Some Thoughts on Le Mans 2014 from Our Special Correspondent

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If Toyota were the pre-race favourites, Porsche were the star attraction. Since their last outright win in 1998, they had contented themselves during the intervening years with supporting their favoured private customers in the GT categories but now they were ready to add to their impressive record of sixteen wins in the race, although Audi was steadily creeping up on them, finishing this race with their thirteenth win, comfortably ahead of Ferrari’s nine set as far back as 1965.

This was the first confrontation between Porsche and Audi at Le Mans for overall victory and Porsche was attracted back by the challenge of the new LM P1 regulations. To help they had added the ex-F1 driver Mark Webber to their driving strength. The Australian had appeared at Le Mans twice before but this was to be the first time he had driven any racing miles: in 1998 his Mercedes CLK LM, while being driven by Schneider, suffered engine failure after only nineteen laps before Webber had a chance to take the wheel; in 1999 he was the innocent victim of two “flights” when the Mercedes CLR took off during Thursday’s practice and again in the Saturday warm-up, denying him a start in the race. Fortunately he was not hurt in either spectacular accident.

The Webber/Hartley/Bernhard Porsche 919 Hybrid no. 20 led the race at the 21st hour but mechanical failure at this late stage left it unclassified.

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Not only Porsche came back – so did Ligier, after thirty-nine years. This happy event came about when Jacques Nicolet, the man behind Oak Racing which won the LM P2 class at Le Mans last year, decided to buy through his Onroak Automotive concern Ligier’s racing operation at Magny Cours. The two men share a deep passion for racing and the outcome was the appearance of three brand-new Ligier JS P2 cars, a completely new design all of which finished the race, one of them coming second in the class after leading for some of the way.

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A pre-race press conference afforded me the opportunity to meet and talk with Guy Ligier, a very special privilege.

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The success of the Jota Sport Zytek Z11SN in winning the P2 class this year reminds us that it is not necessary to have a new car in order to do well at Le Mans. This design dates from 2011 and Jota acquired theirs in 2012. I recall a privately-entered Aston Martin, a design conceived for the 1953 season, coming second overall in 1958!

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It was the Thiriet Ligier which claimed second.

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The Oreca-based Alpine followed in third. Will we see a home-grown Alpine soon, I wonder?

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What a superb struggle was put up by the leading contenders of GTE Pro! Ferrari 458 Italia, Aston Martin Vantage and the new Chevrolet Corvette C7.R were at each other’s throats from the start – here they are at the Ford Chicane.

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Unfortunately Aston Martin had to withdraw their no.99 car after Fernando Rees crashed it badly in practice.

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Their other car gave up the fight, finishing a lowly 35th.

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It was the well-tried AF Corse Ferrari of the experienced Bruni, Vilander and Fisichella which took the spoils, as they did two years ago.

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The no.73 Corvette finished second in class.

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Last year’s winners, the Manthey Porsche, was next up.

The two Manthey cars were never really in contention because their previous success earned them a Balance of Performance ballast of 25kg! Something wrong here – I thought motor-racing was about the best driver/team winning. Shades of a circus act, alas.

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Some compensation for Aston Martin came with their winning the GTE Am class ahead of Porsches and Ferraris, thanks to their Danish drivers.

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This was for the most part a dry race but very heavy showers interrupted proceedings in the third hour and created some havoc. Audi lost their third car, AF Corse their no.81 Ferrari.

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Toyota no. 8 struggled back badly hurt although it eventually worked its way up to third by the end.

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Not so lucky was one of the Greaves Motorsport Zyteks:

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ZEOD – Zero Emissions On Demand, or should it be ZEOT – Zero Effect On Track? Two years ago the predecessor of this bizarre machine was put out of its misery by being punted off the track by a Toyota; this year it failed mechanically after just five laps, the first retirement.

Are these to be taken as omens for Nissan who were at great pains to inform the whole Le Mans community that they were going to win in 2016? True, their engines filled the first five places in P2 but we have yet to see a Japanese manufacturer emulate Mazda’s achievement in 1991. Yes, in that year a Nissan Skyline did win the Spa 24 Hours but Mazda had done that too, ten years earlier with the RX-7 in 1981! My thoughts are that Nissan should have a quiet word with Toyota. Still, as the experienced Manceaux would say, On verra, we shall see.

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Happily no lasting harm to drivers who crashed – here is Audi 1 just before its destruction on Wednesday evening.

