There's a tradition of decorated cars in Sarthe. Porsche at times takes a humorous approach.
This Saturday at 3 PM, the 24 Hours of Le Mans begins. It’s a grueling endurance race that has been dominated over the years by Porsche, which has more than 50 class wins and, arguably, Ferrari, a perennial crowd pleaser.
Well,yes, Ferrari, an enduring favorite except for some magic moments back in the 1960s when Ford “kicked Ferrari’s ass,” according to Carroll Shelby, a failed Texas chicken rancher but a winning racer, who was running the GT40 team when it happened.
After several years of Ford dominance – “we spent a ton of the Deuce’s [Henry Ford II] money,” said Shelby – the French changed the rules. Ah, the politics of racing, and the pragmatic – or is it cynical – French?
Once upon a time, Ford Motor dominated racing at Le Mans. Len Katz photograph.
On the grid this year will be two of Jeff Koons’ BMW Art Cars. Andy Priaulx (GB), Dirk Müller (DE) and Dirk Werner (DE) will race the BMW Art Car #79. Jörg Müller (DE), Augusto Farfus (BR), Uwe Alzen (DE) will drive the BMW Le Mans car #78.
There is a tradition of decorated cars at Le Mans. My personal favorite was – and still is – a pink Porsche (aka pink pig), which was diagrammed with dotted lines to reflect the cuts of pork a butcher would derive from the shape. Who says Germans don’t have a sense of humor?
What’s not funny is that BMW is in the hyper-competitive GT2 class, which sees eighteen cars piloted by the very best drivers backed by mega-buck teams. Aston Martin, BMW, Corvette, Ferrari, Jaguar, Peugeot, Porsche and Spyker are expected to make the field. However, at Le Mans that’s the easy part – lasting through the night and well into the next day is the real challenge.
Here's my idea of an art car. Who says the Germans don't have a sense of humor?
The “Grand Touring” or the GT class has cars derived from models homologated from road use and can be purchased. A minimum of 100 road cars must be built by the major car manufacturers and a minimum of 25 for the smaller makes.
Since they have at least a passing relationship to real cars, I like the GT classes more than the one-off prototype classes, except for the Ford-Ferrari duel of yore. The two prototype classes will go away next year.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the world’s oldest endurance race in sports car racing, of course. It has been held annually since 1923 near the town of Le Mans, Sarthe, France. Known as the Grand Prix of Endurance, and organized by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), the race runs on a circuit containing closed public roads.