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Rows and rows of cars everywhere you turn. A 1925 Bugatti T35, a 1931 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 LM and a 1964 Ferrari 250 GTO here; a 1965 Ford GT40, a 1975 De Tomaso Pantera Gr. IV, and a 1981 Porsche 924 Carrera GTR.

Le Mans Classic 2022 (photo courtesy of Kristof Vermeulen)

Le Mans Classic offers motorsport enthusiasts one of the few opportunities in the world to admire these legendary cars competing on the legendary Circuit de la Sarthe in Le Mans, France. At the beginning of July, for four days, the biannual classic car race with its exhilarating mix of aesthetics and performance welcomed a record 200,850 spectators and over 1,000 gentlemen and professional drivers from over 25 countries, including the UK , France, Italy, Japan and the United States – with seven former 24 Hours of Le Mans champions such as Emmanuele Pirro, Marco Werner and Kazuki Nakajima – driving some 700 race cars on the track.

Le Mans Classic 2022 (photo courtesy of Kristof Vermeulen)

It is the largest gathering of its kind in the world: 8,500 vintage cars grouped by make and model from automobile clubs across Europe were also on display. Richard Mille returned as title sponsor and official timekeeper of the event for the tenth consecutive time. Passionate about the cars that marked his youth, Mille, who entered one of his own cars in the race – a 1969 Lola T70 Mk 3B – driven by his son Armand, says: “I have always been crazy about technical subjects and mechanical. My passion for automobiles dates back to my childhood and has only grown over the years. To this fervor was then added a total fascination for beautiful classic cars.

Little Big Mans race for 100 children competing in scale replicas of the cars that raced at Le Mans during the 2022 Le Mans Classic (photo courtesy of Christophe Jouniaux)

Under a blazing sun, I was charmed by the heady smell of burning rubber and motor oil, the screeching of tires, the roar of engines hurtling down long straights and hairpin bends, the incredible excitement, speed, danger, accidents, clashes, defeats, victories and glory on the circuit as the day became night and day again.

Four hundred and fifty cars manufactured between 1923 and 1981 – all having won or contested the 24 Hours of Le Mans in their time – competed in turn according to the periods, divided into six grids of 18 races from Saturday to Sunday. It’s not the first vehicle to cross the checkered flag that wins, but the best of three 45-minute races (including one in total darkness) multiplied by a handicap factor, with some cars changing drivers during the race. pit stop.

Le Mans Classic 2022 (photo courtesy of Kristof Vermeulen)

For decades the race started from a single standing start with the cars, engines turned off and parked at an angle, and the drivers standing on the starting line before racing towards their cars, which is solemnly imitated today. today.

Richard Mille and Le Mans Classic

Richard Mille has sponsored Le Mans Classic since its inception in 2002 as well as other historic motoring events such as Chantilly Arts & Elegance, Rétromobile, Nürburgring Classic and Rallye des Princesses.

Richard Mille having fun at Le Mans Classic 2022 (photo courtesy of Kristof Vermeulen)

“It’s about sharing the same passion and the same values ​​and seeing cars that you don’t see driving on public roads and not stuck in a garage or simply exhibited in museums”, explains Timothée Malachard, Marketing Director by Richard Mille. “For us, watches are designed to be worn and cars are designed to be driven, so that’s what it’s all about. Collectible Le Mans Classic cars come in all values ​​– some are worth €50,000, others are worth tens of millions – but the people who have these cars going to race have the same passion. So it’s not just how much money they’re worth, it’s that they share common ground, and that’s what we like.

Richard Mille RM 029 Automatic Le Mans Classic

For each edition of Le Mans Classic since 2008, Richard Mille has released a dedicated limited-edition timepiece inspired by automotive history: from the RM 011 and RM 010 skeleton flyback chronograph with 24-hour display to the RM 008 chronograph tourbillon, the RM 11 -02 with annual calendar, flyback chronograph, 24-hour counter, UTC and countdown display, and the RM 11-03 with 24-hour flyback chronograph.

