In the early hours of Sunday morning you can hear the cacophony before the headlights come into view illuminating tents pitched just outside Indianapolis Corner. Nose to Tail, with every bit as much determination as Jackie Ickx and Jurgen Barth in 1976, a string of Porsche 936s, 512 BBLMs and Lolas flash into view, brake discs aglow and exhausts spitting fire round "Indianapolis", then "Arnage" before they disappear once more into the Forest.
The sights and sounds of Le Mans Classic cannot help but leave your jaw on the floor, there is no doubt that this Biennial event is not just one of the very best in Historic Motorsport, but one of the most spectacular events in Motorsport, this years huge attendance of 123, 000 would surely agree! 24 non-stop hours of racing, between cars of the type which ran in the Le Mans 24 Hours from 1923 to 1993 split between 6 "Plateau" with an additional Group C race and the highlight round of the Jaguar Classic Challenge. Scorching hot weather added to the enjoyment for the spectators although adding to the headache for the teams fighting to 550 race cars from overheating, sadly an unfortunate number of cars were forced into premature retirement from overheating.
DK Engineering's Acquisition Consultants James Cottingham and Harvey Stanley were both competing over the course of the weekend, Harvey in Saturday's stand alone 55 minute, "Jaguar Classic Challenge" Race in the "5 WPD" the well known Semi-Lightweight E-Type and James in two veterans of the Le Mans 24 Hour, the Scuderia Bear Ford GT40 P/1029 (Plateau 4) which entered the event in 1966, and the unique Ecurie Ecosse Tojeiro (Plateau 3) which raced at Le Sarthe in the 1959. James was also sharing the 289 Cobra of Tim Summers, a very historic car previously owned and offered for sale by DK and one that James has shared with Tim in Peter Auto events over the last 18 months and at the Spa 6 Hours in 2014 and 2015.
James and Co-Driver Andrew Smith had put the GT40 on Pole in Grid 4 by an impressive 5 seconds in both the daytime qualifying and the night time practise, and 2nd on the grid with the Jaguar powered "Toj" although their superior times posted in (unofficial) night qualifying suggested they had the pace advantage over polesitter Chris Ward in the JD Classics Lister Costin.
The 63 Strong grid for the Jaguar race featured around 50 E-Types and so competition was extremely close, Harvey and Timothy Mahapatra qualified the car in a strong 14th position, especially given the length of the circuit meant this was their only flying lap of the circuit! A very busy race on Saturday saw the car finish in the top third of the grid, a very strong showing an Improved engine and diff will be required for a return in 2018!
At 3pm Superstar Pharrell Williams dropped the flag on 24 Hours of Non-Stop historic racing and the Plateau one drivers sprinted across the circuit for the traditional Le Mans Start, James and Andrew's first came race around 5pm in the Tojeiro, a good start saw the car immediately take the lead and begin to pull out a sizeable lead from the Listers, unfortunately an engine problem cut short what would have been a fantastic race and ended the weekend's action for that car. Thankfully by early evening for the GT40 the scorching temperatures had dropped, James started the GT40 and immediately he built a very strong gap from the other 60 cars, followed only by Van Riet in the yellow GT40 P/1027 (which DK supplied to current owner). It was a fabulous sight to see these two genuine and original cars fighting it out. At the half way pit stops Cottingham led by 2 seconds and passed the controls to Andrew Smith, unfortunately early in Andrew's stint at high speed on the Mulsanne straight the driver's side window exploded causing damage to the door, this sadly prevented the car from finishing race 1. Meanwhile James had transferred immediately to the Cobra and picked his way through the Cobras to secure a strong finish and with it a top 10 grid position for Race 2.
Race 2 started at 4am in complete darkness, within the first lap the GT40 had pulled a 40 second lead over the entire field, including Van Riet whose engine would succumb to a mis fire on lap 2, a safety car prompted an early pit stop, James then taking the wheel of the Cobra. An identical engine problem (believed to be related to substandard fuel supplied at the circuit) to that of Van Riet promoted a retirement for the GT40 from a commanding lead of the race, however James and Tim Summers had made the most of the conditions and finished a remarkable 4th position. They carried this momentum into the third and final race where a 6th place gave the car an overall classification of 7th, a remarkable achievement. This marked the end of a fabulous event enjoyed by all, roll on 2018.
DK Engineering's next racing commitment is the Silverstone Classic where the Pre-63 E-Type will contest the RAC Tourist Trophy.