Ninety-nine years ago, a handful of employees at the French automobile company Chenard & Walcker, a major supplier of taxis in Paris, had a hope. A hope of racing their Type U3 15CV Sport in the inaugural marathon race called the 24 Hours Grand Prix of Endurance. In May, on a rain-soaked, muddy and rutted course on public roads, the French team finished 1-2, besting 32 others from the likes of Bentley, Bugatti and Delage.
Through the years after the race’s humble beginning, the 24 Hours of Le Mans evolved into a magnificent sports car spectacle that is equally respected and feared by competitors. It’s a unique balance of skill, luck, endurance, and an unwavering desire to excel by stepping beyond what one thinks he or she can do. For automakers and suppliers, the 24 Hours of Le Mans is the ultimate high-speed technology testbed.
To honor the French Classic’s historic significance and to kick-off the yearlong celebration of the 100th anniversary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, a very special Le Mans Legends Heritage Display, presented by Motul, has been curated exclusively for the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion Aug. 17-20 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
The display features overall winners, class winners and interesting or significant cars that have raced over the century. These are the actual cars from museums and private collections that forever etched their place in history. While no longer raced, owners have been invited to take exhibition laps each day so they may enjoy their cars at a safe speed and to share the sights and sounds of these historic machines with everyone visiting.
Together with the cars racing in the four Le Mans-specific run groups, it is arguably the largest such gathering of authentic Le Mans cars ever assembled in America.
Among the incredibly diverse highlights are:
- 1929 Bentley Speed Six – Driven by the original “Bentley Boys” to consecutive overall wins in 1929 and 1930
- 1951 Porsche 356/2 063 – The very first Porsche entered in the 24 Hours and class winner
- 1952 Mercedes 300SL W194 – The first German car ever to achieve an overall victory at Le Mans and is, to this day, the only Mercedes factory-built car to win Le Mans
- 1955 Jaguar D-Type XKD – The 1956 overall winner, second of three consecutive overall wins for the D-Type
- 1965 Ferrari 250 LM – The last Ferrari to capture overall honors in 1965
- The original Ford GT40s that dominated by winning overall in 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1969
- 1984 Mazda Lola T616 – The first class winner for Mazda
- 2005 Audi R8 LMP1 – Overall winner and part of the string of Audi performance mastery
- 2007 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP – The most recent overall winner displayed
Augmenting the 50-plus Le Mans cars in the display will be nearly 400 authentic, historic and period-correct racing cars competing in 14 race groups. Spanning from oldest to newest is the 1909 Locomobile Model “I” with its 40-horsepower engine, to the 2007 Pescarolo LMP1 that produces 700 horsepower. The range of cars—and they will be on track—truly is an evolution of motor racing history.
“Bringing the best of the best together for visitors to experience these incredible cars at speed is a mind-blowing experience,” said John Narigi, president and general manager of WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. “These are not static displays but moving museum treasures whose owners enjoy sharing.”
The four-day celebration, which begins on Wednesday, Aug. 17 and concludes on Saturday, Aug. 20, is preceded by two days of the Monterey Pre-Reunion, Aug. 13 and 14, where many of the same cars compete.
Some seats still may be purchased in the Legends Club VIP Pavilion (formerly the Flagroom). The Legends Club comes with expansive views from high atop Turn 1 and features catering by local favorites Baja Cantina and Turn 12. Camping, car corrals, and individual and multi-day ticket packages are available by visiting WeatherTechRaceway.com or by calling the tickets and accommodations specialists at 831-242-8200.