For the first time since the start of the Le Mans 24 Hours a Bear has Graced the famous Le Mans Podium.
Scuderia Bear and its GT40 attended the famous Le Mans Legends Race which took place on Saturday the 13th of June just hours before the start of the 24 Hour Race, this hugely prestigious and competitive race takes place in front of full Grandstands and for many spectators this is the highlight of the Le Mans weekend. In a change to recent years, cars were accepted from 1949 right up to, and including, 1968. This allowed the 61 car grid to include for the first time such iconic cars as the Ford GT40, Porsche 908 and 910, and the Alfa Romeo T33/2 – in addition to the plethora of sports and GT cars from the 1950s and 1960s that so famously ran at Le Mans in period. The Silver Scuderia Bear GT40, was returning to Le Mans for the first time since 1966 when in Practice for the 24 Hour Race the car had been hit from behind and forced to retire early, this time the car would be driven by James Cottingham and Andrew Smith. Sadly a difficult oil and then later rain soaked qualifying on Thursday had not allowed the Smith/Cottingham GT40 to qualify as high up the field as perhaps the car was capable of.
In Saturday's race, Andrew Smith started extremely well from 7th place and by the first chicane was battling for 3rd place with the sensational Alpine A220 of Sylvain Stepak, unfortunately whilst overtaking the Alpine, the GT40 spun and in the process was dropped back to around 9th place. The following laps saw a brilliant fight back past the GT40s of Meins and Walker and the Cobras of David Hart and Ludovic Caron and by the pit stop and driver change the GT40 was up into 3rd place.
A slight delay in the stop allowed both Cobras back in front of the GT40 and so James Cottingham upon joining the circuit had to yet again pass these very well driven Cobras, having expertly completed these overtakes the GT40 was now in 2nd place and chasing down the Nahum GT40 which was driven by the Swiss Touring Car champion and 3 Time Le Mans 24hr veteran Bernard Thuner. This GT40 was also a car which had ran at La Sarthe in period, although it is worth noting that car being a 1968 car the specification is different with the larger 7 litre engine and in this instance later type tyres.
A Safety Car half way through James Cottingham's stint ran to the end of the race and ended hopes of a battle for the lead. This safety car also meaning, despite a strange attempt from Caron to gain a place under the safety car, positions remained unchanged.
The Podium ceremony held on the main Le Mans Podium over the main Pits took place almost immediately before the start of the 24 Hour Race. The Clerk of the Course and the organisers, the ACO, had managed to meet the Scuderia Bear Mascot and insisted that the bear must make an appearance on the Podium, which must be the first time a bear has graced the podium. The bear who had flown from the USA to watch the race agreed and extra champagne was of course provided to celebrate the successful return of Scuderia Bear to Le Mans.