Ferrari versus Lister right down to the line
Le Mans cars from 1949 to 1965 provided spectacular entertainment for the crowds, as Ferraris and Jaguars, Porsches and Astons and the rest of the colourful 61-strong grid fought fiercely for race honours in the 2009 Le Mans Legend, the historic support race which takes place a few hours before the start of the modern Le Mans 24 Hours. Back in 1965, the 24-hour race was a glittering triumph for Ferrari, with the marque placed 1st, 2nd and 3rd overall… and while it wasn't quite an all-Ferrari podium for the 2009 Le Mans Legend, the Prancing Horse did manage to take 1st and 3rd places.
The battle for overall victory was initially a three-way fight between the pole-sitting Jaguar E-type of Neil Cunningham, the Ferrari 250LM of Carlos Monteverde and the Lister Jaguar GT of Justin Law - but when the E-type retired with engine trouble after just three laps, it came down to a straight fight between Ferrari and Lister. The lead swopped repeatedly between the small, nimble, yellow Ferrari and the heavier, more powerful Lister, increasingly lurid slides from both front-runners enchanting the crowds. In the final laps, Law drove with tremendous skill as his fading brakes grew ever weaker, while Monteverde held onto the lead with cool determination and finally took the chequered flag by 7.8 seconds at the end of the 45-minute race.
In third place, some way behind the front two but pulling out a substantial lead on the rest of the grid - and scooping an emphatic class victory - was the little front-engined Ferrari 246S Dino of Tony Dron, who took full advantage of the car's 'slippery' aerodynamic shape to make up for a relative lack of outright power. Fourth place was taken by Julian Bronson's Lister Costin, with a fifth overall - and class win - for Ewan McIntyre in his Lotus 15.
A delighted Harry Leventis took a further class win for Ferrari, with his mid-engined 206 Dino, while Class 4 saw Jaguar D-types sweep first, second and third in class - led by Gavin Pickering. Other class winners were the Lotus 11 of Andrew and Michael Hibberd, the Jaguar C-type of Nigel Webb, and the Frazer Nash Le Mans MkII of Richard Lake and Jane Varley.
A hugely popular third in class went to Sir Stirling Moss, sharing his beautifully restored Osca FS 372 with Roger Earl. The result was a remarkable achievement since a gearbox problem in qualifying saw the pair relegated to a disappointing 57th on the grid. But, thanks to the team's hard work, the gearbox was repaired in time for the race and the little Osca climbed 23 places to carry off a well-deserved trophy.
Said Duncan Wiltshire of Motor Racing Legends, "This is the ninth historic support race we've held at the Le Mans 24 Hours, and it was surely one of the best. Despite the enormous speed differential between the fastest and slowest cars, not to mention an occasional oil spill from overstretched engines, there were no serious incidents during the race. Just plenty of dramatic, high-speed racing and the competitors' all-out determination to win."
Further information can be found at www.motorracinglegends.com. Or contact Duncan Wiltshire, at Motor Racing Legends, Woodbine Farm, Thorndon, Eye, Suffolk IP23 7JJ. Tel +44 (0)1379 678101. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Full results can be downloaded from here