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A visit to the Musée Automobile de la Sarthe, LeMans


The annual Le Mans 24 hour race is probably the most famous and prestigious automotive event motoring history even recorded. Throughout its 78 editions the world has seen bright rises and bitter downfalls, tears of joy and frustration. The spirit of the marathon is everywhere in the little town and its surroundings – from the race dedicated monument in its very heart to the windows of small local shops. But if you want to feel the rich history of the famous race, there is no better place than Musee Automobile de la Sarthe located right on the edge of the circuit, in front of Dunlop Curve.

The first part of the museum features an impressive collection of racing machinery, incorporating among the others various Le Mans editions winners. First thing you see entering the room are the angular eyes of Cadillac Northstar LMP accompanied by a number of recent LMP cars including a 2003 winning Bentley EXP Speed 8 and Audi R8 victorious in 2002. Taking some steps you reach several Group C prototypes – the masters of racing tracks in eighties and head further for sixties and seventies prototypes, among which there is a recently restored beautiful Porsche 917 LH #917-405LH which came 3rd in 1971 and which was presented by Porsche to Automobile Club de l’Ouest as far back as in 1972. The lane leads you to the late forties and fifties sportscars sharply contrasting with their mighty descendants and further to the magnificent machinery that has participated in the very first editions of this amazing marathon.

There is, however, another story being told in the Musee Automobile de la Sarthe – the history of automotive industry, mostly French. This part of exhibition carries you from production cars of late prewar years and early postwar period through the great and imposing interwar luxury cars to a very extensive build-up of pioneer cars, motor carriages and voiturettes, some dated late 19th century.

Submitted by Alexander Matveev, September, 2010.

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