IMMORTAL: KEEPING A CAR ON THE TRACK FOR OVER 80 YEARS

12.07.2018

Le Mans Classic may be one of the fastest history lessons of all, with the action being split into six platforms starting from 1923 to 1981. But the most fascinating platform of all might just be the first: the pre-war platform with cars dating from 1923 to 1939. It’s the platform that most of the audience knows the least about, with cars from way beyond most people’s living memory. Hugo Baldy, editor of the classic car magazine Retroviseur is an enthusiast and can tell us all about them.

 

 

 

IMMORTAL: KEEPING A CAR ON THE TRACK FOR OVER 80 YEARS

How did you became fascinated by pre-war race cars?

 

I’ve always been fascinated by classic cars of all ages but there is something mythical about pre-war race cars, especially the Bugatti’s. A few years ago I made a few friends who restore pre-war Bugatti’s and now I’m racing them at classic car events.

 

What’s it like to hurl a 1930s car down the Mulsanne straight?

 

It’s a completely new experience. You are in a totally open car, and unlike in newer cars most of your body is outside the car because you are sitting up very straight. Most of the cars don’t even have a seat belt and the brakes are not very effective. But even without a seatbelt and good brakes you’ll still be driving at over 150km/h down the Mulsanne straight, so it can be a bit of a challenge.

 

 

 

IMMORTAL: KEEPING A CAR ON THE TRACK FOR OVER 80 YEARS

That’s incredible! Racing at Le Mans Classic in 2018, do you make any changes in terms of safety?

 

The rules at Le Mans Classic are very simple. The car has to conform to the rules and regulations of the era that it dates from, so safety measures are very limited. You are allowed to install seatbelts if you want, and this year there was one car that even had been fitted with a roll cage. But most cars are standard when it comes to extra safety regulations. So I guess you just need to be extra careful.

 

 

 

IMMORTAL: KEEPING A CAR ON THE TRACK FOR OVER 80 YEARS

The cars all have technology that is at least 80 years old. How do you keep them running reliably?

 

Although the design and engine may date from the 1930s, some of the technology has been updated slightly. All the engines on the grid have been rebuilt at some point, otherwise they wouldn’t be running at all. The biggest change is that some of the materials used back then are no longer available or there are better alternatives. For instance we only use modern lubricants, such as Motul oil, which makes a huge difference to the lubricants they used 80 years ago.

 

What is the biggest challenge to keeping these cars on the track in 2018?

 

The biggest challenge for an owner or builder of these cars is the balance between reliability and originality. The further you go up the grid, the less the cars have been restored. The spirit of Le Mans Classic is about authentic RACES, not museum pieces doing laps around the track at a leisurely pace. That’s why there is some freedom when it comes to keeping the cars running, as long as it’s within the technical regulations of the era and the car is equivalent to the ones that took part back then.

 

 

 

IMMORTAL: KEEPING A CAR ON THE TRACK FOR OVER 80 YEARS

Pictures copyright: Frederik Herregods

 

 

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