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2013 Le Mans Legend report
A legendary challenge


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Chris Harris


Lister Le Mans Coupé


Le Mans


2013 Le Mans Legend

Chris Harris, Lister Le Mans Coupé, 2013 Le Mans Legend

To many historic racing cars, Le Mans is posing a real challenge. Last year’s washed out Le Mans Legend race proved to be very hard on the Group C cars, but this year’s edition of the traditional support race to the 24 Hours was tough as well, both in the wet and the dry.

Sharp/Briggs Aston Martin DB2 getting a visual check-over, with Michael Ehrlich's Bizzarrini 5300 GT and Jason Wright's Alfa Romeo TZ1 in the back. (photo 8W)

And it’s only logical, since Le Mans has the longest straights, the fastest corners, chicanes taking everything out of your brakes, and kerbs really testing your suspension. Le Mans is no Silverstone, not even Spa. Qualifying for the Le Mans Legend already bore out how hard the circuit is on cars. From Jaguar engines exploding on their warm-up lap, the Maserati Tipo 151 suffering from failing bearings and faulty electrics to a Lola Mk1 needing gearbox treatment – the post-qualifying paddock was a hive of activity. Friday was gladly taken by many team as an additional day to get things done, even though some people were only keeping themselves busy. One team didn’t really need its AC Cobra engine change but felt the other engine was down on power, and since they had nothing else to do on the Friday…

Will Pembroke/Rupert Ivey Jaguar D-type, David Clark's Lotus Elite and Roger Wills' Iso Bizzarrini 5300 GT side-by-side in the Le Mans Legend paddock. (photo 8W)

So the circuit itself is a true car breaker, with five of the 60-odd cars failing to set a time while over 20 cars needed repairs of some sort after qualifying. The race added some genuine Le Mans weather, which has become almost predictable in its inpredictability. A drizzle, a quick flash of the sun, followed by a thunderstorm, and on changing locations spread all over the circuit – it’s the usual one-hour recipe. Since the sticky Avon tyres weren’t allowed by organisers Motor Racing Legends, the drivers had to work hard on their regulation Dunlops to prevent their cars from simply drifting off-track. Especially the high-powered cars were suffering, their massive torque causing wheelspin even in fourth or fifth gear. Further back in the field, the lesser experienced drivers almost spun at will. It must have been frightening for motoring journalist Chris Harris as well, who made his racing debut at Le Mans at the wheel of a fearsome Lister Le Mans Coupé. Speaking to us on Friday, he lauded the engine’s driveability and that was surely a welcome feature during this race. Undoubtedly the most spectacular exit from the race came from Paul Chase-Gardener who left Indianapolis at full speed, rolling his Aston Martin DB2/4 as it bit into the gravel trap. The red Aston finally landed on its driver side, but too close to the tyre wall to be simply pushed back onto its wheels. It thus took quite a while to extract Chase-Gardener from his awkward position. Fortunately, he was unhurt.

The Gareth Burnett Elva GT160 amidst the pleasant chaos of the Le Mans Legend paddock. (photo 8W)

Alex Buncombe and his Lister-Jaguar ‘Costin’ proved to be the combination of car and driver best able to deal with the changing conditions. Having started from pole, the Brit opened up a nine-second gap on the first lap, in no small way aided by Gary Pearson outbraking himself into the Dunlop chicane, the result of which was that his D-type prevented the entire rest of the field to immediately chase after the Lister in the lead. On a drying track, the glorious Joe Colasacco-driven Maserati Tipo 151 and Ludovic Caron’s Cobra Daytona Coupé used their engine power to claw back the gap to Buncombe, but slow pitstops at the half-way mark ruined their chances. The rain that came down after the pitstops now continued unabatedly, and helped Buncombe to build on his 14-second lead. Truly dominating the second half of race, Buncombe eased out a 43-second gap to Jon Minshaw’s Lister ‘Knobbly’. The man who had already been the man of the moment at the 2012 Le Mans Classic and Goodwood Revival, again used his Lister ‘Costin’ to good effect to add another blue-riband historic win to his impressive tally.

Paddock atmosphere of the 2013 Le Mans Legend race

The 90-year anniversary edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours gave reason to many celebrations. Apart from the Le Mans museum itself, a special pavillion was erected to honour several of the most glorious Le Mans-winning cars. We went to take a look.

Celebrating 90 years of the Vingt-Quatre Heures: the Porsche Salzburg 1970-winning Herrmann/Attwood Porsche 917. (photo 8W)

Pictures from the Legend pavillion