Motor Sport is gathering an array of Le Mans cars for January’s Autosport International. Here’s just a taster of what’s in store...
Every summer, on a weekend in mid-June, the faithful gather at sea ports along the Channel coast, some to continue their journey through France by train, others by car along those swooping tree-lined roads south through Normandy and on down to Le Mans, the little town made famous by its motor race.
The Vingt-Quatre Heures du Mans has always captured the imagination of the British, right from the days of the Bentley boys, into the Jaguar days, through the glorious Ferrari era, the challenge by Ford, then the Porsche years and now in a period dominated by Audi. There is a fascination with the constant battles for supremacy between the world’s great car manufacturers.
Le Mans is not unique, of course. There are other 24 hour races but there is something magical about the Mulsanne straight and the pomp and ceremony that only the French can bring to such an occasion.
That’s why we at Motor Sport are hosting a celebration of this classic race at the Autosport International Show at the NEC in January. Our special exhibition will present one of the best displays of Le Mans cars ever assembled in one place. And there will be drivers too, reunited with the cars that either took them to victory or let them down within sight of the finish.
No celebration of the race is complete without the C-Type Jaguar that headed home a 1-2-4 finish for the Coventry team in 1953. This car was famously raced by Duncan Hamilton and his co-driver Tony Rolt; the first men to achieve an average of more than 100mph at La Sarthe.
Hamilton’s son Adrian owns the car. “It was the first win for a car with disc brakes as well,” tells Adrian. “My father broke his nose when a bird shattered the windscreen but he battled on to win. The orange they kept on board for refreshment remains untouched and is still in the car.”
And there’s more...
The Autosport International Show comes at just the right time of year. Christmas has come and gone, another New Year has been celebrated and still there’s another three months until a new racing season is properly under way. So, in the bleak mid-winter of January, any excuse to get back among racing folk and racing machinery is most welcome.
The NEC at Birmingham may not be the most romantic of locations in which to catch up with all the new cars and the latest gossip but at least it has trains, ’planes and roads within a very short distance of its doors. The inter-city train stops within the NEC complex itself.
The show seems to get better every year and ’07 looks like being no different. Autosport International always produces rabbits from its hat, whether it be the launch of a new racing car or the appearance of a superstar driver to sign his name for the huge number of fans who surround the stage in the main arena. In recent years the Live Action area has become increasingly popular with television personalities winding up the action on an indoor track. The karting is a big attraction too, and here you can have a go yourself by way of a change from wandering through myriad exhibits and stalls.
And make sure you come and visit Motor Sport at our special exhibition of Le Mans winners.
Le Mans icons at the show
1930 Bentley 4½ litre supercharged (DNF)
1935 Aston Martin 1.5 Ulster LM (finished 12th)
1953 Jaguar C-type (race winner)
1956 Jaguar D-type
1964 Ferrari 330P (finished third)
1968 Ford GT40
1969 Lola T70 Mk3B (DNF)
1972 Matra MS670
1978 Alpine Alpine-Renault A442B
1979 Ferrari 512BBLM
1982 Porsche 956 Rothmans T-car
1988 Jaguar XJR-9 (race winner)
1988 Porsche 962C (finished second)
1990 Toyota 90CV (finished sixth)
1990 Nissan R90CK works car (DNF)
1992 Peugeot 905B
1993 Jaguar XJ220C
2003 Bentley EXP Speed 8 (race winner)
2005 Audi R8 (finished third)