La Centenaire du Mans Historique

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Unless you have been living on Mars for the past year, you’ll know that this year is the one hundredth since the first Le Mans 24-hour event took place.  Peter Auto decided this was going to be the big one, so, instead skipping an uneven year, the event took place for the second consecutive year to celebrate the Centenary.  Over 800 competition cars, countless numbers of club cars and enthusiasts’ cars, and a record number of 235,000 spectators turned up for the occasion, with all the household names of historic racing present, many on the podium.  

Plateau 5 in the night. The night races were particularly evocative Photos Christophe Jouniaux & Bruno Vanvelde/MPSA Courtesy Peter Auto

The cost of entering and running a car is high, which may explain why the entry did not seem to have the ultimate lustre one would expect from such an important anniversary.  At least, that was the impression on first sight of the entry lists of the standard six plateaux.  However, the support races, starting with the Endurance Racing Legends, seemed to be brimming with quality, so it may just be a change or evolution in the interest patterns of those who have the necessary budgets to acquire these cars.  Then again, it could be the elephant in the room of simply far too many events competing for space in an already overcrowded calendar. 

Gareth Burnett occupied two steps of the same podium driving two Talbots in Plateau 1

As always there were six basic Plateaux constituting the core event, but this year with ever more support races added on.  We are used to one for Porsches and for Endurance Legends but this time there were two for the latter category.  In addition, because of the venue and anniversary, there was also a Bentley race organised by Benjafields, most of the participants having driven from London, as well as not only one, but an extra sprint race on the Sunday morning as well, for Group C.

Harrison Newey/Joe Macari/Christian Hore finished second in Plateau 2

Perhaps what will be seen in future as the most momentous innovation for historic racing, was that PeterAuto, in collaboration with Aramco, was able to provide synthetic fuel for almost half the enormous field.  Electric cars watch out, possibly, hopefully.

Several names from the past also took part in the event with ex-Ferrari F1 driver Rene Arnoux in one of a team of little Renault 4CVs from the early 1950s.  As Bentley’s designated ambassador, Derek Bell took part in the Bentley race.  French stars from the past, most taking part in Endurance Racing Legends, were Henri Pescarolo and Emmanuel Collard in one of the former’s creations and Yannick Dalmas back in a Mclaren F1 GTR, whilst Gerard Larrousse was in a Porsche 917 in Plateau 5.  Nicolas Minassian was in a Lola T298 and both Emanuele Pirro and Eric van de Poele were in Plateau 4 Ford GT40s.  Tennis star Rafael Nadal dropped the starting flag for the first Plateau.

Group C Racing

Read a detailed report of the racing and surrounding activities in our August 2023 Issue..


Only at Le Mans Classic do you see wonderful cars like this D.B HBR racing


They made it happen: Pierre Fillon of the ACO, principal sponsor Richard Mille and Patrick Peter

Adrian Wilmott gets a hand in his Blower Bentley

Rafael Nadal flagged away the first grid

When there was no racing, parades and demonstrations kept the track alive throughout the weekend, so there was never a dull moment. Here ‘Le Monstre’ the extraordinary 1950 Cadillac entered by Brigs Cunningham was part of the parade for cars that raced here in period

Photo Peter Baker

These stories are all from the pages of Historic Motor Racing News.  Some have been abbreviated for this web site.  If you'd like to receive the full version, please visit our subscription page where you will find postal subscriptions available.  A full subscription also entitles you to access the current issue online (available soon), so you can take it with you and read it anywhere, and we are working on providing full access to our archives of back issues exclusively for our subscribers.