Musee des 24 Heures – La Sarthe

While visiting the much-vaunted Le Mans Classic event, we found themselves with a couple of hours to kill before the commencement of racing action so decided to take the opportunity to visit the circuit’s museum. It transpired to be an inspired decision – a rarity in itself. The museum was air conditioned, virtually deserted and had a decent dining area with all wares half the price of the stalls outside. What a chance to further immerse one’s self in the circuit’s rich history, while avoiding the rigeurs of the midday sun.

The museum, for those who have not already been, is predominantly focused on the history of racing at the famous Circuit de la Sarthe, but it also features exhibits illustrating a little general automotive history as well. There are some wonderful displays, particularly those featuring scale models. The cars inside vary from pre-war road-going commercial vehicles to a recent Pescarolo LMP1 weapon. All fascinating stuff and a very pleasing way to pass a couple of hours away from the heat of the midday sun. Perhaps the highlight for me was the Peugeot 905 Evolution 2.2 – now known as the Supercopter due to its wild (for the time) aerodynamics. This car and the awesome Allard J2X would look to have set the template for sports prototype aerodynamics moving forwards. Hard to believe it is over 15 years old now. A real privilege to finally see in the flesh.

Ginetta Factory Tour

The good guys at organised a trip to the Ginetta factory in Garforth a couple of months ago. Since being taken over by Lawrence Tomlinson, the company seems to be growing exponentially. The staff stayed late to guide us around and all proceeds went to charity – commendable in itself. The car park was littered with fine and exotic machinery of all kinds from Lamborghini to VX220s.

We had a good nose around the whole place. This starts with the boardroom, replete with Le Mans trophy for full effect from the LNT run Panoz which claimed GT2 class honours in 2006. From the boardroom it is down to the design office where the 3D CAD modelling was shown off. A full spaceframe is designed this way.

The next step is to look at the chassis assembly. Steels tubes are sourced within the UK, but not in-house. They are assembled on jigs at the Garforth premises before moving along for mechanical and electrical installations. There are bays featuring seemingly every model in the current line-up from the Zytek LMP1 car to the electric G40 and a G55, though we didn’t know it at the time.

In one corner is Lawrence’s helicopter – a nice touch. Next to it is the fine line-up of former racers from both Ginetta and LNT. Great to see those mighty TVR T440s again. Also available for viewing was the new F400. Originally a Farbio, Ginetta bought out Chrs Marsh’s company and will allow F400 production to continue in Bristol. Two cars are on-site, including Lawrence’s own road car. They look and sound as fantastic as the price tag might suggest.

Great to see a British success story, particularly one from Yorkshire. Long may it continue!

Le Mans On-board

At the Le Mans Classic in June 2010, I took the opportunity to complete the parade laps of the circuit. My dad (who actually funded them) took passenger seat and volunteered to photograph so all of the below are courtesy of him. Having watched the GT40 Enthusiasts’ Club and a group of Ferraris out on track on the Friday evening, I was approaching the laps with a little trepedation. The pace was pretty strong and I’m no trackday hero, despite the undoubted talents of the Elise. We were heading out in a mixed group of cars of all varities – from old MGs to modern Ford GTs and Ferrari 430s. However, with a keen eye on the mirrors for fast-moving machinery, it was a total joy to really stretch one’s legs around such a iconic circuit. The Elise proved itself a superb track toy and kept up with the exotica, but it was amazing to hear 997 GT3s and Ferrari 550 howling by down the long straight of Mulsanne and on the run down to Arnage. Just felt like we were getting into our stride and then we were flagged into the display area once again. It was a terrific opportunity to sample one of the world’s great circuits.