The Tigers Return To Le Mans Tour - July 2004

Norman Miller & Lukas Waldis - "Just Checking"

Tigers on Le Mans Classic Tour

ADU 179B

207 BGC 44

7734 KV

HWG 888E

8320 RA 75

ZH 29815

GYU 618C

EJX 350D

ELE 312C

FRR 260 H

SME 731F

1226 VA 72

EKL 219C

JUL 390D

MGJ 873C

512 PYD 75

ECW 834D

NYL 558E

CNN 547C

NYL 561E

GNB 820D


ERB 545C

UXP 312F

TGA 260

HRS 121E


= 27

Marcus Steineger's MKII
Waiting for Track Laps

Christopher Darwin writes to a friend about the Club Tour to the LM Classic

The Sunbeam Tiger Owners’ Club is a small club with less than 500 members. It organised a major expedition to this event as it was 40 years since the Sunbeam Tiger was launched in 1964 and two took part at Le Mans . This year was the second running of the Le Mans Classic, a combination of the Goodwood Revival and the well known Le Mans 24 hour race. The arrangement is simple: over 200 entrants range from the pre war to about 1975 and are split into six grids according to age group; each grid has three 45 minute races throughout the 24 hours, starting from 1600 on Saturday. The execution of the eighteen races proved fairly complex.

Heather - along with about 50 other members - took her Tiger (and me) to watch. Our trip started early on the morning of Thursday 22nd to catch the 0730 ferry from Portsmouth to Le Havre . The Club had organised maps, hotels, passes etc – almost as good as the Regis Classic Tour. From Le Havre we headed south for three hours, the hood staying down apart from two heavy showers. The 10 room hotel 15 miles south of Le Mans was full of Tiger owners, including two from Germany, with others staying nearby.

On the Friday Heather and I avoided the circuit and took the train to Le Mans city. The ACO programme said the scrutineering was in the town centre – but it wasn’t, so we visited the very interesting old city. On returning to the hotel we heard tales of long queues and disorganisation at the circuit, so we had been well out of it. Saturday started badly. Driving to the circuit the important turn in the centre of Arnage village was not marked; after visiting Le Mans airport, we took an hour to cover the few miles to the allocated Sunbeam parking area. The French are unable to produce logical signs showing straight ahead at a crossroads – a vertical arrow, for most of the world – and instead provide a left arrow followed by a right; if the right is not seen/obscured/fallen off, people turn left, causing further obstruction.

Track laps cavalcade

It was an extremely hot day and we crawled in the queue with the bonnet wide open; this prevented overheating. The event had attracted a huge number of cars, the smarter marques being parked on the flat in the open. The Sunbeams were at the end of the line, but under trees and close to the Dunlop bridge and the circuit exit - a very good spot.

The highlight for us was two ‘parade’ laps of the 8 mile circuit at lunchtime; we were assembled behind a squadron of Morgans, some with a bar fitted to the rear as well as the front of the car in order to carry the huge number of badges. Heather was driving in a determined mood, as were several others, and the pace was brisk; Morgans disappeared behind us. I cowered in the passenger seat and attempted to call the corners. Regis Classic Tourers from the earlier events will know the scenario; it was extremely dangerous and bloody good fun – two laps were quite enough.

The first race duly started at 1600 or so, complete with original Le Mans run-and-jump-in start, followed by a lap behind the safety car. An accident in the next race delayed proceedings so subsequent races were reduced to 30 minutes in order to catch up. Although the cars in our section of the circuit were an impressive sight, there were long periods of nothing much as each lap took at least 6 minutes. Furthermore, the commentary was mainly useless, and often consisted of music.

For Heather and I the best spectacle was the start of Race 4 at dusk; eight Ford GT40s roared under the Dunlop bridge, followed by the original Le Mans Tiger (N0 8. Ed.). This car subsequently finished 7th, the first non GT40. Unfortunately the car missed the second race at 0400 as the driver had forgotten to set his alarm to French time (!), and was therefore penalised for his third and final race at midday on Sunday. However, this time both cars finished.

We returned to the circuit early on Sunday after a few hours in our hotel bed. The local village patisserie was open at 0700 and we stocked up with breakfast and lunch. Entry at this time was easy, and the day was not quite so hot. In order to avoid the exit crush we left before the last race and had an easy drive to the hotel. That evening a large dinner party at our hotel gathered all the Tiger owners as well as the drivers and owners of the two competing cars – the party went on late.

Our trip back to Le Havre on the Monday was effortless and rapid. We left the hotel after a late breakfast to catch the 1630 ferry. I had a flash of inspiration at lunchtime as we passed Bernay and directed Heather to the local flying club, less than a mile off the main road. Sure enough, next to it was a delightful restaurant (Les Helices), full of the locals and run by a family. A three course meal and glass of wine was 11 euros. Most French flying clubs have very good restaurants – the good food at Goodwood Flying Club is an unusual exception in the UK . Bernay is an hour south of Le Havre , so it made a good stop. At Le Havre we again met a crowd of old cars and fell into conversation with the owners.

The ferry crossing was painless, and five days and 630 miles later we were home. It was a lot more effort and expense than going to the Goodwood Revival; however, it was worth it to drive the circuit and see the spectacle – so if you get the chance and can spare the time, go. I think the next one is in 2006; the LMC organisation may have improved – just remember those road signs. Christopher Darwin

STOC man power called once horse power fails on Mulsanne

Party time!

Patricia Crowther, Pat Shimmell, Cate Wilkinso, Alison Walters, Angela Dandy, Deborah Phelps.

Track Lap Action
The STOC Party including folk from the U.S.A, Belgium, Germany, France & Switzerland

STOC and Classic Sunbeam Club of France stands