F1 has come a long way in a year. In 2016 the European Grand Prix at Baku deliberately clashed with the Le Mans 24 Hours because Bernie Ecclestone didn’t like the idea of F1 drivers going and competing in another major series.
This year not only did Le Mans not clash with a Grand Prix, but ahead of this weekend’s Austrian GP at the Red Bull Ring fans will be treated to a whole host of legendary cars and drivers from the famous French race will take to the track as part of a demonstration. Publicly showcasing another series during an F1 weekend is something Bernie would never have agreed to do, so bravo Liberty Media!
The 2017 Le Mans winning Porsche 919 will be driven around by one of this years winners, Brendon Hartley, whilst Mark Webber will also take to the track in one. Nine-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen will also be out in a 2016 Audi R18 – the last LMP1 car the company raced before withdrawing at the end of last year.
Going a little further back in time, Guy Smith will be driving the gorgeous Bentley Speed 8 which won in 2003, whilst Austrian F1 legend will be out in the 1999 Le Mans-winning BMW V12 LMR. See what I mean when I say it’s a pretty awesome line-up? And we’re only just getting started!
Porsche is of course synonymous with Le Mans, and it isn’t just the current 919 that’ll be taking to the circuit. Hans-Joachim Stuck will be out in a Porsche 962c – a car which remained competitive in various guises in sportscar racing for the best part of a decade. Stuck had a reasonable F1 career in the 1970s and went on to win Le Mans in 1986 and 87 driving a 962 with the classic Rothmans livery.
Another Le Mans-winning Porsche out on track will be the 1981 936, which will be driven by 2016 WEC champion Neel Jani. And of course you can’t have a display of Porsche sportscars without talking about the 917 – possibly the greatest sportscar of all time. Red Bull’s driver development guru Helmut Marko will be out in one, which should be a pretty awesome moment as he won Le Mans in a 917 in 1971.
Oh, and there will also be an example of the car which might have been a whole lot more successful had it not been for the Porsche 917 – the Ferrari 512S from 1970. That’ll be driven by someone not known for his Le Mans exploits, but is absolutely known for driving awesome cars from the Scuderia – Jean Alesi. Rounding out the parade will be touring car ace Dieter Quester in the BMW 3.0 CSL which he drove to a class victory in 1973.
Ever since the Austrian GP returned to the calendar in 2014 its been known for it’s awesome historic demonstrations during the weekend. It looks this year is going to be yet another one to remember!