Julian Thomas took the chequered flag in his 1962 low drag Jaguar E-type in front of a record grid of 65 cars at the Le Mans Classic round of the Jaguar Classic Challenge – his third consecutive victory in the five-race series.
Qualifying began in the glorious sunshine of Friday 8 July with race fans getting their first glimpse of classic Jaguar C-types, D-types, E-types and an exciting mix of sports saloons and XK-series models.
It was Martin Stretton who set the early pace and grabbed pole position at the famed Le Mans Circuit – two seconds ahead of Julian Thomas in second place and Marcus van Oeynhausen in third. Winner of the 1988 Le Mans 24 Hour race with Jaguar, Andy Wallace, qualified fourth while journalist Chris Harris put the 2015 continuation Lightweight E-type in fifth for the start of the race.
At race start, the green flag dropped and the cars roared into life with pole-sitter Stretton, Thomas and van Oeynhausen charging to the first corner to gain the early advantage. The front-runners began to settle into a rhythm and began to pull away from the field.
Thomas moved into the lead and looked comfortable in his low drag E-type in the second half of the 40-minute race and began to extend his lead over the field. As proof, Thomas clocked a top speed of 168.1mph during the race and eventually completed his 11th lap to take the race win. The battle for second place was in the balance with the duo of Andrew Smith then Carlos Monteverde eventually holding off Andy Wallace by just two seconds over the line.
I am over the moon. It’s absolutely amazing to win at such an iconic circuit, and what a track it is. The highlight for me was chasing Andy Wallace down the Mulsanne – my childhood hero, and previous winner here with Jaguar in ’88. This time he was driving a D-type – my all time favourite car. A truly unforgettable experience.
Friday was my first time on the circuit here at Le Mans, which made qualifying very exciting, and as I got to know the circuit better I became quicker and quicker, largely again thanks to chasing Andy Wallace and following his approaches and braking points. My E-type was absolutely perfect and handled wonderfully in the race – thanks to my team for the expert preparation of it. I’m so happy.
Winner – Julian Thomas
Class A meanwhile was won by Georg Nolte in his Jaguar E-type, followed by the team of Graham and Alistair Love in second and Claire Keith-Lucas rounding out the podium in third. Driving their 1959 Jaguar Mk I saloon was Diane Osborne and John Bussell who won Class B with Roger Cope second and Simon Nobili and Régis Masson in third. Class C honours went to the overall third-placed finisher Andy Wallace driving a Jaguar D-type with Gary Pearson second and John Pearson third. Nicolas Melin drove to victory in Class D and was closely followed by John Clark and Sam Tordoff in second and John Burton in third.
The next round of the Jaguar Classic Challenge moves on to another iconic circuit at the Nurburgring for the Oldtimer Grand Prix between 12-14 August. Those drivers wishing to be part of the Jaguar Classic Challenge can visit http://www.hscc.org.uk/jaguar-classic-challenge for full regulations and entry details.