Audi did very well to build up a replacement by Thursday evening’s practice and managed to enlist Marc Gené to replace Loïc Duval. The Spaniard knows a thing or two about having a massive shunt in the Porsche Curves – he destroyed a Peugeot 908 HDi-FAP in 2008!

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And Audi knows a thing or two about winning 24 hour races. Cars 2 and 1, despite having their turbos changed, outlasted the others to be on top yet again:


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The Drivers’ Parade was very short of interesting old French cars this year but one of note was this escapee from the Le Mans museum:

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It is a 1912 Type F Amédée Bollée and if you look inside the cockpit you will see no gearchange lever. That is because it is the inner ring on the steering wheel!

David Blumlein, July 2014

The Price is Right


The HSCC SuperPrix run recently at Brands Hatch was further proof, if any were needed, of the huge popularity of historic racing. I would venture that this success is not just riding on the back of a wave of nostalgia but shows that there is a profound unease about the direction that some forms of present day motorsport have headed.


I read this interesting piece on earlier in the week, neatly illustrating the contempt of Formula One for the fans who pay for themselves rather being corporate liggers. £175 for basic admission, that is just taking the piss. Especially when you read how most of the teams are struggling to survive financially. That applies to the circuits as well, so the money is being syphoned from the sport and from its fans.


So no wonder folks vote with the wallets and enjoy the racing at Brands Hatch, motor sport fans tend to be bright people and can see when they are being had over. In any case who would not rather see Fluxie strutting his stuff rather hearing Vettel whine about how unfair it is that he is not dominating.


Simon Hildrew was out and about in Kent, so we are fortunate to have more of his top notch work to enjoy.

John Brooks, July 2014

Best of British

Celebrations for sure as a result of Bentley’s historic win but for the first time in sixty-three years three old established British sports car marques found themselves competing together in an international endurance race – we had at Silverstone Aston Martin, Bentley and Jaguar all running in the Blancpain Endurance Series Silverstone 3 hours on May 25.

Aston Martin was represented by five Vantage GT3s with the V12 6-litre engine, a works car of this type winning this race in 2013. Bentley raced officially for the first time at Silverstone with their two M-Sport Continental GT3s and the private Generation Bentley Racing Continental GT3. The Swiss Emil Frey Racing team brought their G3 Jaguar XKR.

We note that the first ever Bentley saw the light of day at the end of 1919, the first Aston Martin appeared in May 1921 and Jaguar dates back to 1931 when William Lyons (later Sir William) presented his SS car at the Olympia Show.

Here are some of their modern representatives in practice:

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One of the Vantage V12 versions of the Aston Martin.

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One of the M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3s at Luffield

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This Jaguar XKR has been developed privately by the Emil Frey team but did not ,alas, last long in the race.

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A Bentley at Brooklands! What turned out to be the winning car reminds us that the very first race win for a Bentley car took place at the real Brooklands.

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The first of the Continental GT3s to fall into private hands, chassis no. 3, is the Generation Team car.

In the Race:

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The Bentley chases the Art McLaren down the Wellington Straight

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The Bentley leads! History was about to be made!

David Blumlein, July 2014

A Brands Hatch Master



Back in the saddle, after the best part of seven weeks on the road, so some catching up to do. More goodness from Simon Hildrew, who popped down to his local track, the majestic Brands Hatch, to capture the magic of the 2014 Brands Hatch Masters.


As with most historic events these days, the entry was both impressive and varied. One feature that was very popular was a tribute to the late Sir Jack Brabham, featuring his son David in a Brabham BT45B Alfa Romeo, always one of my favourite cars.


The Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit remains a stern test of man and machine as Mark Dwyer found out in his March 811 Cosworth. Fortunately he emerged from the wreck unscathed and who do I see in the background, but Jeff Bloxham. How surprising that he should be on the scene of a shunt?

Simon has turned out a fantastic set of images for us to enjoy, we look forward to his next set.

John Brooks, July 2014

Donington Dreaming


Donington Historic Festival 2014 Picture by: Simon Hildrew

Christopher Tate and his crew have done a marvelous job of restoring Donington Park to its former glory, after the vandalism perpetrated by the wannabee Formel One fantasists some five or so years ago.

Donington Historic Festival 2014Picture by: Simon Hildrew

One of the highlights of the season is the Historic Festival which has become one of the must-do events on the calender……….

Donington Historic Festival 2014 Picture by: Simon Hildrew

At the Festival there was a tribute to John Surtees, uniquely a World Champion on both two and four wheels. 50 years on from his Driver’s Championship year he remains a popular figure.

