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Endurance Racing Legends shine at Le Mans

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Prior to the Le Mans 24 Hours, two races were held for the Endurance Racing Legends series. This brought Bentley Speed 8, Ferrari 550 Maranello, Porsche 911 GT1 and the quick Dallara SP1s back to the legendary circuit.

The two races held prior to this year’s Le Mans – won for the fourth consecutive time by Toyota – formed some sort of consolation for the earlier cancellation of Le Mans Classic, forced by covid-worries and postponed to Summer 2022. Some participants called the running of Endurance Racing Legends now even more important than Le Mans Classic “because now we run ahead of the real Le Mans race. It is the first time the old cars and the new appear together in the same event, so yes, maybe this is the event of the year for us.”

Florent Moulin in the 2001 Dallara SP1. Photo Endurance Racing Legends/Brecht Decancq

Two 45-minute races were scheduled, one on Friday, the other on Saturday morning. A big grid was put together, reuniting relatively recent prototypes and GT cars. With Dario Franchitti in the Aston Martin DBR 9 (2008), former winner Eric Hélary in a 2000 Chrysler Viper GTS-R and Emmanuel Collard reunited with the factory Porsche 911 GT1 Evo he drove here in the 1997 Le Mans race, there was no shortage of star drivers.

Bentley strikes again

The start of race 1 of the Endurance Racing Legends on Friday had to be delayed behind the safety car after Marc Rostan crashed his Pilbeam on the warm-up lap. One lap in, the race got under way properly and James Cottingham and Florent Moulin started opening a gap in their Dallara SP1s (2001). Shaun Lynn kept them company in his 2003 Bentley Speed 8. Cottingham went off close to the Porsche curves, allowing Lynn to swoop past and grab victory, with Moulin a close second. Mike Newton in the 2004 Lola MG EX257 ended up third.

What a field. Photo Endurance Racing Legends/Brecht Decancq

The GT-battle between Ferrari and Aston Martin was won by the Goethe/Hall-driven Aston Martin DBR 9 (2006), good for fourth place overall as well. Roschmann in the 2005 Ferrari 550 Maranello ended up second. A total of 44 cars had started in race 1 of the Endurance Racing Legends, with some spectacular participants making up the field: a 2002 Riley & Scott MkIII C, a 2001 Toyota Supra GT, a 2005 Courage C6, a 2007 Chevrolet Corvette Z06R, tons of Porsches and the Maserati MC12 that was never welcome at Le Mans in its day.

Dallara on top

Race two on Saturday saw Cottingham make amends for his mistake in race one. This time, the Playstation 2-sponsored Dallara kept it on the tarmac and he stormed to victory in this round of the Endurance Racing Legends at Le Mans. Florent Moulin (ex-Oreca Dallara SP1 2001) and Shaun Lynn in the Bentley had to settle for second, but the two of them made it a great fight, swapping places on numerous occasions before the Bentley managed to pull out a gap. Moulin was lucky to escape from an excursion through the grass without damage.

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Franchitti’s first

In the GT class, round two of the Endurance Racing Legends excursion saw Dario Franchitti finish his steep learning curve at the long Le Mans lay-out with victory in the 2008 Aston Martin DBR9. Strange as it may seem, three-time Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti had never raced on the Mulsanne straight before.

Franchitti was followed by Emmanuel Collard, who showed he had lost none of his talent and put in second place in the GT category in the Porsche 911 GT1 Evo, despite his car being eleven years older than Franchitti’s Aston and eight years older than the third placed Maserati MC12 Joe Macari was driving. Both Franchitti and Collard set some impressive sub 4-minutes lap times.

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