Richard Mille At The Heart Of Le Mans Classic
The Le Mans Classic, the mecca for fans of classic racing cars from all over the world, is back with a bang for its 10th edition, after a four-year hiatus
An AC Cobra accelerating down the finishing straight, followed by a Ferrari 250 LM © DDPI
“Light is right” could be the slogan of Richard Mille who, like the big motor racing stables, is on a mission to seek and destroy excess weight in his watch designs. The watch brand is uncompromising in its choice of materials, technologies and functions for its watches, and is guided by its core mission to drive innovation in the service of improved refinement, technical operation, efficiency, strength and wearing comfort.
On a personal level, Richard Mille himself is passionate about motor racing, sailing and aviation. As a car collector and driver himself, he encourages his children to ride shotgun with him during historic races.
That made it a logical choice for Richard Mille to look to Formula 1 drivers and stables to represent the brand on the race track. One of the first Formula 1 drivers to wear one of his watches was Swiss driver Sébastien Buemi, who raced for Toro Rosso at the time. It was an astute choice by Richard Mille, given that Buemi is now Formula E world champion, and just won his fourth 24 Hours of Le Mans victory racing for Toyota, with a Richard Mille on his wrist!
In addition to present-day motor racing, Richard Mille is also involved in classic races, beginning with events hosted by his longtime ally, Patrick Peter, organiser of Chantilly Art & Elegance, the Rallye des Princesses, the Rallye des Légendes and the Le Mans Classic, which made a triumphant return this year after a four-year absence due to Covid restrictions.
A Porsche 550 Spyder, closely followed by an imposing 1951 Talbot-Lago T26 GS © DDPI
The race begins
The Le Mans Classic is a retrospective of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the legendary motor race that celebrates its centenary next year. Over a weekend, the race explores the history of the event, with six grids for cars that competed between 1923 and 1981. 8500 collectors’ cars and 750 historic racing cars gather at the legendary Circuit de la Sarthe, configured for the occasion to its longest length (13,626 km). 200,000 delighted spectators look on.
A night-time driver change for a Lola T70 © DPPI
The lead-up to the weekend’s main event comprises test drives, club parades and several races, including the impressive Group C from the 1980s. There are also demonstrations featuring the winning car of Le Mans 1991, the Mazda 787 B with its 2.6 litre rotary engine developing 700 horsepower, whose roar makes it possible to pinpoint its location from the opposite end of the circuit! Impressive stuff.
The Howmet TX with its gas turbine engine, pulling away from the Dunlop chicane © DPPI
Saturday marks the official start, at 1600 hours sharp, like the original 24 Hours of Le Mans. The first event is the Little Big Mans, for miniature replicas of original 24 Hours cars, driven by children aged between 7 and 12. They complete a lap of the Bugatti circuit (a smaller permanent Le Mans circuit that doesn’t use public roads). It’s a fine start for these future racing champions!
Start of the Little Big Mans, for children aged 7 to 12 © DPII
The six main grids are up next, beginning with Grid 4, in which Ford GT40, AC Cobra, Bizzarini, Alfa TZ and Lotus Elan cars battle it out for 45 minutes. They are followed by Grid 5 with its Porsche 017, Lola T70 and the astonishing Howmet TX with the distinctive sound of its helicopter engine. The final start is at Sunday 4 pm.
A Ferrari 250 GTO rounding the Arnage at night © DPPI
Richard Mille, the host with the most
For some lucky people, Saturday night means an event with Richard Mille. The programme includes a barbecue at the Mulsanne golf club, a location normally inaccessible during Le Mans because it’s on the opposite side of a pine wood on the south side of the circuit, accessible only along utility tracks (the golf club’s main entrance is closed for the weekend). But that was no impediment to Richard Mille and his team, who requisitioned a convoy of classic military vehicles, from World War II Jeeps to GMC trucks, driven by military vehicle enthusiasts dressed in full military fatigues – a pleasurably disorientating experience for the lucky guests! Once installed on the upper terrace of the Mulsanne Golf Club, overlooking the Mulsanne Straight, the atmosphere is festive with a jazz combo and a sumptuous buffet. There’s ample light to observe the cars as they brake around the corner and accelerate away.
Limited edition RM 029 Automatique Le Mans Classique
To celebrate the return of the Le Mans Classic and its tenth edition, Richard Mille presents the RM 029 Automatique Le Mans Classic. Aficionados will instantly recognise the classic green-and-white livery of one of the world’s greatest classic car events, judiciously deployed to highlight key numbers, such as the 16 for the start time and, of course, 24. This 150-piece limited edition has a white Quartz TPT® caseband and green Quartz TPT® bezel, a nod to the Le Mans Classic. The use of green Quartz TPT® is a first for the brand. The calibre is a skeletonised RMAS7 in grade 5 titanium. I was fortunate enough to have one on my wrist for a few moments when I visited the paddock, and was surprised to note how light and comfortable the watch is – like all of Richard Mille’s creations. It’s true: light is definitely right!
RM 029 Automtique Le Mans Classic © Richard Mille
Richard Mille did not simply try to find his place in the watchmaking world – he carved one out for himself, constantly striving not to take anything for granted, and to make innovation and extreme technical prowess his driving forces.Find out more >
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