Donington Historic Festival 2014 Picture by: Simon Hildrew

Simon Hildrew was on hand to bring us these fantastic images………….


John Brooks, May 2014


Easter Bank Holiday Monday

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For those of us with a touch of grey in what remains of our hair, Easter Bank Holiday Monday was always associated with Thruxton and Formula Two……..

So while I was on duty at the delightful and charming Silverstone, other lucky folks were in Hampshire enjoying the new historic classic.

The close racing and great cars need top quality photography to record the action, fortunately we have Simon Hildrew to point and shoot. Enjoy his work………….


Members Only

Simon Hildrew is one of the unsung heroes of motorsport photography, he gets on with the job and turns out the kind of results that you would expect from an Old School pro. His background in local newspaper photojournalism stands him in good stead when covering events at Goodwood, the story is told from soup to nuts in full and without drama.

Lord March brought us something new this year, the 72nd Members’ Meeting, OK not actually new but more of an adaptation of an event, but the rave reviews from participants and spectators alike signal that once more a bullseye has been scored. Simon took his cameras and lenses along to witness the action, enjoy the view…………


The Book of Job

Server Migrations, don’t ya just love ‘em? Still without the amazing Wouter of fame (go there and lose an hour or three) I would be sitting here in the dark. However the juju that is the internet has consumed the last post. As it was rather good I offer it again for your amusement. And welcome to Greg Brown, Porschephile and much respected author, in his first piece for DDC. It is a pity that he had to write this polemic but trashing something as important as the Sebring 12 Hours cannot be allowed to pass without comment. Make your own mind up……….



Alex Job has seen it all in his long and successful career as a driver and, for the last 25 years, as a championship winning team owner. But even his broad experience with the vagaries of racing couldn’t have prepared him for the chaos and absurdity that marked the 12 Hours of Sebring in 2014.  But first, the good news, which amply demonstrated the difference a year can make.
 In 2013, Porsche’s aging 997-based 911 GT3 RSR couldn’t get close enough to sniff Sebring’s winner’s circle after being left in the debris of its far more potent rivals from BMW, Corvette, Ferrari and Viper. This year, however, the factory-run CORE Autosport 991 911 RSR of Patrick Long, Michael Christensen, and Jörg Bergmeister exhibiting a competitive pace, as well as excellent pit strategy, and taking advantage of fortuitous yellow flags, not only saw the circle, but saw it from the inside as the winner in the prestigious GTLM division of the classic enduro.
Moreover, Porsche also scored its first ever victory in the Tudor Championship’s very competitive GTD class through the efforts of Utah-based Magnus Racing’s GT America, piloted by team owner John Potter, veteran Andy Lally, and Porsche factory test driver Marco Seefried, the trio overcoming an early collision and later transmission problems, to capture the team’s first Sebring win.
Unfortunately, these two victories were marred by a race noteworthy for long delays with over five of the 12 hours being run under the yellow flag, (three of those coming within the first half of the event). Virtually all of these interruptions were due to either unforced driving mistakes , or incomprehensible decision making by race officials. While surviving the various crashes throughout the day might well have been considered victory in itself, reaching that checkered flag first remained the object of the exercise, which why it was a shame that the success of both (albeit deserving) Porsche winners came in part because some unintended help from the apparently clueless Stewards in Race Control.
The potential of Job’s two new 911 GT Americas: the WeatherTech’s #22 entry and its sister, the Team Seattle’s #23 car, gave him reason to be optimistic about a podium finish. After all, Alex Job Racing has won no less than 70 races and five championships since 1995, including, two Rolex 24 class triumphs and, perhaps most impressively, two Le Mans GT class victories. This year he was going for win number ten at Sebring, with most unwilling to bet against him accomplishing that goal.
Unfortunately,eight hours into the race, his WeatherTech entry, having overcome an early tire puncture to run with the leaders up front, was dealt a huge blow with a penalty it clearly did not deserve. Driver Cooper MacNeil was incorrectly given an 80 second stop and go penalty for “avoidable contact” with GT-D Ferrari 458 Italia. This penalty was given despite the fact that the Porsche in question was one of the factory 991 RSRs, something clearly evidenced in the video tape of the incident by the highly visible Michelin tire sticker on its roof. In spite of that, and inspite of the fact that all the GT-D entries ran on mandated Continental rubber, the five officials who reviewed the tape before handing out the penalty made their incomprehensible decision. But which of the two CORE RSRs was it? The answer ironically was both though only the #911 car was ever cited.
Job, who immediately appealed the penalty, was told simply: “Bring your car in for the 80 seconds,, or we’ll stop timing and scoring it.” Faced with such ignorant intransigence, Job had no choice but to call in MacNeil, virtually ending any chances for a win.
Nor was Job’s mood improved by what happened after the race. “I went to the tower to see the video. As they showed it, I and they could clearly see the # 22 was obviously way ahead of the incident and that it was one of the white RSRs which made contact with the Ferrari. You could almost visualize the ‘oops’ coming from their lips. Having reviewed the video, they told me they would discuss the situation and do whatever they could. At the very least, I think they needed to calculate the lost time, the 80-second hold plus the time through the pits. I believe we were running second, so that’s a lot of lost track position.”
But what was done, and the penalty stuck, leaving the WeatherTech car a very disappointing fourth in the results. It was some consolation to Job that his other GT America did extremely well in the tough GTD class to finish third, but it had to be a bittersweet result for the man who’s been competing at Sebring for 25 years and was set up for another win. As for the impact on the finish in the GTLM category, where Porsche’s margin of victory was less than five seconds, had Long, Christensen and Bergmeister been hauled down pit lane to serve an enforced 80-second stop, it would have been the Viper folks celebrating, and not the Porsche camp.
Following the race, IMSA’s vice president of competition and technical regulations Scot Elkins admitted, “The series tonight actually made a couple of incorrect calls during the event. The nature of racing is, that it makes it very difficult for us to take those back. There’s nothing we can do in terms of taking time away and doing anything to the results. We’re sorry, and we made a mistake. We have some things in place to fix it for the next time.”
You better hope so, Scot. After the snafus at Daytona and the insanity of Sebring, some teams are wondering if their future lies with IMSA, or perhaps the Sports Car Club of America’s World Challenge, for which the GT America Porsches are also eligible. The bottom line is simple: if you’re a big time racing organization, then act like one.
Greg Brown, March 2014

