Not long ago I was sitting in a rental car cruising through the French countryside when I spotted a sign adorned with ‘LeMans’. I was initially en route to another destination, but how could a petrol head like myself resist stopping in at a place as famous as the Circuit de la Sarthe!?
I grabbed a camera out of the boot and parked up in front of the ‘Musée des 24 Heures-circuit de la Sarthe‘. Unfortunately the circuit was prepping for another event, so the gates were locked but the museum was open.
Unless you have lived under a rock your whole life, you will be familiar with the LeMans 24 hour event. The circuit is a semi-permanent track consisting of 38 turns that snakes for 13.6km and has produced some of motorsports most iconic memories.
The concrete km markers which used to be dotted around the track now call the museum home. Oh the stories these would tell if they could speak!
There is a hoard of memorabilia spread throughout the complex. Many of the most famous names in endurance racing are here with either photos or driving paraphernalia. This is Tom Kristensen’s suit on display.
LeMans is known more for the sleek LMP race machines of today but there is also a truly historic aspect to the race. Not exactly what we would consider ‘sporty’ huh…
Althrough just around the corner were the cars that I had really come to see. This example is the Rondeau M379B that won the 1980 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The interior of the Alpine-Renault A441C Le Mans 1975.
Towards the end of the museum route, was a walkway with cars both sides which have raced in the famous race. Getting to stand in front of that much LeMans history was an amazing experience.
The 4.7l 4-rotor 787B might only be a rolling model of the 1991 winner (that is in Hiroshima at Mazda) but what a stunner to have in the line-up. 600 horsepower good for a top speed of 350kph and that noise…heavenly.
This car in particular had the eyes of Bernie Ecclestone fixed firmly on it. He wasn’t very happy when Peugeot created a racecar that could have been a potential threat to his F1 dynasty. Luckily the decrepit old fart didn’t get to silence this gorgeous piece of engineering.
The group C era of motorsport was an iconic one and it doesn’t get better than a Silk Cut Jag. Will the motorsport experience race cars as gorgeous as these again? I suspect not.
The 2003 Bentley Speed 8 is another example of a race car done so right. Iconic manufacturer and that British racing green!
While I was wandering the museum (largely with nobody else there) a school field trip came and students were scurrying around completing a worksheet. World’s coolest field trip hands down!
On the way out the perfectly placed shop for a couple of memorabilia items lured me right in. The collection was a revolving one so if I was to return six months from now it is likely there would be new eye candy as well. Perhaps that is the perfect excuse to plan a return trip, as now I have seen the cars it is surely time to see the race itself!