From XJ220C to 458 GTE, Blenheim Palace will play host to superstars of La Sarthe
By Matt Bird / Friday, 4 August 2023 / Loading comments
August is here, which means one thing: it’s concours season, darling. Regardless of what the weather might say, lawns will be manicured, priceless exotica rolled onto it and crazy chinos dusted off. Over in the US they have Monterey Car Week, of course, a five-day festival of unobtanium – but we do alright over here as well. The Salon Privé concours has been running for more than 15 years now, and this year’s Blenheim Palace bonanza promises to be one of the best yet, celebrating as it does the centenary of Le Mans.
The event organisers describe the lineup as an ‘expertly curated display of spectacular racers’, and you won’t find us disagreeing. When a Ferrari 458 – a GT£ podium-finishing Le Mans chassis, no less – is arguably the fifth most interesting car of a quintet, it’s a decent group of cars. The 20th century machinery is where the real intrigue lies, however, including a 1995 911 GT2R.
The 993 heading to Blenheim was a privateer entry in 1995, where it was the second Porsche home (albeit fifth in class, what with those pesky McLarens dominating). It competed at Spa in the early 2000s, and is now road registered. Which would be some way to show up those poseurs in PDK GT3s saying they’ve got a Porsche road racer.
Our favourite of the Blenheim cars, however, must be the Jaguar XJ220C. It’s the very car – chassis #002 – that was famously disqualified from the 1993 Le Mans 24 Hours, taking with it what would have been a famous (and comfortable) victory. Because it didn’t have catalytic converters, of all things: the IMSA GT specs the Jag was built to didn’t stipulate the requirement (even if the road cars would have them), and the FIA upheld the appeal of the TWR team running the car, but the ACO decided they were out of time. The XJ220 didn’t win its class. That was now 30 years ago. No doubt the car will look as good in 2023 as it did all those years ago.
There will be two more iconic Porsches to admire, both 962s. A 1985 Rothmans liveried car was driven by Jacky Ickx, Jochen Mass, Vern Schuppan, Derek Bell, Hans Stuck and others in an illustrious Group C career, while the 1988 962 200 is one of just three designed by Richard Lloyd Racing with a carbon chassis. It ran ‘very strongly’ at the 1989 Le Mans until an oil leak forced retirement.
The 2023 Salon Privé runs through the last weekend of August and into the first weekend of September. “We’re delighted to continue the celebrations for 100 years of the Le Mans 24 Hours with our own expertly curated display of legendary cars,” said Salon Privé co-founder and director David Bagley. “All these cars have colourful stories and I’m sure our guests will enjoy seeing them up close and capturing their powerful potency, sharing no doubt on social media, to continue the celebration of 100 years of Le Mans!”
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