The Le Mans Classic has always been one of Classic Grand Touring’s most popular events. We have taken a tour to every one of the Classic events since its inception in 2002.
This year was particularly special as ‘the world’s most famous race’ celebrated its centenary!
We had a fabulous entry of cars for the 2023 tour. No less than three pre-war Bentleys and a mighty 1933 Alfa Romeo 2300 8C bookended by a Ferrari Roma, Porsche GT3’s and V12 Aston Martins.
In between those extremes we had several gorgeous cars from across the ages including a stunning Talbot 105 Saloon, Jaguars in the form of E-types, a lovely XK150 as well as a C-Type and Mk 2, Porsche 911s, Ford GT40, Mercedes 230SL, Alfa Romeo 1750 GTV, classic Bentleys and Ferrari’s finest in the form of a 355 and a Testarossa.
Our tour began when we met at the Portsmouth ferry port, where our group of 35 cars boarded the overnight boat with over 300 other cars making their way to La Sarthe. It is always a fabulous spectacle – like a floating car show!
Our group had dinner on board, which always makes for a brilliant way to kick off the event and for all the participants to get to know each other.
The following morning we set off through the French countryside and headed for the famous Hotel de France for lunch via a quick coffee in the beautiful town of Combourg.
Arriving in the town square of La Chartre sur La Loir, on the doorstep of the Hotel de France, over a Le Mans weekend, is always a chaotic affair. The entire place is gridlocked with cars of all ages taking up every available space possible and motorsport fans milling around taking photos of the cars, absorbing the atmosphere, and trying to spot a famous face or two.
After a lovely lunch and briefing on the weekend, the group spilt up and we headed off in two directions.
Several peeled off to our fabulous château experience and the other group to the Ibis Styles Mulsanne hotel. Although only a three-star hotel it really is a fabulous place. It has every comfort you’d expect from a hotel in the cleanest and most simplistic way. You are surrounded by decor that, hardly surprisingly, is Le Mans-themed, seeing as it is located literally at the end of the Mulsanne straight.
Having a champagne reception and dinner on the terrace overlooking the end of the Mulsanne Straight, whilst the cars are qualifying, is quite possibly one of the best motorsport experiences we’ve ever had.
Our chateau guests were looked after in royal fashion and had such a good time they even landed up cooking dinner with the owners of the chateau on the Sunday evening.
The following two days were spent at the circuit. Our Classic Grand Touring club area on the Bugatti Circuit is always a hive of activity and located in the heart of all the other clubs present, with over 8,500 cars, really immersed everyone in the event, even if some spent two hours trying to get into the circuit on Saturday morning.
Track laps, a catered hospitality marquee, dedicated centre circuit parking, grandstand tickets, paddock access, fabulous picnic baskets for lunch and a three-course dinner in the VIP Suite overlooking the main straight on Saturday evening are all part of the Classic GT package.
And this year, the organisers of The Classic pushed the boat out in terms of the on-track action. Apart from their incredible racing grids of only the best cars representing the various era’s of endurance racing, to celebrate the centenary there was a truly astonishing 86-strong display and live track demonstration of cars that either won or played a significant part in the Le Mans race over the last 100 years.
And if that wasn’t enough, the Benjafields Racing Club served up a record 76 pre-war WO Bentley race, which for many was the highlight of the whole weekend, especially the Brits who were in attendance!
Always a great time, the Le Mans Classic delivered once again, perhaps the biggest and best ever, as we believe this to be event architect Patrick Peter’s swan song before retiring. But the event’s future cannot be brighter and we can’t wait for 2025!