Top Gear Durban to celebrate Le Mans

21 May 2013

The Top Gear Festival takes place in Durban on 15 and 16 June, and among the attractions for motorsport lovers will be cars covering nine decades of racing, courtesy of the Franschhoek Motor Museum, which is marking the 90th anniversary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The museum’s collection exceeds 220 vehicles, ranging from an 1898 Beeston motor tricycle to a 2003 Ferrari Enzo supercar, with more than 80 exhibits on view at any one time.

Its website – www.fmm.co.za – is a must-visit for petrolheads and includes an extensive gallery of the cars, including photos from the Top Gear Festivals of 2011 and 2012, interesting information on those cars, a regularly updated blog, and the opportunity to sign up for the museum’s monthly newsletter.

13 iconic racing cars

On display at the Top Gear Festival will be 13 iconic racing cars, spanning the 1920s to the present day, starting with the Bugatti Type 35B, which is a fine example of the car that won the 1929 French Grand Prix. Incredibly, given the times, it was capable of a top speed of 211 km/h.

The procession continues with the 1939 Lagonda LM and 1954 Morreti 750S Bialbero Spider Grand Sport. The Morreti qualified for the 1955 Le Mans, but due to an accident the day before the final event it arrived too late to take up its place on the grid – even so, today this car is still eligible for Classic Le Mans.

The impressive Le Mans tribute continues with the 1957 Lotus Eleven 750. It had several class victories at Le Mans, resulting in the Eleven becoming Lotus’ most successful race car design.

The 1953 Austin Healey 100 will also be making its way to Top Gear Festival. The “100” name comes from Donald Healey, who selected the name from the car’s ability to reach 100 mph (160 km/h), as opposed to the Austin-Healey 3000, which is named for its 3 000cc engine.

Aston Martin

Two Aston Martins will be on show: the 1954 DB3S and the 1964 DB4GT.

The DB3S was built as a replacement for the heavy and uncompetitive DB3 and is one of only 31 examples ever built. The DB4GT is the same car that won its debut race at Silverstone and raced alongside the Le Mans-winning DBR1 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Another car that embodies the spirit of Le Mans is the 1955 Jaguar D-Type. The D-Type’s structural design was revolutionary at the time and it won the Le Mans 24- hour race in 1955, 1956 and 1957.

The tribute continues with the 1971 McLaren M6. The McLaren M6A was developed by the Bruce McLaren Motor Racing team for their entry in the 1967 Can- Am season. The M6 name was later used in the development of a closed-cockpit sports car for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the M6GT.

Italian flare

Bringing some Italian flare and muscle, the 1956 Maserati 150S was developed to compete against German and British rivals in championship sports car racing. The chassis could be altered to create different wheelbases and the engine could be enlarged up to 2.0 litres from its 1.5 litre norm.

Grand Prix driver Jean Behra drove a 150S to victory in the 1955 Nurburgring 500-kilometre race ahead of no less than 14 Porsche 550 Spyders.

The 1963 Ferrari 250 Lusso is next onto the grid, built by Ferrari from 1953 to 1964, this car formed part of the company’s most successful early line.

The instantly recognisable 1955 Mercedes Benz Gullwing also forms part of the 90th Anniversary celebrations. When first built, the 300SL was best known for being the world’s fastest production car.

Modern day

The final two vehicles that form part of the 14 car line-up are more modern day machines: the 1991 Mazda 767B and 2005 Mercedes DTM.

Owners of the CLK DTM Cabriolet include former McLaren Mercedes Formula One drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Mika Hakkinen.

Hakkinen, a two-time Formula One world champion, competed in the DTM from 2005 to 2007 and will be in South Africa for this year’s Top Gear Festival as a guest driver.

SAinfo reporter and Top Gear Festival Durban

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