Since 2002, the biannual Le Mans Classic has continued to grow in popularity since its inauguration. Fast forward 14 years and 2016 sees 450 historic racing cars across six grids compete throughout the three day motorsport event. As regular competitors this year JD Classics have extended their support as main sponsors of Le Mans Classic as well as running a line-up of six cars throughout the weekend. As sponsors we will also be hosting an exclusive hospitality lounge situated above the pit-lane where our invited guests can take in the three days of on-track action whilst enjoying our hospitality over the course of the weekend.
JD Classics had their 1956 Fiat Bartoletti transporter on static display throughout the weekend. Originally bought by Scarab racing as their team racing transporter it was then sold to Carroll Shelby to transport his Cobras in Europe. Featured in the Steve McQueen film Le Mans, it seemed only appropriate to showcase the transporter at Le Mans Classic.
A Lotus Elite, Jaguar XK120, Austin Healey 100S, Costin Lister, Lister Knobbly and Jaguar C-Type this year made up the JD Classics line-up all hoping to replicate the success achieved by JD Classics in the event’s last running in 2014.
Once all six cars had been scrutineered and drivers signed on, the team set about prepping the six cars ahead of Friday's qualifying and night practice sessions with the Jaguar XK120 of Andrew Smith, Austin Healey 100S of John Young and Jaguar C-Type of Chris Ward first of the JD Classics team to take to the track within Grid 2.
Qualifying got underway on Friday afternoon in hot and sunny conditions. With the XK120, Austin Healey and C-Type the first trio of the JD Classics tem to take to the track, grid 2’s session was quickly cut short when an Allard J2 went off on the first chicane of the first lap. With qualifying now red flagged whilst the stranded Allard be recovered, all cars returned to the pits. Re-commencing 30 minutes behind schedule, the field began filtering back out onto the track with the C-Type of Chris Ward hanging back momentarily in a bid to get a clearer and faster lap away from traffic. Despite a yellow flag closing the pack up on Lap 4 all three cars ran a successful qualifying session with the JD Classics C-Type qualifying 2nd on the grid behind the Jaguar D-Type of Andy Wallace. The Austin Healey of John Young and XK120 of Andrew Smith finished in 13th and 14th place respectively amongst the large 76 car field.
A quick car changeover saw both Chris Ward and John Young back behind the wheel qualifying for Grid 3, this time in the Costin Lister and Lotus Elite respectively. The Lister Knobbly of JD Classics MD Derek Hood completed the team for the weekend. Having driven to an impressive 2nd place within Grid 2, Chris Ward very quickly set the precedent within Grid 3 charging the Lister to the fastest lap by 14 seconds by the end of his first lap alone. With a hard to beat lap time already achieved, the JD Lister returned to the pits after just four laps having already claimed the pole position 4.7 seconds ahead of the Tojeiro Jaguar of James Cottingham and Andrew Smith. A late start for the Lotus Elite of John Young did little to hinder its performance qualifying in the top half of the field and second within its class. Despite a delaminated tyre causing an oil tank leak which subsequently led to its retirement after three laps, the Lister Knobbly of Derek Hood still achieved a lap fast enough to qualify the car in a competitive 25th place.
With qualifying now complete, the technicians set to work prepping the cars for Friday’s night practice session on the complex La Sarthe circuit.
A valuable chance to familiarise themselves and the car’s with the unforgiving 13.629 mile circuit in the dark, Friday evening’s night practice provided valuable night practice time ahead of Saturday evening/Sunday morning’s rolling start night races. A 35 minute session, the C-Type and Jaguar XK120 took to the circuit. With both cars having successfully competed at Le Mans Classic in 2014, they were both familiar with the track in the dark with the XK120 finishing 14th within the field and the C-Type 36th. Performing equally as well, the grid 3 trio of Chris Ward, Derek Hood and John Young finished in 12th, 18th and 28th place respectively.
With night practice over, the team turned their attentions to Saturday afternoon’s 45 minute race.