Old Paris

The month of February brings the Retromobile in Paris, our Special Correspondent jumped on the train to see what was on offer. Now he shares some of his wisdom with us.

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Sunbeam 350 h.p.
This car was the creation of Louis Coatalen in 1920. A native of Brittany, he had worked for various car companies including William Hillman before becoming Chief Engineer at Sunbeam in Wolverhampton. Sunbeams had been very busy during the First World War producing aero engines (so much so that the production of their popular Staff car had to be farmed out to Rover in Coventry) and Coatalen selected one of the company’s V-12 18.3-litre Manitou engines, albeit modified for his new record/sprint car.

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On its first appearance in 1920 at Brooklands it crashed in practice but in October that year René Thomas set a new record at the Gaillon hill climb. On 22nd May 1922 Kenelm Lee Guinness set a new Land Speed Record of 133.75 m.p.h. on the Railway Straight at Brooklands. A month later Malcolm Campbell borrowed the car and reached 138 m.p.h. at the Saltburn Speed Trials.
Campbell persuaded Coatalen to sell him the car, painted it blue and re-named it Blue Bird. After a futile trip to Fanoë in Denmark, Campbell sent the car over the winter of 1923-24 to Boulton Paul at Norwich for wind-tunnel testing – they recommended a streamlined cowl over the radiator, a long tapered tail with a headrest and the rear suspension cowled; the rear wheels had disc covers. This work was then carried out by Jarvis of Wimbledon.
Late in August 1924 another trip to Denmark proved unsuccessful and Campbell then discovered a suitable beach in Carmarthen in South Wales. Here on September 24th on the Pendine Sands Campbell set a new Land Speed Record of 146.16 m.p.h. – by just 0.15 m.p.h.! He returned the next July and raised this to 150.766 m.p.h. in the car now fitted with a long exhaust pipe.

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Lancia D24
In 1953 Lancia raced the 2.9-litre V6 D20 Coupés, scoring third and eighth places in that year’s Mille Miglia. Maglioli then gave the car a win in the Monte Pellegrino hill climb and in the Targa Florio. But the pretty coupés were noisy and uncomfortable because of cockpit heat. Lancia therefore commissioned Pinin Farina to produce an open spyder version, the D23. In August 1953 for the first Nϋrburgring 1,000 km race Lancia produced the D24, a 3.3-litre version of the D23. The two D24s suffered broken batteries when leading the race. However, in 1954 the model won the Mille Miglia in the hands of Alberto Ascari and this chassis gave Taruffi victory in the Targa Florio after earlier winning the Giro di Sicilia.
This chassis 005 was the last built and is the unique survivor.

