. However, there were less people and cars than last year, due to the weather conditions. “Only” 14,000 people came this year!

The owners who had registered beforehand could drive on the circuit, during club driving sessions. Their speed was far lower than the race cars, but it’s not really usual to drive on the track of Dijon-Prenois.

For the Grand Prix de l’Age d’Or 2016, the footbridge leading to the inside of the Parabolique  was open, like the access to the southern part, for the first time in a long while. The audience could go all around the circuit to see the cars.

For those who are curious about the engineering behind those marvelous cars. The paddocks were open to the public. You could see the mechanics work on the cars having issues, or just setting them up.

The main show of the Grand Prix de l’Age d’Or 2016 is obviously on the track. Let’s start with the most expected group, the Group C cars. Even if some of them did not attend to every session (I could not see the Lancia LC2 race), some played the game. The speed is astonishing and the drivers don’t hesitate to attack. There is hardly any overtaking due to the difference of performance. However the sound of the cars is just staggering. The better demonstration comes from the Peugeot 905 and its engine that could have been in a F1 (the displacement is the same than the V10 F1 engine). Results will come in another post.

The small Formula Junior were not eagerly-awaited. Their aura is quite faint, even if they had some famous beginning drivers behind the wheel. However they provided an enjoyable show, their small size allowing overtaking and their relative grip offering some nice figures.

They were followed by two touring car groups. The first group, U2TC, featured the “small” cars with an engine of less than 2 liter. Minis, Alfa Rome Giulias and Giulia GTs, BMW 1800 and the Ford Lotus Cortinas were still in the first places and still fast! There were a lot of overtakings and it’s not that simple with a car that slides in every corner.

The Heritage Touring Cup gathered cars of bigger displacement, but those were definitely the Queens of touring car championships. The Ford Escorts and Capris are the fastest and the stay ahead. You could find BMW 635s, 530s, et 2002s, Volvos, and even a Volkswagen Sirocco.

Then we could watch the oldest cars, gathered for the Trophée Légende. This group was recreated by Peter Auto for the Grand Prix de l’Age d’Or 2016. It gathered the stars of the 1930s: Bugatti Type 35, Maserati 8CM, Alfa Romeo 8C 2300s, including a Zagato and a Monza. To sum it up, cars you can not believe they can be this fast despite their age!

Of you enjoy Italian cars from the 50-60s, the Trofeo Nastro Rosso is made for you. Only cars related to Italy, but not only Italalian cars, some Porsche 356 Carrera Abarth were there. You could find a lot of Ferraris, mainly 275s and 250s.

The event also featured three groups of endurance cars.The  Classic Endurance Racing 1 gathered GT cars from 1966 to 1974 and prototypes from 1966 to 1971.

The CER 2 gathered GT cars from 1975 to 1981 and prototypes from 1972 to 1981. It was a real show, GTs were fighting against the slowest prototypes. You could see a lot of Chevron, Lola or Porsche 911. The races were really entertaining and the victory was determined only at the last minutes, despite the length of the race sessions.

The last endurance group was the  Sixties Endurance. It was THE race to see Saturday, in the late afternoon for two hours. A lot of teams from the Tour Auto were there, even if some cars were missing. I suppose they were saving them for Le Mans Classic, next month. There was a lot of cars on track, 60. Between the battles for the different places and the traffic to overtake, there was no time to get bored. The Shelby Cobras, Jaguar E-types were leading, fighting against a Bizzarrini. The race saw several safety car interruptions.

The Grand Prix de l’Age d’Or 2016 has now ended and we can not wait to see the cars once more at Le Mans. Concerning Dijon, let’s pray for a better weather next year.

Our 1900 photos of the Grand Prix de l’Age d’Or 2016 are available in our gallery here.

Posted by Pierre in Non classé, Past events, 0 comments

Car in the spotlight : Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta

While the Tour Auto is coming, and one of them is registered for the race, we offer you to (re)discover the Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Tour de France.

Genesis of the Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta

Everything starts in 1955, Armando Zampiero wins the italien sports car championship with a Mercedes-Benz 300SL. Ferrari, which is upset about being beaten on its own ground, develops a new car for the GT category and introduces it in the beginning in 1956.

