LE MANS 2018
Celebrating a Porsche double victory at the 24 Heures du Mans.
For the 86th Edition of the world’s toughest long-distance race, Club Mulholland welcomed a large contingent of South African guests to Le Mans all the way from the Porsche Club Cape. This being the 70th Anniversary of Porsche, there were high expectations not only on Porsche Motorsport, but also on Club Mulholland’s hugely popular annual Le Mans hospitality – and 2018 did not disappoint.
Club Mulholland was born out of a passion for beautiful cars and unique automotive experiences – we are not a one-make car club, we embrace all enthusiasts who simply enjoy driving. We organise ‘Grantours’ throughout Europe, track days and key automotive events including Le Mans. The latter really gets under your skin – once you’ve been, it’s hard to imagine missing a single race. My first was in 1999 and I have been to every race since, using this knowledge to continually hone and tweak what we do to ensure any guest – be it their first or tenth visit to the LM24 – has a fantastically memorable time.
In 2018, we hosted our largest ever group of guests, welcoming 43 people with nineteen coming from South Africa. In 2016, we had one South African guest. In 2017, we had six South Africans, but after word got around about a little English Club doing Le Mans ‘properly’, by 2018 we welcomed triple that number which made for a high spirited party!
Most people insist on camping at the track, and I’ve done that myself many, many times but trust me – a chateau is far nicer and considerably more comfortable! Our chateau was one of the largest in the region, just thirty minutes from the circuit. The majority of the European club members brought their own cars and being the Porsche Anniversary, the Stuttgart marque was the most popular with everything from an Austrian Carrera GT to multiple GT3’s to a 1969 911S present.
We arrived at the chateau on the Thursday, and eagerly chilled the drinks and prepared for a braai, with all of the food being pre-ordered at the South African shop outside London. With Le Mans coinciding with the England rugby tour of South Africa, there was plenty of nationalistic banter, which ended with me being persuaded to wear a Springboks shirt after they beat England in the second game!
On Friday, we had lunch arranged at the Hotel de France in La Chartre. To get booked in here is an impossible task during Le Mans weekend, but we are proud to have a rolling booking that is renewed each year. This hotel has ties to the race that date back to the 1950s with John Wyer staying here with the Aston Martin team that took the win in 1959. A golden era in racing, the team would have prepared their cars in the hotel’s courtyard, then driven them to and from the circuit on public roads. This tradition continued over the decades with Porsche, Ford, Ferrari, Triumph and TVR all basing themselves at the hotel to prepare their cars. Now you’ll rub shoulders with various racing heroes during lunch, from Jacky Ickx to Stirling Moss to Patrick Dempsey and 2018 was no different with Derek Bell sat in the bar happy to sign copies of his new book over a pint. From here we made our way to the circuit for the first time to collect our Porsche Hospitality passes and take some pictures of the cars at the Porsche Curves. With much of the track being public road, it still gives a buzz to drive your own car down the Mulsanne straight.
Saturday is race day. The actual race doesn’t start until 3pm but the build up lasts all day, so we arrive early at the Porsche Experience Centre Le Mans, which is perfectly located at the entrance to the Ford Chicane with views down the pit straight. It’s an amazing vantage point that provides welcome air conditioning when the sun just becomes too much.
As the cars are rolled to the grid, the tension starts to build and the chatter of where to watch the start begins. Pit straight grandstand? Porsche Curves unit? Or the main hospitality in the PEC?
The Porsche 911 RSR ‘Pink Pig’ is on pole position in GTE Pro. The Factory Porsches looked dominant in qualifying but when there are Factory (supported) teams for Ford, BMW, Aston Martin, Corvette and Ferrari there are no guarantees. When the tricolor dropped and the cars roar off, everyone realises that if the ‘best-sounding-car’ should win, then the RSR is where you should place your money – that car sounds incredible – unlike any 911 I’ve ever heard.
Porsche once again made history by winning both GTE classes. In the pro-category, after 344 laps the number 92, Trüffeljäger von Zuffenhausen, took the win with a driver trio of Kévin Estre, Laurens Vanthoor and Michael Christensen, who held the lead for almost the entire distance. And in GTE Am, the Patrick Dempsey RSR team also took the win. At just 18 years of age, Porsche Junior Julien Andlauer became the youngest class winner at Le Mans. One to watch, that’s for sure.
Mission accomplished Porsche. What a race, what a trip. This 70th anniversary year was certainly one to remember. We’ll be back in 2019 – if you’d like to join us visit www.clubmulholland.com