Is Le Mans Classic the world's greatest historic race meeting?
Increased grids, more off-track entertainment, a chaotic but exciting atmosphere, and scorching weather! Classic Le Mans 2018 was the best yet
The 2018 edition of Le Mans Classic has seen the highest attendance in the history of the event, helped by the best weather of recent years, more races than ever before and the largest grids ever known – with the majority of races fielding close to 80 cars.
The addition of a 70th birthday celebration Porsche race, joining the established Jaguar Classic Challenge, the thundering Group C car race and the new Global Endurance Legend demonstration for GTs and prototypes of the 1990s and 2000s, makes for a packed programme before the traditional 4pm start of the six 'plateau' races.
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The infield areas of the event have also grown significantly, bringing in more club displays, more vendors and more entertainment, with live music and no shortage of bars. Paddocks are divided into grid entries, and there's a continual movement of cars and service vehicles around the site, mixing with the spectators with chaotic effects.
And those service vehicles... most are period, with World War 2 Jeeps and military personnel carriers commandeered to move drivers and VIPs around, a huge fleet of privately-owned VW Type 2 transporters on continual rotation around the paddock areas for drivers to jump in and out of. Then there are vintage buses, Citroën Meharis, gendarmes on classic BMWs motorcycles and swarms of scooters adding to the madness.
It all makes for a frenetic, exciting atmosphere, and there's always the chance to head outside of the permanent Bugatti circuit to view alongside the Mulsanne straight, or at legendary corners such as Tertre Rouge, Arnage and Indianapolis – though you might be surprised to find how few actually do so.
A handful of large screens catered for fans of that 'other' sporting event, the World Cup – in the sprawling club areas, the Aston Martin Owners Club attracted a large crowd of Brits for its huge screen showing the England vs Sweden game.
Much more importantly... those six races are divided by age, with classes within each plateau, making for highly varied grids. Plateau 1, for 1923-39 cars, sees diminutive Riley specials up against thundering Bentleys and Lagondas - and a 1925 Excelsior that towered over even the Bentleys.
In Plateau 2, the 1949-56 classification pitches Jaguar C- and D-types against early Porsche 356s, and more exotic machinery such as Maserati 250S, mixing with the wildcard entries such as Skoda and Deutsch-Bonnet.
Plateau 3 brings in Ferrari 250 GTs, Lister Jaguars, long-nose D-types, Maserati Birdcages and Lotus Elites, along with outrageously loud Corvette, the screaming two-stroke Saab 93B and hard-fighting Morgans and Big Healeys.
For Plateau 4, the performance differentials of the 1962-65 machinery really ramp up. Cobras, early GT40s, Ferrari 250LM, Bizzarrinis, E-types and tearing past heroic Elans, MGBs, Alpines and the like.
But it's in Plateau 5 that the excitement really ramps up. Lola T70s, GT40s and Porsche 917s dominate, but Panteras, the lovely Healey SR2 and the phenomenal Ligier JS 3 DFV all gave a great show, especially late on Saturday night.
Plateau 6 is for 1972-81, and though the Ferrari 512 BBs, BMW M1 Procars and Porsche 935 are the most recognisable, they were challenged hard by the open Chevrons and Lolas.
So, an incredible event, surely to be rated as the highlight of 2018's historic racing calendar come the end of the season. The next one is 2020 – and we'd recommend heading to the Classic rather than the 24 Hours of Le Mans if you have to choose between the two.
Final race results here.
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