The 45-minute Group C sprint race was one of the highlights of the 2016 Le Mans Classic, as nearly 40 entrants returned home to famed Circuit de la Sarthe. With top speeds exceeding 300 km/h and performance still close to present-day prototypes, the Group C grid reigned supreme at the biennial historic race meeting.
In force from 1982 to 1993, the Group C regulations led to the creation of these prodigious prototypes that wrote several great chapters in the history of the Le Mans 24 Hours and the Endurance World Championship. In the early years the Porsche 956s and 962s dominated despite resistance from the Lancia LC2s. Then the competition gradually became stronger with the momentum generated by the arrival of Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Nissan and Mazda when it reached its zenith. In addition to the major manufacturers, constructors like Cougar, Dome, Rondeau and Spice were also able to shine thanks to a clever interpretation of the very liberal regulations based on strict fuel consumption limits. The legendary Group C era ended in the early ’90s after a brief period of cohabitation with the 3.5 sports prototypes. It remains a true golden era for many endurance specialists.
As was the case in the Group C days Porsche supplied the highest number of cars out of the 20 makes on the 2016 Le Mans Classic entry list. Its main rivals of that era were also in the Sarthe including Lancia LC2s, two Jaguars, an XJR-12 and an XJR-16, two Sauber-Mercedes C11 and a Nissan R90 CK — the most powerful car with a power output of 1128 bhp. The small constructors were also present with Alba, Emka, March, Sthemo, Rondeau, Spice and Tiga. The final evolution of that generation of sports prototypes, the Sport 3.5-litre machines, were represented by a Gebhardt C91, a rare Lola T92/10, while a pair of Peugeot 905s celebrated the 25th anniversary of its Le Mans debut this year.
The Group C race at the 2016 Le Mans Classic saw the 1989 Spice SE89C of Julien Piguet take the overall win, followed by the 1990 Spice SE90C of Eric de Doncker and the 1987 Porsche 962 of Tommy Dreelan and Aaron Scott. The Dreelan-Scott 962 would have been declared the winner, except for a two-minute penalty assessed for missing the pit-stop window. In addition, several cars were sidelined by attrition, such as the dominant 1990 Nissan R90 CK of Katsu Kubota that crawled to a stop in the late stages of the race.
In addition to our main report, ‘night’ gallery and ‘Behind the Scene’ images, Senior Photographer Julien Mahiels also offers the following impressive selection of pictures from the Group C race at the eighth edition of Le Mans Classic. To see more from Julien, visit julienmahiels.net.
2016 Le Mans Classic – Group C Race Photo Gallery
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[Source: Peter Auto; photos: Julien Mahiels]