Richard Mille RM 029 Automatic Le Mans Classic

“Richard Mille himself, when he founded the brand, was passionate about motor racing and in particular racing car technology, and this passion for motor racing and technology has inspired our watches from day one” , notes Malachard. “So that’s the real backbone of what we do, and everything we do today uses the same materials and alloys that you get in the aviation and Formula 1 industries, like TitaCarb, which is titanium and carbon. We are a brand that likes to push the limits, and that is motor racing.

Richard Mille RM 029 Automatic Le Mans Classic

Available in just 150 pieces, this year’s RM 029 Automatic Le Mans Classic, powered by the skeletonized Caliber in grade 5 titanium RMAS7 driven by two spring barrels, is available in the signature colors of Le Mans Classic. A case band machined from a solid block of White Quartz TPT features a green Quartz TPT bezel encrusted with the double Le Mans stripes in White Quartz TPT from 12 to 6 o’clock – a first for the brand. A 24-hour counter at 2 o’clock pays homage to the 24 hours of racing, with a blue arrow pointing to the start time at 4 p.m., while a ventilated white rubber sport strap ensures long-lasting comfort.

Le Mans Classic highlights

Le Mans Classic highlights included the Porsche Classic Race with over 70 historic Porsches. The German manufacturer holds the record with 19 outright victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Little Big Mans for 100 children aged 7 to 12 competing in scale replicas of those who raced at Le Mans, and the first edition of the Endurance Racing Legends supports races featuring 1990s and 2000s GTs and Prototypes (Aston Martin DBR9, Bentley Speed ​​8, Cadillac Northstar LMP-01, Dodge Viper GTS/R, Ferrari 333 SP, etc.) for appeal to young audiences. Representing the golden age of endurance racing and bringing together the stars of the track from the 80s to the early 90s, the Group C Racing event celebrated its fortieth anniversary.

“I think the highlight is seeing the passion that there has been for automotive engineering and cars for 100 years,” reveals Malachard. “Whether you’re a big car fan or not, you can walk around the paddocks and get up close to the racing cars that you usually only see in books or on posters, what today in motor racing , you can not do. In Formula 1 to enter the box you have to be a partner of a Formula 1 team and pay a lot of money to enter, whereas here you pay your 60 or 80 € to be a spectator and you can get really close. It’s the appeal for the public to come to such an event and see such a variety of cars from the 1920s to the latest cars of the last 10 or 15 years.

Le Mans Classic 2022 (photo courtesy of Kristof Vermeulen)

As McLaren Automotive was invited, I was even treated to a hot lap around the full 13.6km circuit, part racetrack, part public road (which is only open twice a year) in a McLaren 720S by British professional pilot Oliver Webb. , which tackled the Dunlop Chicane, raced down the long Mulsanne straight, and attacked the tight turns of Mulsanne and Indianapolis with ease.

He then took first prize in a 1961 Jaguar E-Type 3.8 in the Jaguar Classic Challenge and placed fourth overall in a 1965 Porsche 911 2.0L in Grid 4 of the main race. What a way to end the weekend!

Little Big Mans at Le Mans Classic 2022 (photo courtesy of Kristof Vermeulen)

And good news for fans of classic racing cars: you won’t have to wait until 2024 for the next edition. As an exception to the usual calendar, Le Mans Classic will be back next summer to celebrate the centenary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

For more information, please visit www.richardmille.com/collections/rm-029-automatic-le-mans-classic.

Fast facts Richard Mille RM 029 Automatic Le Mans Classic
Case: 40.10 x 48.15 x 13.10 mm, Quartz TPT green and white
Movement: Automatic caliber RMAS7 with variable inertia balance-spring, double barrel, hand-ground mainplate and bridges, wet-sandblasted grade 5 titanium, 55-hour power reserve, variable-geometry rotor
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; large date, 24-hour display
Limitation: 150 coins
Price: $176,000

You can also enjoy:

The Richard Mille racing team (all female) and the 24 Hours of Le Mans (virtual)

Watchspotting at the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans with Chopard, Rolex, TAG Heuer, Rebellion and Franck Muller

Porsche wins the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans and Chopard presents the Porsche 919 Jacky Ickx Edition Superfast Chrono

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