Get ready for LeMans weekend!
Always shocking to see the stark contrast between the glitzy see-and-be-seen fanfare of today’s pits and the casual atmosphere of races of the past. Even a race like LeMans looks more like a club race weekend at your local track than the paramount international endurance event.
Lots of good footage of the LeMans race itself. Rare to see color film from this event. Even with all of the 1955 LeMans disaster documentaries and media analysis, almost everything I’ve ever seen of the race has been in black and white.
“… nothing else in the rich and varied world of motorsports means as much.”
Such a magnificent summary of the grandeur of Le Mans from the former Can Am and Formula 1 driver.
Perhaps no other event shaped the future of motorsport more than the 1955 LeMans crash that caused more than 80 spectator fatalities. Among other things, motor racing was banned in Switzerland as a result of this crash until 2007. Mercedes pulled out of the race and didn’t enter a factory-sponsored team in any race until the 80’s. Certainly track design was forever changed.
It’s not just snow-fencing, hay bales, and sitting on the curb while sportscars fly by anymore. I once paused momentarily while descending the stairs at the Michigan International Speedway during a race just to experience the sensation as a car wooshed past at 200mph only feet away. It was thrilling then, even with that handful of feet, a concrete wall, and high fencing between us. I can only imagine what it must have been like without those physical barriers there—I occasionally wish for it. But looking back at LeMans ’55 is a good reminder of why it simply cannot be. Even in today’s tracks with their 20 foot crash fences, endless runoff, and limited view for spectators, there is still an element of risk just sitting in the stands at the track.
Porsche’s 1972 LeMans garages were a buzzing environment with cars being tuned and prepared, and busy 1970s technicians with 1970s hair. Porsche’s star was bright indeed coming off of two straight years of wins and the factory was shining.
Wait a second. This doesn’t look like the workshop of a winning endurance racing team. These are the garages of the rag-tag up-and-comers in over their heads playing on a stage too big for them. These are the facilities of underdogs. I have been in lone racers’ shops that were better equipped than this.
Just look at this. This could be your garage. There’s no precision instruments here; not even a flashy (albeit utilitarian) immense tool chest larger than a kitchen counter. Just shove that table out of the way, maybe stack the chairs on it to clear up some floor room. Pull that 55 gallon drum over here so I can pop the engine up on it. Let’s start turning some wrenches.
This. This right here is why I love vintage racing. Looking at these guys, you almost get the sense that anyone could do this. That you could hatch a scheme to race in next year’s LeMans and June would roll around and you’d be there. And this is Porsche we’re talking about. Repeat this for Cooper Garages (or Lotus.. or BRM…) heading into Formula 1 and you see that the pinnacle of the sport in every corner was more likely to be filled with dedicated hot-rodders than aerospace engineers.
via Le Container
I suspect that photo opportunity that the entrance provided was not the key decision factor for the Triumph Works team when they chose the Hotel de France as their accommodations for LeMans in 1963 and 1964, but it may as well have been. I often prattle on about the lack of pit access and being able to wander amongst the teams and cars before or after the races, but this… this is something else.
Whether the factory cars were just pulled out in front of the hotel for a quick photo and then tucked back into transporters or garages and out of prying eyes, or whether they just sat out front, I don’t know. I like to think it’s the latter. The idea of the team cars just sitting out for a night before one last shakedown run on the hour drive to La Sarthe is too wonderful a notion to not daydream about.
Incidentally, Hotel de France’s Facebook page seems to demonstrate their continuing close relationship with vintage motoring and frequently hosts classic car tours.
Photos via Hotel de France. Thanks for sending these in, Willem!
Let’s ride along with team Triumph at the 1961 LeMans 24 Hours race, shall we? I don’t know why every TR4 owner doesn’t have their car painted in this livery. That huge gumball on the rear decklid is such a bold graphic statement that it makes other early-60s racing graphics immediately look so stodgy by comparison.
You know that I love seeing this track action, but the first segment of the film in the pits almost does more to place me in the era. After all, we’ll be able to attend events and see many of these very cars race again, but will be ever be able to wander the pits like this? Just another reason why I hope Goodwood’s ethos of embracing the entire era catches on with more vintage racing events.
Thanks for sending this one in, Mandy!
For the none of you that need a reminder of why the Ecurie Ecosse team and it’s iconic transporter are so important, Bonhams assembled this marvelous video with some little-seen racing footage of the team in various years of competition.
I particularly enjoy the atmosphere and anticipation in the first half of this video piece. You know that my blood gets pumping seeing these classic endurance racers on their home turf, so that really says something.
I love seeing the drivers rehearsing their leap into the car. You can almost taste their excitement that they’re actually going to do a LeMans start. They’re actually going to run across the road and fly into the pilot’s seat; reaching for the shifter and the ignition and the clutch, while somehow maneuvering into their safety belts with a HANS attached. I hope that the LeMans Classic always preserves the running start—even if only symbolically.