With conditions remaining hot and sunny into Saturday, the team prepared for the first of three races for each grid. With the heat continuing to bear down, the action had barely begun on track when the extensive 76 car field of Grid 2 lined up along the start finish straight for the traditional Le Mans start. Greeted by a cheer from the crowds, the field then fell back into qualifying order coming over the line for a rolling start. Neck and neck with the front running Jaguar D-Type of Andy Wallace into the first corner, Chris Ward soon backed off the pace noticing an issue with the C-Type. Coming into the pits for a check, the C-Type was soon back out on track, however, a head gasket failure resulted in its retirement from the race a lap later. Starting from 13th place, the Jaguar XK120 of Andrew Smith ran a consistent 45 minute race working its way up to 6th place when the pit window opened. With all cars required to stop for one full minute, the XK120 was quickly brought in by the team in a bid to avoid any traffic. A smooth stop and a quick check over the car and the XK120 returned to the track having lost only one place now running in 7th position. A red flagged incident meant that the race was stopped early with the XK120 sitting nicely in 7th overall and 1st in its class. Despite the strong drive from Andrew Smith, the JD car was given a five minute penalty for an infringement therefore finally classifying the car in 18th place.
With little time to waste, it was out of the C-Type and into the Lister for Chris Ward as he took his place in pole position amongst Grid 3. Another Le Mans start followed by a rolling start and the Lister held firm as the field were led through the Dunlop Curve, however the Maserati T63 Birdcage of Ulrich Schumacher and Marco Werner which had started in 5th place was now fast approaching the front running JD Classics Costin Lister eventually taking the lead down the Mulsanne straight on the first lap. Meanwhile, the Lister Knobbly of Derek Hood and Lotus Elite of John Young continued to hold their positions comfortably within the top half of the field as the race progressed. When the pit window opened for the mandatory one minute stop, the team made the decision to bring the Knobbly and Lotus in first giving the Lister time to try and break away from the rest of the pack and close in on the now front running Maserati. With smooth stops for both cars, the Knobbly and Lotus returned to the race in 19th and 27th place respectively.
Now in 4th place, the Lister came in for its mandatory stop and quickly re-joined the race. As the 45 minutes progressed into its latter stages, Chris Ward began to slowly but surely power the Lister back through the front runners and was soon putting pressure on the second placed Lister Jaguar of Steve Brooks and Patrick Blakeney-Edwards. By the time the field came round to start the final lap, the JD Classics car was now running in second place and putting in its quickest laps of the race closing the gap from 14 to 4 seconds behind Ulrich Schumacher and Marco Werner’s Maserati. As the team watched anxiously from the pit-lane, the Lister continued to pick up the pace putting in its fastest lap of the race. Closing the gap down to a mere two seconds between the two front running cars and with the chequered flag fast approaching, Chris Ward claimed the lead just four corners from the finish and powered home to a nail biting victory by 0.5 seconds. A successful race for all three Grid 3 JD Classics cars, the Lotus Elite held its own to finish 19th whilst Derek Hood and the Lister Knobbly also produced its fastest time on the last lap and charged across the line to an impressive 10th place.
Due to its DNF result in the first race of Grid 2, the Fangio Jaguar C-Type started at the back of the grid for the second race. Taking place in the early hours of Sunday morning, Grid 2 prepared themselves for 45 minutes around the gruelling circuit at night time. Both the C-Type and Jaguar XK120 made an early charge through the field and by the end of the first lap, the XK120 of Andrew Smith had fought its way up 11 places to 7th position. Meanwhile the C-Type had moved up to 10th place from 76th in the first lap alone. Quickly setting the pace for the rest of the field, it was clear that the C-Type was intent on reclaiming the lost victory from the race before. By Lap 4 both cars had improved their positions with the C-Type now running in third.
With the pit window now open, Andrew Smith came in first and after a quick check-over from the team and having completed the 60 second stop, the XK120 was soon returning to the track now in 9th position. It wasn’t until the end of the pit window period that the C-Type made its stop, however traffic in the pit lane hindered Chris Ward's exit therefore losing a total of 12 seconds on his usual pit stop time. Despite this setback, the car returned to the race and continued to pick up the pace improving its lap times along the way. As the race enetered its latter stages and with only three minutes left, the C-Type was now up into second place and fast approaching the Jaguar D-Type of Andy Wallace. As the gap continued to shrink so the chequered flag edged ever nearer and a last surge from the C-Type saw it claim victory by a clear 3.2 seconds while the XK120 also finished in a respectable 8th place.
