When the 2016 Le Mans Classic returns to famed Circuit de la Sarthe on 8-10 July, spectators will have an opportunity to see the cars that took part in the Le Mans 24 Hours between 1923 and 1993. And not only that, as many drivers will use the event to once again get back behind the wheel.
Of the nine former winners down to drive, the man with the highest number of victories is Emanuele Pirro, five-time winner of the race with Audi (2000, 2001, 2002, 2006 and 2007). The popular Italian will be driving an Alfa Romeo T33/3 (1969), a Lola T290 (1972) and a Lancia Beta Gr.V (1979). Out on the track he may come across his former teammate, Marco Werner, three-time winner of the Le Mans 24 Hours, who is also entered to drive three different cars: a Lotus IX (1955), a Maserati T63 Birdcage (1961) and a Maserati A6 GCS Barchetta (1954). Current works Porsche driver Romain Dumas, first in the 2010 race in an Audi, will compete in Group C Racing with a Porsche 962C.
In homage to his father Jean-Pierre who died last year, Julien Beltoise will race in grid 6 with Henri Pescarolo — who holds the record for the number of entries (33) — in the same Inaltera that he drove with Jean-Pierre in 1976. Another driver who spearheaded the Matra attack in the early ’70s, Gérard Larrousse, the current president of the Drivers’ Club, is back at the wheel of a Porsche 550 Spyder (1958). Eric Hélary, a hero of Peugeot’s historic triple in 1993 will share his time between a Chevrolet Corvette C3 (1970), a Lancia Beta Gr.V (1979) and an Alfa Romeo T 33 TT (1971).
Andy Wallace, who won the race in 1988 in a Jaguar, remains faithful to the Coventry make as he will be at the wheel of a D-Type (1955). The Englishman is among the drivers who have raced in the event on multiple occasions with 19 starts. But his former teammate in 1988 Jan Lammers from Holland, entered in an Austin-Healey 3000, has racked up more starts than Wallace as he has 22 to his name, the same score as Emmanuel Collard who is racing in the Le Mans 24 Hours for the 22nd time this year. At Le Mans Classic he will be tackling the long circuit in a Porsche 908/3 (1971) and a 911 Turbo RSR (1974).
Other outright winners Jochen Mass (1989) and Gijs van Lennep (1971 and 1976) are back in a De Tomaso Pantera Gr. IV (1971), a Porsche 911 RSR 3L (1974) and a Porsche 908 LH (1968), respectively. A number of class winners will also be on the grid including Casper Elgaard, first in the LM P2 category in 2009, in a 1964 Porsche 904 as well as John Fitzpatrick, Ralf Kelleners and Uwe Alzen, all victorious at the wheel of Porsche 911s (1975, 1996 and 1999, respectively), who remain faithful to the Stuttgart make. Double Grand Touring winner, Raymond Narac, is at the wheel of a prototype, a Group C Porsche 962 (1987).
Many other well-know figures who have raced in the Le Mans 24 Hours are expected like David Halliday (BMW 3.0 CSL), Jean Ragnotti (Alpine M 65, Renault Alpine A443), Paul Belmondo (Ford GT 40), Chris Mac Allister, Eric De Doncker, Gareth Evans, Roald Goethe, Lucien Guitteny, Stuart Hall, Sam Hancock, David Hart, Hans Hugenholtz, Wolfgang Kaufmann, Patrice Lafargue, Franck Lagorce, Michel Lecourt, Erik Maris, Jean-Marc Merlin, Jacques Nicolet, Martin O’Connell, François Perrodo, Christian Pescatori, Frédéric Da Rocha, Lucien Rossiaud, Alain Serpaggi, John Sheldon and Pierre de Thoisy, among others.