The headline story from this year’s Le Mans Legends race, prelude to the main 24-hour event, was the announcement of the retirement from racing of Sir Stirling Moss. Sir Stirling was entered to race his Porsche RS61 this year, co-driving with Ian Nuttal, but upon his withdrawal Nuttal continued as sole driver, finishing with a well deserved class win.
As for the race itself, the multi-million dollar grid was filled with a plethora of iconic cars. Amazingly, it was the cars from Cambridge spearheading the grid, a sight that would surely have brought tears to the eyes of Brian Lister. The excellent, JD Classics-prepared, Ecurie Ecosse-liveried Lister driven by Alex Buncombe took pole, with the works-liveried Minshaw’s Lister in 2nd spot. On the second row was the ex-Tommy Atkins/Roy Salvadori Cobra driven by father and son partnership of Graham and Oliver Bryant, Carlos Monteverdi took 4th place in the Ecurie Belge Ferrari 250LM with which he won this same race in 2009. These four cars, along with the Iso-Bizzarrini from the 3rd row, were to become the major players in the 45-minute race.
Away from the rolling start the Listers became embroiled in their own personal battle during the opening lap. At the first chicane on the Mulsanne, young Alex Buncombe, a third-generation driver, missed his braking point and continued straight on, re-joining the track in an illegal, but healthy, lead. Realizing his mistake he allowed the Minshaw’s Lister to catch up and take the lead. In the background, the Iso-Bizzarrini was now pushing hard for 2nd place, eventually taking the lead at the second Mulsanne chicane when Minshaw ran wide. Over the line for the first time, it was New Zealander Roger Wills in the Bizzarrini, followed by the two Listers, the Cobra, and the Ferrari 250LM, with Gregor Fisken in 6th in the Aston Martin DBR1. Wills still led at the commencement of lap three, but the Listers had been displaced by the Cobra and Monteverdi’s Ferrari, which was now running with a trail of blue smoke.
At one-third distance an AC Bristol and a Le Mans Replica Fraser Nash had a coming together, blocking part of the Ford chicane. While Oliver Bryant and the battling Listers continued, the leading Bizzarrini and Monteverdi’s smoking Ferrari came in for their mandatory one-minute pit stop. Joe Twynam took over for Wills, but Monteverdi continued. Following the compulsory pit stops, the order was Monteverdi’s Ferrari, Bryant’s Cobra, Buncombe’s Lister, and the Bizzarrini. This remained the status quo until the penultimate run down Mulsanne, when the Bryant Cobra (now in the hands of Graham) pulled to one side with an apparent fuel pickup problem. Meanwhile, Monteverdi power-slid the still-smoking Ferrari through the last corners to take the flag with a jubilant wave, followed by the Listers of Buncombe and Minshaw.
By Mike Jiggle