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Rolls Royce EX17
There had been criticisms of the Rolls Royce car, suggesting it was old-fashioned and of poor performance. So Henry Royce decided to build a Sports Phantom at the end of 1925 and this car, 10EX, was used for extensive testing especially at Brooklands. Royce sanctioned three more experimental Sport Phantoms of which the third was 17EX. This was running by the end of January 1928, although waiting for its body from Jarvis of Wimbledon. Tested alongside 10EX, 17EX was noticeably superior in acceleration and lower speeds. The blue-painted body was delivered to Derby in July and testing resumed until October when the car passed to the Sales Department, having covered just 4,400 miles.

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1921 Delaunay- Belleville

Delaunay-Belleville was a manufacturer of ship and locomotive boilers at St Denis, Paris. From 1904 cars were made and a familiar feature of the early cars was the rounded radiator, reminiscent of the boilers! From 1910 the cars were generally chauffeur- driven. Tsar Nicholas II of Russia was a regular customer and both Lenin and Trotsky liked driving their Delaunay-Bellevilles. This car is a 6-cylinder 5-litre 30CV model with a 4-speed gearbox and body by Lambourdette of Madrid.

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The engine used side-valves but some manufacturers provided covering to give the impression that more sophisticated valve-gear was used!

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Alfa Romeo Van
We tend to think of Alfa Romeo in terms of sporting and racing cars but the company produced high quality commercial vehicles especially in the Thirties when the State-controlled firm needed to supply lorries for Mussolini’s military ambitions.

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Diversification after the war included the production of these light vans (1954-68) and this example has true Alfa Romeo pedigree – it is powered by the Guilietta twin cam engine mounted well forward.
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1932 Amilcar C6
Amilcar of St Denis made small capacity sports cars in the interwar years. This C6 is rather special: Clément Auguste Martin replaced the six-cylinder engine with a four-cylinder unit which he had modified and pursued a very successful competition career with it, especially in the Bol d’Or races where it scored class wins.

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At Le Mans in 1932 the car finished 8th overall, winning the 1100 c.c. class. It also ran in the 1930 Routes Pavées (3rd in class) and in the 1932 Spa 24 Hour race.

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1964 Facel 6

Jean Daninos introduced his luxury Facel Vega car at the Paris Salon in 1954, powered by a large V8 Chrysler–based engine. In 1960 he presented the smaller Facellia with its own 1.6-litre twin cam 4-cylinder engine designed by former Talbot engineer Carlo Marchetti. Unfortunately it was noisy and very unreliable. A Volvo-engined replacement was offered in 1963 and then this 6-cylinder version using a linered down Austin-Healey 3000 unit. The original company was declared bankrupt in 1965.

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1955 Cooper Bristol
The Cooper Car Company of Surbiton created for 1955 a central-seat sports car based on their F3 designs. This car, the T39, was powered by the new Coventry-Climax FWA 1100c.c. engine and was clothed in an attractive aerodynamic bodyshell whose tail was cut off- a Kamm tail, named after the German physicist who demonstrated the aerodynamic benefits of such a design. The car immediately acquired the nickname “Bob-tail”.
A young Australian, Jack Brabham, obtained agreement to build one of these cars with a 2-litre Bristol engine for use in Formula 1. The chassis was extended by 2 inches and all the sports car equipment such as lights was dispensed with. This one-off T40 ran at Aintree in the British Grand Prix but the engine overheated causing retirement. Brabham then had a wonderful duel with Stirling Moss’s Maserati 250F at Snetterton finally finishing fourth behind Moss and the two leading Vanwalls.

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Peugeot World War 1 Lorry
This is a Type 1525 4-ton lorry dating from 1917. It has a 4.7-litre 4-cylinder Type KM engine, a 4-speed gearbox and, as can be seen, shaft drive. Expect 22-30km/h when fully laden!

David Blumlein, February 2014



Rage Into the Night

2010 Petit Le Mans

Another shot from the McNish era, this time from 2010 Petit Le Mans, vainly chasing the Peugeot pair a lap ahead up the road. Why? Dindo Capello made an unexpected pit stop after a slow lap because his balaclava slipped over his eyes while behind the wheel. That was one excuse I had not heard before, it happened when a piece of protective foam within the helmet became detached as I recall. Races are won and lost on such tiny margins.