THE Le Mans THAT NEVER WAS
So rarely does it happen… we describe it as once in a blue mooN. Well, 2021 is a bona fide once in a blue moon year…
For many obvious headline grabbing reasons, as we grapple with life post pandemic, but for those of you who have an affinity with the Circuit de la Sarthe and the man and machine spectacle, which is the 24 Heures du Mans, you will know that 2021 marks the first time the race has not had a June start since 1968.
This year’s race will take place over the weekend of August 21 and 22.
The 1968 event was originally scheduled for the ‘usual’ weekend of 15 and 16 June - but was delayed until the 28 and 29 of September due to the student and wider civil unrest which shook France early that summer – The events now simply known as May 68, was a revolution which many believe pushed France into the modern world.
That aside - A few months delay to the 68 Le Mans would matter little you could be forgiven for thinking…but indeed it added a further 3 hours of night driving to the race that year – a contest eventually won by Pedro Rodriguez (who would go on in 1971 to record the fastest pre 1989 lap at 3 minutes 13 seconds) and Lucien Bianchi, in the J.W. Automotive Gulf-Oil Ford GT40, who completed 331 laps of the unadulterated course.
A grand cru performance and one which was matched by the horological marketplace of the year.
Watch shopping in 1968 would indeed have been a wonderful way to while away a day or two… with many of the classics we now drool over, and which carry hefty auction price tags available new.
My personal favourites would have been the Omega Geneve Chronostop, a period Seamaster or Speedmaster, or the fabled Rolex Daytona…ideally the same ‘exotic’ dial design as that owned by a certain Mr Paul Newman - which of course famously sold at auction in 2017, for $17.7 m and which carried the inscription to the case back ‘Drive Carefully ME’.
Newman had come late to the racing game – earning his SCCA licence in a Lotus Elan at the age of 46… his legacy would include four National (North American) Championships and an Indy Racing outfit.
Considered the Holy Grail among the collecting fraternity, Newman’s watch, which was a gift from his wife and actress Joanne Woodward, was one of perhaps as few as 2000 to carry this precise dial detail. Newman had gifted it to his then daughter’s boyfriend James Cox in 1984 …
Hmmm - that is the kinda gift I would like, but I fear it will not happen any time soon – but there is always the hope…perhaps once in blue moon?