Subscribe

Sign up for free

  • Get quick access to your favorite articles

  • Manage alerts on breaking news and favorite drivers

  • Make your voice heard with article commenting.

Autosport Plus

Discover premium content
Subscribe
Historics Le Mans Classic

Le Mans Classic reveals legends in technology and beauty

Some of endurance racing’s most endearing cars were back on track last weekend at the Le Mans Classic, with a record 235,000-strong crowd flocking to celebrate the Centenary of 24 Hours of Le Mans and discover truly what it means to be an icon of the sport.

The entry list was so big it was split into 10 different grids and the cars that made the biggest impact in each all had one thing in common – a combination of technological innovation and beauty that made them a fans’ favourite and also a winner on track.

As a partner of the event since it began in 2002, Richard Mille is no stranger to creating its own icons in the world of watches – just take a look at the limited-edition RM 72-01 Le Mans Classic flyback chronograph it produced in celebration of the race.

It is the creativity, precision, originality and passion involved in the design – whether that be a race-winning car or a highly tuned timepiece – that creates the ability to achieve such status – so let’s take a look at what makes last weekend’s winners so special.

Talbot AV105 – Grid 1

This extremely rare car was produced in very small numbers in the 1930s and only a few are still in action today. It was designed by one man – Georges Roesch – with a minimalistic concept designed to improve performance.

In much the same way as weight-saving materials and design are used to create modern machinery from cars to timepieces, this used innovative techniques of its day to eliminate excess rather than follow the trend of bigger engines and superchargers.

The car’s predecessor, the 14/45, was designed as a road car but its properties were seen as ideal for racing – so when the refined and more powerful 105 came along, it was no surprise Talbot’s seven works cars proved to be an on-track success.

Jaguar D-type – Grid 2/3

This car was literally designed to win Le Mans and it did so three times, from 1955 to 1957. It secured four more victories at this year’s Classic, two of which had Andy Wallace – winner of the 1988 Le Mans in the legendary Silk Cut Jaguar – behind the wheel.

 

Photo by: Richard Mille

The D-type shared the engine and many mechanical components with the preceding C-Type – which also won in Grid 2 this year – but its radical monocoque construction and unique aero design put it on another level. Like many iconic classics, be they cars or watches, it was its distinctive look – in the form of its vertical stabiliser – that made it so memorable.

Its first Le Mans success came in the year of the infamous crash, with the works Jaguars racing on to win after Mercedes pulled out. The second and third came under the Ecurie Ecosse banner, with the car filling five of the top six places in 1957.

Lister Jaguar Costin – Grid 3

This curvaceous classic was designed by Frank Costin – brother of Cosworth co-founder Mike – and only 17 were ever produced. In this year’s classic, one of its drivers was a legend himself, in the form of five-time Le Mans winner and ex-F1 driver Emanuele Pirro.

Created in 1958, it was a masterpiece in modification. Focused on designing a future multi-tube spaceframe machine, Costin worked his aerodynamic magic to improve the company’s existing design in the interim – so this car only ever had one single appearance at Le Mans.

Ford GT40 (Grid 4)

Le Mans legends do not come much bigger than this car, which came from America to break the hearts of Italian giants Ferrari in 1966. Its unforgettable story is now immortalised in films such as Steve McQueen’s ‘Le Mans’ and the more recent ‘Ford vs Ferrari.’

It may not be as beautiful as some of the cars from its Italian rivals, but like many iconic collectables, there is just something about it that makes it desirable. Just 40 inches high (hence its name) its sleek but unrefined looks took Le Mans by storm and so did its performance, with three wins on the run between 1966 and 1969.

 

Photo by: Richard Mille

These cars are now highly valuable, and the ‘appeal of real’ is made even stronger by the proliferation of replicas out there – a reminder of how iconic it really is.

Lola T70 Mk. IIIB – Grid 5

The T70 may not be a rarity compared to some other classic cars – more than 100 were made in three different forms in the late 1960s – but it is still a motorsport icon, its appeal down to the fact it is simply one of the most beautiful sports prototype cars ever built.

Its designer, Graham Broadley, had been a consultant on the Ford GT40 before helping Lola make this prettier, lighter and faster machine. Although there are many around, like any good collectable, each one has a colourful history.

As with the GT40, flattery comes in the form of imitation, and a number of companies now make replicas of this classic, making the increasingly rare originals even more desirable.

TOJ SC304 – Grid 6

This icon is more well known for its looks than its name. A Porsche in different clothing, it was designed for Jörg Obermoser (the TOJ stands for Team Obermoser Jorg) by engineers from the German marque and ran in an unforgettable gold anodised Warsteiner livery.

Just two were created (along with similar but slightly altered SC303 and SC302 machines) and after taking pole on its debut, it won soon after. It was not long, however, before Obermoser shut its doors, turning this machine into an extremely limited edition.

 

Photo by: Richard Mille

Be part of the Autosport community

Join the conversation
Previous article Radisich to race his 1994 BTCC Mondeo at Brands Hatch Super Touring event
Next article A celebration of Bentley’s story at Le Mans

Top Comments

Sign up for free

  • Get quick access to your favorite articles

  • Manage alerts on breaking news and favorite drivers

  • Make your voice heard with article commenting.

Autosport Plus

Discover premium content
Subscribe