Starting 20 minutes behind its scheduled start time of 3.20am, Chris Ward maintained the dominant performance from the C-Type to the Lister for the second race of Grid 3. Sitting in 1st, 25th and 33rd on the grid, Chris Ward, Derek Hood and John Young looked set for another promising 45 minutes for the JD Classics team. With Chris Ward leading the pack away from the start, the safety car was almost instantly deployed to the track thus re-grouping the field. Exiting the track after two laps, racing could get underway again. Smooth pit stops for all three cars meant the trio continued to make an impression as they all moved through the field. Despite a backwards and forwards tussle between the top three runners, the Lister’s power proved to be unstoppable and the JD Classics car took the second win of the night. Another impressive race performance for the JD Classics team with Derek Hood finishing 16th overall in the Lister Knobbly and 20th place for the Lotus Elite of John Young.
With the final race of both Grid 2 and 3 approaching at breakfast time on Sunday morning, the team worked through the remainder of the night to ensure that all of their competition cars were ready for their final race.
The final chance to improve their overall classification, Plateau (Grid) 2 made their final exit of the weekend onto the track for a rolling start. Starting from where they finished from the previous session, the C-Type sat in 2nd on the grid and when the lights turned green was hot on the heels of Andy Wallace’s D-Type. At the start of Lap 4, the team put out the in board for Chris Ward signalling the C-Type enter the pits for its mandatory stop. Despite a fast stop, the JD Jaguar was up against the sheer straight line speed of the D-Type which is where Andy Wallace took full advantage and cotinued to extend his lead. In spite of this, the C-Type continued the chase to claim another podium result in second place. Starting the race in 9th place, Andrew Smith maintained position in the top ten of the field. A swift stop meant the XK120 re-joined in 10th having only lost one place. By the time the chequered flag fell, Andrew Smith finished the race in 7th position.
With two wins and a second place already achieved, the JD Classics team were hoping to end the weekend on a high as the Costin Lister, Lotus Elite and Lister Knobbly made their final on-track appearance of the weekend. Sitting in pole from its last victory, the JD Lister was quick to lead the powerful pack away from the start with the Aston Martin DB4 of Tom Alexander and Adrian Wilmott in quick pursuit. Derek Hood in the Lister Knobbly was also quick to make good of his 16th position on the grid and had climbed a further three places to 13th by the end of the second lap. Despite being up against its more powerful counterparts, the Lotus Elite gave the larger engine cars a run for their money climbing to 19th within the first lap. A broken centre catch on the bonnet of the Lister meant that Chris Ward had to be brought in first. Whilst stationary for its required 60 seconds, the team managed to temporarily rectify the problem and the car returned to the race in third place. With another lap the Lister was now in second and vying for the lead. Despite slipping to 23rd after his stop, Derek Hood had powered his way through the field and now he and the Knobbly were sitting comfortably in 14th place with John Young and the Lotus not far behind in 18th. As the race entered its final ten minutes, the pressure was on for the Lister as it continued to improve its lap times and within another lap was once again in its original place at the front of the field. Continuing its charge, Chris Ward also produced the fastest lap time of 4 minutes 50 seconds on the gruelling 13.6 mile track. By the time the chequered flag fell, the Lister had claimed its third victory of the weekend by a margin of 8 seconds. Maintaining a strong defence against their contemporaries, the Lister Knobbly and Lotus Elite fought off some stiff competition to finish the race in 13th and 26th place.
With a total of of three successive wins for the Costin Lister and a win and second place for the C-Type, the JD Classics team have had their most sucessful Le Mans Classic to date. Up against a field of cars with more horsepower, the Lotus Elite of John Young remained competitive throughout the weekend's racing therefore coming first in the Index of Performance within Plateau 3; another fantastic testament to the dedication of the JD Classics technicians, drivers and cars.