That’s how the Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta is created. It has been designed by Pininfarina and is built by Scaglietti, whose workshop was closed to the Ferrari plant. The chassis is based on the Ferrari 250 GT Boano, a long wheel-base (2600 mm). Its main advantage is that the car has been produced to the necessary number to be hoùmologated by the FIA in the GT category.

Technically, the Colombo V12 is kept, with its 3 liter displacement (250 cm³ per cylinder, hence the name).It is fed by 3 Weber double carburetors. It develops 230 to 260 hp, depending on the settings. The chassis shares a lot of elements with the regular 250 GT, including the tubular treillis frame and the rear drum brakes, but the front axle is suspendent thanks to coil springs.

To obtain a Berlinetta (two-seater in Italian) the passenger compartment is reduced, the quipment is minimal and the windows are now in Plexiglas. The car weight is reduced to 1,180 kg, allowing a top speed of 162 mph and 0 to 60 in 10,3 seconds.

Only 14 cars are built by Scaglietti, a few cars being built by Zagato.

1956, the Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta debuts

The history of the Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Tour de France is linked to the spanish pilot Alfonso de Portago. Born in a spanish noble family, he is noticed in 1954 and 1955 seasons, driving 4-cylinder sport cars and also Lancia D50s, bought by Ferrari and competing in the F2 category.

In 1956, he is one of the core drivers of Ferrari and gets pretty good results, mainly in fall. Driving the blue Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta 0557GT, shown in the post, he wins the Tour de France Automobile. Gendebien driving a “regular” 250 GT takes the third place, confirming Ferrari was on fire.
On top of that victory, De Portago wins the Coupes du Salon, on Montlhéry track, with the same chassis.

The Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta is upgraded at the end of the season, with the addition of air routings and a modified bodywork.
The car will be once again modified in spring, with 3 vents on the rear quarter panel. At the Mille Miglia, De Portago dies, therefore leaving his title…
Ferrari keeps getting outstanding results: Gendebien and Frère win the 12 Hours of Reims, driving a car from the Francorchamps team, ahead of Hill and Seidel, and Gino Munaron, driving Ferrari 250 GT Berlinettas too.

In the end of the year, the Tour de France is once again a perfect playground for Ferrari. Gendebien and Bianchi win for the Francorchamps team, ahead of two other Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta !
Like in 1956, the winner also grabs the first place at the Coupes du Salon.

In 1958, the cars get the first place at the 3 Hours of Pau and honorable places at the 12 Hours of Reims and the 12 Hours of Sebring.
Once again, the Tour de France is won by Gendebien et Bianchi gagnent une nouvelle fois la course, and the ohter Ferrari 250 GT Berlinettas get the thrid, fourth and fifth place !


In 1959, the cars are driven on the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans. Beurly and Eldé for the Ecurie Nationale Belge get the third place ahead of Pilette and Arrens for the North American Racing Team. This second car is actually a 250 GT Interim Berlinetta. It keeps the long wheel-base but the body is the same as the upcoming SWB.
At the Tour de France, Gendebien and Bianchi win again at the wheel of their Berlinetta. Four victories in a row for the Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta definitively make it worth of its alias “Tour de France”.

The new SWBs will get the upper hand over the Berlinettas for the following years. At the end, the car gets its last victory at the Mille Miglia in 1961, driven by Gunnar Anderson.

The Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Tour de France, nowadays

This car is quite rare, and it’s quite hard to come across one. Our colleague Nicolas of Arthomobiles keeps a record (in French) of every 250 GT he met.

Regarding its auction price, the blue car in this post has been sold for $13,200,000 last summer, due to its history. The red one reached  £4,750,000 in fall.

Collin Kolles, former F1 team manager and now manufacturer of endurance prototypes, has registered one in the upcoming Tour Auto. We will provide you some pictures, since we will be there !

Pictures : RM Auctions, Revs Institute, News d’Anciennes.

Posted by Pierre in Cars in the spotlight, Non classé, 0 comments